When it comes to carnivorous plants, there probably isn’t a more famous example than the humble Venus fly trap.
Somehow both intimidating and yet still appealing and even cute to some, Venus fly traps are a very popular little exotic plant that many people grow in and around their homes.
One of the most popular reasons for owning a Venus fly trap, and why they are so famous, is that they can eat, and supposedly, attract flies. Hence their pretty self-explanatory name! However, how much of this is the case?
Venus fly traps obviously can eat flies, but do they attract them? Despite how popular they’ve become, there’s still a lot that most people don’t know about this exotic carnivorous plant. So, to help you out, we’ve compiled this little guide for you!
We’ll show you how Venus fly traps work, some tips that you should consider when caring for them, and of course, whether or not they can attract flies. Because while many people often buy these plants for that very reason, the answer isn’t so clear-cut.
Why Venus Fly Traps Are Carnivorous?
So, we should probably start with one of the first questions that people have when discussing Venus fly traps. That being: Why exactly are they carnivorous in the first place?!
What would compel plants, literally the lowest organism on the food chain, to start eating other animals? Well, when it comes to carnivorous plants, the best way to understand why they are how they are is to look at their natural environments.
Only being grown natively in North and South Carolina in the United States, these plants tend to grow in soil that doesn’t have many of the vital nutrients that they need to sustain themselves.
But while other plants would have either adapted to the new environment or simply died off, Venus fly traps, and many other carnivorous plants in similar conditions, came up with another solution to this issue.
By becoming carnivorous, these plants can gain the necessary nutrients that they need to survive, even in soil conditions that are not ideal for them, by eating insects and other small animals.
While some species of plants are so large that they can even consume birds, frogs, and even rats, Venus fly traps have only been known to consume insects, such as spiders, ants, and, of course, flies.
Do Venus Fly Traps Attract Flies?
So, how exactly do Venus fly traps attract flies, if they even can at all? Well, that’s the odd thing: They can’t! Well, that’s not specifically true. Technically, Venus fly traps can attract flies to them. But catching them is a whole different kind of game.
Despite what their name might suggest, Venus fly traps don’t tend to eat or trap flies, with them making up maybe 5% of their overall diet, if that even.
Instead, Venus fly traps are much more likely to be capturing and eating spiders, ants, beetles, and other ground-dwelling critters and bugs, rather than flying targets like bees, butterflies, and flies. They can consume them.
But the agility and maneuverability that flying insects have meant that the normal strategies that Venus fly traps.
How Venus Fly Traps Feed?
To understand why exactly Venus fly traps don’t usually attract flies, it may be helpful to understand how exactly Venus fly traps catch their prey.
Venus fly traps secrete sweet-smelling nectar in their trap-shaped leaves/jaws, which help attract a potentially unwitting meal to them. This will attract
Once the landed insect touches or triggers the hair-like follicles that grow on the inside of each leaf of the plant, the plant jaw trap is triggered, enclosing the insect in the jaws.
The long, needle-like protrusions help prevent insects that might try and crawl upwards and outwards to get out, as they interlock with each other.
Once the plant’s trap has completely closed, the plant will then secret digestive enzymes and fluids into the enclosed space.
This effectively turns the trap into a stomach, allowing the plant to digest the softer parts of the insect, and opening once most of the digestion has taken place, so they can wait for the next unsuspecting insect to land on them.
Why Venus Fly Traps Struggle To Catch Flies?
While this is a very effective system against insects that don’t have good flying abilities (like the spiders and ants that we mentioned before), flies are some of the most nimble flying insects out there.
Not only can they avoid triggering both sides of the plant that need to be touched to close the jaw, but they can also simply fly directly upwards, avoiding
Not only that, but this trapping mechanism also takes a lot of energy to complete, meaning that Venus fly traps have to make sure that they have a good chance that they can catching their prey.
Hence why they have their hair-detection system. When it’s triggered, it maximizes their chances of a successful trap.
Looking After A Venus Fly Trap
If you’re looking to care for a Venus fly trap yourself, there are a few care tips that you should keep in mind. Make sure that you place your fly trap in a place where it can get plenty of sunlight.
Even if they gain more of their nutrients from insects, they still need to photosynthesize! Keep the tray for your Venus fly trap shallow tray of very moist soil/water. This is their ideal growing condition. Make sure that you are feeding live insects to your plant.
So, as you can see, while Venus fly traps can attract and even catch flies from time to time, they are not the plant’s main food source. They’re just too nimble for them, 95% of the time.
Still, there are plenty of other ways that you can feed your carnivorous plants, such as with household spiders and mealworms. And who knows? They can still catch flies from time to time.
Having one of these plants in your home to catch any pesky flies will probably be better than not having a Venus fly trap at all!