RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1860. Do the Tineina or other small moths suck flowers, and if so what flowers?. Entomologist's weekly Intelligencer 8 (30 June): 103.
REVISION HISTORY: Scanned, OCRed, corrected and edited by John van Wyhe 2002-8. RN3
Do the Tineina or other Small Moths Suck Flowers, and if so what Flowers?—I once saw several individuals of a small moth apparently eating the pollen of the Mercurialis; is this physically possible? I have during several years watched the smaller clovers, such as Trifolium procumbens, and the Vicia hirsuta which has such extremely minute flowers, and I never saw a bee visit them. I am, however, aware from experience that it is very difficult to assert that bees do not visit any particular kind of plant. As Mr. F. Bond1 informs me that he has often seen moths visiting papilionaceous flowers, even such small ones as those of the trefoil, it has occurred to me that small moths may suck the flowers of T. procumbens and of V. hirsuta. From analogy we must believe that the smaller clovers secrete nectar; and it does not seem probable that the nectar would be wasted. I should esteem it a great favour if any Lepidopterists would communicate their experience on this point.—CHARLES DARWIN, Down, Bromley, Kent.
[In reply to Mr. Darwin's enquiry we may observe that very many of the Tineina are provided with tongues, and that these appendages are naturally used in extracting the sweets of flowers. It is no uncommon sight to see an Umbellifer swarming with the pretty little Glyphipteryx Fischeriella, each with its proboscis extended sucking at the flowers. The Depressariae, as is notorious to every collector of Noctuae, come very freely to sugar, and no doubt naturally visit flowers.
But the fertilization of flowers may be accomplished by insects in another way. Many species oviposit on the blooming flowers; they do not deposit all their eggs on a single plant, but sparingly a
few here and a few there; a female protruding her ovipositor down the corolla of a flower, and then flying off to repeat the operation elsewhere may herself be "the priest who performs the marriage ceremony."]
1 Frederick Bond (1811-1889), entomologist and ornithologist. On this letter see Correspondence vol. 8, pp. 261-2.
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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
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