Venus Flytraps are small plants that can grow from six to eight inches in diameter and eat insects. They lure their prey to their doom by using sweet-smelling nectar and then, using toothed “traps” that are really specialized hinged leaves, trap them for digestion. Outdoors, Venus Flytraps have a limitless supply of fresh prey, but indoors these strange plants rely on their humans for food.
Can you overfeed a Venus Flytrap? No, Venus Flytraps cannot be overfed if you provide the correct food for them. However, a good rule of thumb is that at any time, only one of the traps on the plant should be feeding.
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This article will concentrate on how and what to feed a Venus Flytrap and other interesting facts to help plant enthusiasts give great care to these fascinating plants.
What is a Venus Flytrap?
Actually, Venus Flytraps are small flowering insectivorous (insect-eating) plants with their primary food is insects and spiders and not carrion at all.
Although Venus Flytraps look like they come from an exotic island or outer space, they actually hail from a one hundred area along the eastern coast of the United States. They are particularly from South and North Carolina and cannot be found anywhere else.
Venus Flytraps reproduce by pollinated flowers which create seeds that spread onto the ground and grow into new plants. The roots of the new plant will then grow into the ground to create a bulb root from which more Venus Flytraps grow.
How Does a Venus Flytrap Eat in the Wild?
Venus Flytraps use a chemical reaction between chlorophyll in its leaves called photosynthesis to feed itself like other plants. The reason Venus Flytraps eat meat is that they are native to the boggy lands of North and South Carolina where the soil is poor in nutrients necessary for them to grow. To supplement their diet of sunshine, they catch and ingest insects.
A Venus Flytrap has four to seven green stems that end in traps which are modified leaves that lie open and end in interlocking spines to entrap prey. At the base of each trap, the plant secretes sweet nectar that insects find irresistible.
When an insect lands on the trap leaf, small hairs detect the movement and the Flytrap will snap shut trapping the insect and digestion begins.
They certainly are one of the most interesting plants in the world, and considering how they eat in the wild, it just adds even more to their intriguing background.
How to Feed A Venus Flytrap
Because Venus Flytraps eat insects, when the plant is grown indoors, food can become scarce. While it is true they need water and sunlight like all other plants, without the supplement of an insect now and then Venus Flytraps do not thrive.
To feed a Venus Flytrap place the food you have chosen into any trap leaf that is open. It will take the plant about a week to digest its food. A large plant may have seven leaf traps with at least one trap opening each day. However, it is not necessary to feed the plant every day as the plant can go weeks without a meal.
Ideally, a Venus Flytrap should be fed four times a year with the plant being fed three bugs per feeding.
What Should Be Fed to a Venus Flytrap?
Food for the Venus Flytrap comes from either outside in the lawn or from a reputable pet store. There are several insects and arachnids that the plant can feast on well including:
- Baby grasshoppers
- Rehydrated blood worms
- Small spiders
Venus Flytraps digest food by using enzymes produced by specialized glands. When prey tries to escape the closed trap, it triggers specialized sensory hairs inside the trap. This triggering causes an electrical signal that makes the plant produce the hormone jasmonate causing digestion to begin.
The strong digestive juices formed by the plant digest the soft parts of the insect but cannot break down the exoskeleton of its prey. After the plant has digested all it can from the insect, the trap leave opens and expels the leftovers.
It is vital to choose an insect that fits comfortably inside the plant’s trap. This guarantees good digestion of the insect. Also, while the digestive enzymes of the Venus Flytrap are effective in the digestion of insects, it is not harmful to humans or animals.
How to Feed A Venus Flytrap Non-Living Prey
Although Venus Flytraps cannot eat meat, they can consume Betta fish pellets. But unlike living prey, the pellets once placed in the trap, will not wiggle around like live prey to stimulate digestion.
The answer is to use a toothpick. Once the pellet or other non-living prey has been inserted, and the trap stimulated to close, use a toothpick to tickle the hairs very gently inside the closed trap. This action simulates a struggling insect, and the plant will make and release the necessary digestive enzymes.
Fish flakes are not handy to feed a Venus Flytrap, but in a tight spot, they will work. Using a small pair of tweezers place a flake large enough to fit the trap. Then, using a toothpick, stimulate the hairs of the plant as shown in
Insects and Other Food That Should Not Be Fed to a Venus Flytrap
One would be forgiven for believing that Venus Flytraps can eat any kind of insect or meat, but that would be incorrect. There are many types of insects and other food materials that should never be fed to a Venus Flytrap.
Some of these food sources are:
- Meat consumed by humans
- Dog or Cat Food
One might think that aphids living on a Venus Flytrap would be a good thing as the plant eats insects.
However, aphids are too tiny for a Venus flytrap to catch and will damage the plant. While the plant probably won’t die from ingesting aphids, these small insects can cause distorted leaves at the crown of the plant weakening the plant.
To rid a Venus Flytrap of aphids, submerge the plant in water for two to three weeks. If the infestation is severe, horticultural oils and insecticidal soap might be used.
Meat Consumed by Humans
Again, it may seem counterintuitive that Venus Flytraps cannot eat meat. But, hamburger or other meat that is eaten by humans isn’t considered food by a Venus Flytrap and will sit in the trap until it roots thus killing the plant.
Hamburger and other meats contain proteins that cannot be broken down by the Venus traps digestive system like they can insects.
Pet food is manufactured using meat byproducts that are not labeled for human consumption. A Venus Flytrap fed pet food will not digest pet food and will die.
The bottom line is not to feed your Venus Flytrap anything but insects or fish food.
Not Feeding a Venus Flytrap During Dormancy
Venus Flytraps are not a tropical plant, despite their alien appearance. In their natural habitat along the bogs of the Carolinas, the weather turns cold with temperatures often dipping below freezing in winter.
In nature, Venus Flytraps die back in the fall, and the plant lies dormant until spring. During this time, the plant does not eat, nor does it need to as it has stored enough protein in its root system to keep it alive until spring.
When the weather warms, the Venus Flytrap sprouts new leaves and traps ready for to be the doom of any unwary insect that falls inside.
Like in nature, Venus Flytraps do not need to be fed during its dormant season and should be kept in a cool spot inside or live on the patio during winter. This stimulates the plant to enter dormancy, and the result will be a healthy and hearty plant in spring.
A Venus Flytraps Other Needs
Venus Flytraps require other things other than a feeding now and then. They also require:
- Adequate light
- Proper watering
In the right combination, these three needs of a Venus Flytrap, when met, bring the novelty of the insectivorous plant into any home.
Venus Flytraps require a lot of light. In fact, they should receive at least four hours of direct sunlight daily with six to eight being even better.
The best place to display a Venus Flytrap is in a window where it can receive direct sunlight. The only exception to this rule is during the plants dormant period.
It is interesting to note that although a Venus Flytrap can be fed, it is not necessary if the plant receives adequate water, soil, and light.
Tap water is not good for a Venus Flytrap. The chemicals and compounds found in human drinking water are too harsh for consumption by the plant.
The best water to use should be:
- Distilled water
- Reverse osmosis water
The soil of a Venus Flytrap should be kept moist all the time, and the best practice is setting the plant on top of rocks in a trap filled with one-half inch of water. The plant’s roots will soak up the water and spread it to the rest of the plant.
To prevent mineral buildup in the soil of a Venus Flytrap, regular repotting must happen to keep the plant healthy. The process of repotting should happen shortly before the end of the plant’s dormancy before it begins to regrow.
A combination of peat moss and perlite is ideal for a Venus Flytrap using a fifty-fifty mix. Mixing in some horticultural grade silica sand will aid in drainage.
Using moss that is nutrient-poor, such as peat moss, ensures the closest habitat for the plant to living outdoors in the wild. Vermiculite should be avoided due to the minerals it contains that wills lowly poison the plant.
Interesting Facts Concerning Venus Flytraps
Here are some interesting facts about Venus Flytraps that most people do not know.
- Venus Flytraps Cannot Immediately Reopen
- It Takes A Week or Longer for the Plant to Digest Insect
- Venus Flytraps Have Short Lives
- Scientists Have Successfully Created Robot Flytraps
Here is a break down of each fact.
Venus Flytraps Cannot Immediately Reopen
A Venus Flytrap will snap shut in less than a second whenever anything touches the hairs on its leaves. While this may be a huge source of entertainment, a triggered trap will not open again for a few seconds to even longer depending on how many times the plant was forced to snap shut.
Also, if the object used to snap the trap shut isn’t food, the trap will not reopen for about twelve hours when it will spit the object out.
It Takes A Week or Longer for the Plant to Digest Insect
After capturing prey or getting fed, a flytrap secretes acidic liquids similar to what the human stomach does to begin digestion. It can take up to ten days to complete digesting one insect and for it to reopen to announce it is ready for more prey.
When the plant is finished digesting the prey, it spits the bones (exoskeletons, insects have no bones) out.
The Traps on a Venus Flytraps Have Short Lives
Each trap on a Venus Flytrap will open only a limited number of times before it dies. Lasting only a half dozen openings, the trap will then permanently close and become unable to hunt for insects.
The rest of the plant will remain alive through photosynthesis until, eventually, new traps grow to replace the old.
Scientists Have Successfully Created Robot Flytraps
Popular Science magazine reported that technicians in the United States and in South Korea have successfully built robotic replicas of the Venus Flytrap. In doing so, scientists have made an interesting discovery about the Venus Flytrap. It is capable of knowing when to close and when to stay open. In other words, it can distinguish between a piece of food and some dust landing on its sensory organs.
The aim of the research and development of Flytrap simulating robots is to manufacture robots that cannot only sense when to close but also how tightly or loosely to grasp items that are trapped or inside its trap. Learning this information allows scientists to develop tiny autonomous robots that can think for themselves making future applications for them possible.
Source: Popular Science
The Conservative Status of Venus Flytraps
Because of their allure to humans, Venus Flytraps are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. It isn’t only curious humans who are destroying the ability of the Venus Flytrap to thrive in the wild, but habitat destruction plays a deciding role.
Another problem for the conservation of Venus Flytraps is the lack of proper soil to grow in. At one-time forest fires helped the plants by clearing brush and allowing more sunlight to shine through. In the present day, forest fires are put out quickly, so the plants become buried under old brush growths and die for lack of light.
A Few Pieces of Trivia About Venus Flytraps
Venus Flytraps are perennial plants, meaning they bloom year after year. They flower with white pedals holding green veins running from their base to the edges.
When a Flytrap’s trap is closed, the seal is airtight, preventing bacteria from entering while it is digesting. This is important to keep the plant healthy.
Venus Flytraps can live up to twenty years or longer, so, purchasing this plant is a long-term commitment that is not for the faint of heart.
Summing It All Up
Venus Flytraps are an enjoyable conversation starter that is fun to flaunt at parties or to friends. Children especially find their insect-eating habits fascinating.
Owning a Venus Flytrap is like owning a piece of prehistoric history as the plant resembles something from a nightmare. This facade is made even more complete by the fact that these plants eat insects and spiders.
The care of a Venus Flytrap is a long-term commitment involving knowing when to and not feed and not to feed and what types of foods are appropriate. These plants require plenty of sunlight, fresh water, and it is necessary to repot them every year after their dormant period for them to grow well.
Most importantly of all, to this article, is the fact that you cannot overfeed a Venus Flytrap unless you are determined to place insects in all the traps of a plant at the same time. Doing this action will kill the plant because it would cost more in energy to trap and digest the bugs than it would to live; thus, the plant starves to death while full of prey.