Bugs, between them, eat an enormous variety of food, including plants, fungi,
detritus, faecal matter and other animals. Each bug has purpose-built
mouthparts designed for its specific diet. It is this great diversity of
mouthparts that has helped bugs to become the most successful animals on Earth.
Lapping and Chewing
The mouthparts of honeybees consist of a long tube and a hairy tongue for
lapping up nectar and honey. They also use their tongues to pass liquid on to
other bees. Honeybees also have chewing mandibles (a pair of jaws) that they
use to eat pollen, dig nest burrows, manipulate beeswax and for defence.
The mouthparts of insects such as cockroaches, beetles and crickets are like
scissors and are used to cut and chew leaves, wood and the flesh of other
insects. Beetles bite and chew their food. They also have palps for sensing
food and jaws to grasp prey. Crickets have large, powerful, saw-like mandibles
that they use to chew up leaves and, in the predatory species, other insects.
Butterflies and moths have a hollow tube, called a proboscis, which they use to
suck up nectar. Being long, it can go deep into the nectar and the insect can
suck it up as if through a straw. The proboscis is usually coiled underneath
the moth or butterfly’s head; when the insect wants to feed, the proboscis is
uncoiled and extended.
Piercing and sucking
Mosquitoes have piercing mouthparts that work like a syringe. The long proboscis
of the females has a pointed tip which is used to pierce the skin of their
prey. When it has cut through to the blood vessels, saliva is injected. This
contains an anticoagulant to stop the blood from clotting and the wound from
closing. Then the mosquito sucks up the blood.
The mouthparts of flies are usually formed into a proboscis. They are only able
to eat liquid foods, and their lower lip has evolved into a sponge-like
structure for that purpose. When they find solid food, flies will vomit their
saliva onto it to dissolve it. They then soak up the juices using their