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Insect mouthparts are an extension of the head and are usually located at the bottom of the head, but can sometimes protrude beyond the front. The various types of mouthparts are used in identification of insects. They also can give an individual an idea of the feeding habits as well.
There are six basic types of mouthparts. They are chewing, rasping-sucking, piercing-sucking, sponging, siphoning, and chewing-lapping.

Chewing Type

This is the most primitive and most basic type of mouthpart and can be found in such insects as cockroaches, termites, and beetles. The parts to this mouthpart are:
  • Upper Lip (Labrum) - A simple flap which covers the upper jaws
  • Upper Jaw (Mandibles) - There are two upper jaws, each with a tooth-like projection on the inner-side. They move from side to side and are used to tear off food
  • Tongue (Hypopharyn) - A fleshy organ found inside the mouth
  • Lower Jaws (Maxillae) - There are two lower jaws, each with an antennae-like projection, called the maxillary palpus, which may contain organs of taste, touch and smell. These jaws move side to side like the upper jaws.
  • Lower Lip (Labium) - Made of several parts and contains the labial palpus which has similar functions as the maxillae palpus.

Rasping-Sucking Type

Insects use this type of mouthpart to cut the epidermis of plants with three needle-like organs, called stylets, until the sap flows. They then retract the stylets and suck up the sap. The only insect known to have this type of mouthpart is thrips.

Piercing-Sucking Type

Insects use this type of mouthpart by piercing the epidermis of plants or animals and suck up the sap or blood from beneath the surface. The parts of this type of mouthpart are similar to that of the chewing mouthpart, but their form and function is slightly different. Basically, these insects have a long tubular structure, out of which come four long slender stylets. These stylets pierce the skin and suck up the liquid food. Some of the insects with type of mouthpart are the mosquitoes, flies, fleas, and lice.

Sponging Type

On these insects, the lower lip is elongated to form the outer covering of the soft beak within which are two slender structures that form a salivary duct and food channel. The tip of the lower lip is enlarged into a large sponging organ that has a series of grooves radiating from the center. When the insect dip the end of its beak into liquids, the fluid flows up these grooves until it arrives at the food channel. The food is then sucked up into the insect. Some flies, such as the house fly, the blowfly, and the fruit fly, have this type of mouthpart.

Siphoning Type

Insects with these mouthparts have each lower jaw elongated. They are interlocked to form a long slender tube through which exposed liquids are sucked. The tube (tongue) is coiled up like a spring when it is not used. Moths and butterflies have this type of mouthpart.

Chewing-Lapping Type

Insects with these mouthparts have the ability to chew solids as well as suck up exposed liquids. The upper lip and the upper jaws are the same as they are in chewing mouthparts. The lower jaws and lower lip are elongated to form a tongue with which the insect can suck or lap up liquids. Some bees and wasps have this type of mouthpart.

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