Friday, July 15, 2016

Snout Butterfly

You don't have to travel to find interesting insects, especially if you have native plants in your yard.  Barb's pollinator plantings paid off for me by attracting this American Snout butterfly which was showing off his Jimmy Durante nose-like snout.  In Jimmy's case, it was commonly referred to as a large nose or proboscis. 

Just a flash of orange but bright in flight - REK
Goatweed Leafwing - Lois Stacey CC
The Snout, Libytheana-carinenta, resembles a Goatweed Leafwing in flight with its dorsal wings flashing orange but disappearing into a dull gray dead leaf color when folded up at rest.  The snout adds to the deception, looking like a dried leaf petiole.

While not terribly common, you are likely to see Snouts when they land on you, presumably to collect sweat from your skin.  The pointed snout is threatening at first glance and is totally harmless.  It is actually a pair of greatly enlarged palpi which are scent detectors (olfactory), essentially a butterfly nose.  While they don't inhale (like Bill Clinton?) they are well positioned to detect food resources or the pheromones of females.

Coiled proboscis -  M.J. Raupp
Butterflies do have a proboscis and it is an example of practical design.  It begins as a pair of long C-shaped channels which come together to create a tube.  It is carried curled up and extended to slurp up nutrients.  Incredibly, if it is clogged it can come apart for cleaning, then come back together.*  Scientists are trying to duplicate this mechanism as described in this video.

Butterflies also have sensory detectors on their antennae, thorax, abdomen and legs.  These likely are used to detect food such as nectar as well as urine, feces, rotting fruit and dead animals.  No one has accused butterflies of having "good taste" as we know it.

* An explanation of butterfly anatomy is at

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