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Word of the Week: Proboscis
August 01, 2019 by Amandeep Singh

Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Photo by Andrew Yee

Proboscis [ proh-BOS-is,-kis ] (noun): In insects, it is an elongated, cylindrical structure that is used for sucking food into the body. This mouthpart is typically tubular and flexible. Some interesting insects with proboscises include butterflies, bees, moths, stink bugs, assassin bugs, and flies.

Pollinators, like bees and butterflies, are best known for their proboscises because of how they use this body part to suck nectar from a bloom. When these insects are consuming the nectar, their proboscises are stretched out from their bodies and reaching down into the bloom to get to the nectar at the base of the blossom. When the proboscis is not in use, it is usually collapsed or curled up to be stored in some way.

The length of the pollinator's proboscis can help determine which blossoms they choose to seek out for nectar. If the pollinator has a long proboscis , it can get to nectar from long, rounded, or trumpet-shaped blooms. Pollinators with a short proboscis are more likely to be seen searching for more complimentary blossoms like sunflowers or dandelions, which have shorter blooms.

In High Park, we are excited to be seeing lots of bees, especially bumblebees, enjoying the flowers with their proboscises. Bumblebees not only have a proboscis but they also have a set of mandibles as their mouth parts. The mandibles are used for chewing while the proboscis is used for sucking up nectar.

Keep and eye out for insects and their proboscises on your next high park visit and if you have an interest in bumblebees, you can learn more at the final Wild Bee Buzz Talk of the summer on August 8.

Wild Bee Buzz Talk Details
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