New Year’s Celebration

Honeysuckle Whitefly

Vasiform Orifice and Lingula of the Honeysuckle
Whitefly Image: Ken Walker


It’s New Year Eve. Tonight people all over the world will celebrate by propelling things into the air. Usually it’s confetti or string aided by party favors. In some places, people fire bullets into the air. This is a bad idea because they can cause damage or injury when they land.

In the insect world, whiteflies are always “celebrating” by hurling honeydew in the air. Honeydew is sticky, grows mold and attracts natural enemies. Whiteflies propel the honeydew as far away as possible. They do this with a structure on the top of their abdomen at the exit of the digestive system, the vasifom orifice. The orifice is generally covered with a flap called the operculum. At the exit is a catapult shaped structure called a lingula. Honeydew excreted by the digestive system collects in the lingula. After a droplet forms, the lingula flings it away like a catapult. When viewing a dense population of whiteflies under a microscope, hundreds of honeydew droplets flying through the air present a festive site. For New Years, humans will be flinging confetti; whiteflies around the world will be flinging honeydew.

Happy New Years

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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