Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Totally True Tuesday ~ Nifty Nectar-Needers

We all know too much sugar isn’t good for us, but did you know some butterflies, birds and mammals need to eat sugar everyday? In fact, it’s their entire diet!

Let’s take a look at some of these nifty nectar-needers that love this syrupy supper.

Sip, Sip Away Tree-Shrew

The amazing little pen-tailed tree-shrew can be found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. However, unlike normal nectar-needers, this little fellow prefers fermented syrup from the flowers of the Bertam palm. Once these flowers are in bloom the nectar found there is high in alcohol. But even though the tree-shrew feeds on this, it never gets affected by it. Scientists believe the shrew has developed a tolerance to the alcohol because it’s the main source of its diet.

Do you suppose the pen-tailed shrew got it’s name because its tail looks like a feathered pen?

Butterflies Don’t Eat Butter! Or Do They?

Butterflies only consume nectar and water. They do this with their long straw-like “tongue” called a ‘proboscis.’ With this long straw the butterfly is able to reach deep inside the flower to where the nectar is stored and slurp it up. The butterfly uses this sugary solution to maintain its health and long migration. In fact, the Monarch butterfly travels from the Great Lakes to Mexico in the fall (about 2000 miles) then back again in the spring. That’s quite a flight for such a small creature!

So why are they called butterflies?

No one really knows where the butterfly got its name. Some say if originates back to the 18th century when butterflies would hover around the butter and milk left uncovered in the kitchen. Some believe it’s because most butterflies were yellow in colour, like butter. Another theory states that it came from the German words for flutterby.

A Hairy Tongue?

Did you know Hummingbirds are the smallest of all the bird species and that it has a hairy tongue?

Since the hummingbird’s diet consists of mostly nectar their tongue has an unique design built in. Besides being super long the hummingbird’s tongue is grooved like the letter ”W” and has tiny hairs on the tip to help lap up the nectar. Their beaks are also quite long in comparison to it’s body.

Being so tiny a hummingbird needs to eat at least 1/2 to 8 times its body weight to flourish. In fact, hummingbirds need to eat 7 times per hour for 30-60 second intervals and can lap up the nectar at 13 licks per second. Plus, this little guy may visit up to 1000 flowers per hour. No wonder he needs so much sugar!

For more information on these and other Nifty Nectar-Needers, visit your library, the Internet or, perhaps, your very own garden.

Wonder Words

~ Fermented ~ When sugar decomposes with enzymes to make alcohol
~ Migration ~ to move from one country or place to another

For more articles and great stories, check out knowonder magazine for kids on the web at; http://www.knowonder.com


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