Butterfly Proboscis An Amazing Bodypart

butterfly proboscis

Having a little snack from this flower.

A butterfly proboscis is a special, long tube that butterflies use to drink nectar from flowers.  Here is a quick run down on what a proboscis is.  

When I first saw a butterfly proboscis in action I was very impressed.  I remember being in awe as I watched this long, thin tube come from the butterfly and begin probing some food.  Before seeing that firsthand I never really knew how a butterfly got its food.  Here is a little bit more information about a proboscis and what other animals have one.

butterfly proboscisWhat Is A Proboscis?

I always find it interesting that with the Internet you can easily type in a term and find many varying definitions.  For example, when I do a search for proboscis, I find lots of results.  In essence though they all mean the same thing and define a proboscis as, “a long, hollow, flexible body part.”

Here are a couple of other definitions, “the trunk of an elephant,” or, “the human nose, especially when prominent.”

For our purposes here with a butterfly, let’s use the first definition of a proboscis as, “a long hollow, flexible body part.”

butterfly proboscis

The butterfly proboscis is curled up when not in use.

What Is A Butterfly Proboscis?

For butterflies, a proboscis is a long, hollow tube that is one of its mouth parts.  When they are not using it, their proboscis stays curled up close to their head.  Then when they are ready to eat, they uncurl it and stick it out.

Butterflies use their proboscis to drink or eat nectar from flowers.  They drink or eat much more than nectar, including rain droplets, rotting fruit, tree sap, and tears from large mammals such as cows.

In fact, butterflies do not have any chewing or biting mouth parts.  This is part of the reason that we love them so much – they are harmless to people.  The only way that they can eat is by using their proboscis.

What Other Animals Have A Proboscis?

Many animals have a proboscis, but generally those other proboscii are not the same as a butterfly proboscis.  For example, an elephant has a proboscis, but it is simply an elephant’s trunk.

butterfly proboscis

The proboscis of this white-lined sphinx moth is extended out towards the flower.

One other animal that has the same kind of proboscis is a moth.  Moths use their proboscis to feed in the same manner as a butterfly.