How to Feed Dead Bugs to a Venus Fly Trap (4 Easy Steps)

feeding bugs to a venus fly trap

Venus Fly Traps are both cool and creepy. On the one hand, they are one of the few plants that actually move fast enough for us to observe their movement. On the other hand, they eat bugs. If you are like me and get kind of grossed out by handling most live bugs, then trying to take care of a fly trap indoors, may be an issue. Unless you know how to feed dead bug, of course.

How to feed dead bugs to a Venus Fly Trap? It’s actually pretty easy to feed dead bugs to a Venus Fly Trap:

  1. Select a bug of appropriate size. No larger than ⅓ the trap size. 
  2. Select a trap, if your Venus Fly Trap has multiple traps ready. 
  3. Drop your bug in, aiming for the center of the trap, by the hinge. 
  4. Stimulate the trigger hairs to get the trap to fully close

You would think it would be harder than that, but that is all it takes to feed your Venus Fly Trap dead bugs. 

While the 4 step process itself is pretty easy, there is a little bit more to it. Like how to stimulate the trigger hairs or what kind or size of bugs to use. I want to walk you through the process of feeding both adult and seedling Venus Fly Traps, and what types of bugs are best at what stage. It is simple, and the whole process will take a little more time than watering them.

Drop the Dead Bug into the Plant

Dropping a bug into the Venus Fly Trap is as easy as it sounds. Just follow these simple directions for this part of the process:

  • Select a bug of appropriate size. No larger than ⅓ the trap size. 
  • Select a trap, if your Venus Fly Trap has multiple traps ready. 
  • Drop your bug in, aiming for the center of the trap, by the hinge. 

That’s really all there is to it.

If bugs creep you out, however, as they do me, you can use gloves to touch the bug with or use tweezers to hold onto the bug. Although gloves are not really necessary as most bugs the fly traps eat can be picked up using tweezers, and for bloodworms, you can use a toothpick to feed them.

Once the trap snaps shut, you will notice that it is not tightly closed. If you do not stimulate the trigger hairs, it will just assume that whatever fell in was not food, so it will just open back up. Plants are not smart, but they are resourceful. In nature, food does not just fall in, and it takes a lot of energy to try to digest things that are not food.

Stimulate the Trigger Hairs

Stimulating the trigger hairs is a little bit more involved, but it will only take a few seconds, definitely less than a minute, especially once you get more used to doing it. Venus Fly Traps, in the attempt to conserve energy, do not try to digest everything that falls into its traps. Since it could be rain or something too small to bother with.

This is the reason that the trigger hairs need to be stimulated, just like a trapped insect would do. While a trap will close once you put the bug in, you need to make sure it fully closes, which requires just a bit more work.

Stimulating these hairs, in the scheme of things, is probably one of the easiest things to do and I find it to be easier than touching a dead bug. Here are two ways you can go about stimulating the trigger hairs:

  • Using something small like a toothpick or unrolled paperclip or even a pair of tweezers, reach into the loosely closed trap and wiggle it around for about 30 seconds. You will know that you have got it right when the trap closes tightly. This is the start of the digestive process and the end of what you have to do to feed your Venus Fly Trap. 
  • Alternately, you could GENTLY pinch the top and bottom of the trap to stimulate the trigger hairs as well. The trap on a venus fly trap is just as delicate and requires just as much care as the wing of a butterfly. If you were to pick a butterfly up by its wing, it would tear easily. I am always so worried that I am going to damage mine, so I prefer the toothpick method.

Best Types of Bugs For Your Venus Fly Trap

You do need to be careful to make sure that you feed your Venus Fly Trap ONLY what it should be eating, dead bugs. It cannot digest mammalian meat, nor can it live on vegetation. This is just a fact of life for a Venus Fly Trap. Nor does it need treats, so please don’t try feeding it chocolate. Don’t laugh. People have tried all of these things and killed their traps in the process.

  • As far as size, you want to use a bug that is about ⅓ of the size of the trap you are feeding. Nothing should be sticking out, and it should be small enough that the entire bug fits inside of the trap. If the trap is not tightly closed, it will not allow the Venus Fly Trap to be able to properly digest the meal, and it could lead to blackening of the trap or it dying and falling off. 
  • When rehydrating bugs for your Venus Fly Trap, NEVER use tap water. Only use distilled or rainwater. Venus Fly Traps and plants along those lines are too sensitive to chemicals and cannot handle either tap water or well water, since most well water is softened. If you have access to pond, river or lake water, this would be sufficient as well. 
  • While I have seen posts on forums online discussing feeding fish flakes or pellets to Venus Fly Traps, I would not recommend this. Many commercially produced fish food is made primarily with ingredients like corn or soy and this is definitely not good for any type of trap plant. Stick to what is natural for them, which is bugs of more varieties. 

Mealworms

Mealworms are probably one of the easiest bugs to feed to Venus Fly Traps and one of the easiest to get. You can buy freeze dried mealworms on Amazon from $2 on up to over $40, depending on how much you plan to get. A 1 oz jar would be sufficient to feed a few Venus Fly Traps for a few years since they would normally eat once a week during the active phase. 

Since Venus Fly Traps also need a period of dormancy each year, this limits further how much you need. If you keep mealworms for feeding fish or chickens, then you can get a bigger bag and be able to give treats to the animals while still being able to feed your Venus Fly Traps. Mealworms are nutrient dense and contain a lot of nitrates, which a Venus Fly Trap needs.

Due to mealworms being high in nutrients, they are a popular treat for chickens and why lizards like them so much. Just rehydrate them before feeding to help give the Venus Fly Trap a bit more to digest. A Venus Fly Trap will also digest a rehydrated bug more quickly, which will allow for more feedings and better growth.

One of the main bonuses to feeding freeze dried bugs is that they don’t go bad, with proper care. You can feed a Venus Flytrap for a few years on a single $2 or $3 purchase. Just make sure that you keep them in the container, keep it sealed and keep them out of the light (for those in a clear bag), and they will last about a decade or two.

BloodWorms

Bloodworms can be purchased at many aquarium supply stores or you can get bloodworms on Amazon starting around $3. Typically used as fish food, like for Tetras, a small container can last a few plants a couple of years. Like mealworms, you need to rehydrate them.

When rehydrated, mealworms will not change too much, but rehydrated bloodworms will break up and become more of a bloodworm paste, which is perfectly fine to feed to your fly trap, especially if it is a seedling. Think of it as a meatball suitable for your Venus Fly Trap.

Bloodworm paste that is too watery can dilute the digestive juices of the Venus Fly Trap, or if it leaks too much to the seal of the trap, it may damage the trap itself. I tend to use a torn off corner of a paper towel and barely touch the edge of the paste, which helps draw out the excess a bit. 

You may need to cut up the paste a bit, if you make up too much for a single trap. You will need to use something sharp such as a razor for this since the worms are stingy and resemble fibers.

Since freeze dried worms do tend to break up a bit, you could alternatively just powder the worms before mixing in a couple of drops of water. This will allow for a finer paste that doesn’t need anything special to cut it. 

Crickets

Crickets can make a good meal as well, you just have to be more aware of the antennas. These could end sticking out of the trap and make proper sealing, hence proper digestion impossible. Crickets can be purchased on Amazon for about $5 and up. A small bottle of crickets, like the bloodworms and mealworms, will last a few years, so no need to spend a lot to stock up. 

With crickets, you may need to remove the antenna and/or legs, if it is close to being the ⅓ size limit for your traps. You want to be sure that it does not interfere with the seal. I would recommend adding a drop or two of distilled water to rehydrate the crickets just a bit before feeding to your Venus Fly Trap. 

This will make it easier to digest without making the cricket over hydrated, which can cause issues with the trap. Like with anything else that is freeze dried, you can powder the crickets if you want, but crickets do tend to hold together better than worms do, so this step may not be necessary.

Dead Household Bugs

You can use many different types of bugs that are in your home if you so desire. Just don’t take them out of spider webs, as the spiders probably sucked them dry already. Also, don’t use bugs killed with chemicals as those chemicals can kill your plants as well. If you are lucky enough to have swatted one without smooshing it, this would be optimal.

There is an alternative for those who raise mealworms for other creatures, and that is feeding the beetles that mealworms inevitably turn into (if not fed to something else). The darkling beetle is the adult form, but only lives for a few weeks. If you go through your mealworm container a couple of times a week, you are likely to find recently dead beetles.

When I raised mealworms for my chickens, I found this to be an excellent way to make use of even the beetles after they laid eggs and died. I knew that I was not killing a female that could be getting ready to lay eggs, but also that it was not dead long or been killed with chemicals. This solved two problems in one since I was just going to throw them away anyways.

The only thing with using a darkling is that due to their larger size, you need to pay attention to the size of the individual traps. You want to be very careful that you do not feed a darkling beetle to a trap that is too small for it.

Do You Need to Remove the Insect’s Shell After Feeding?

This is one of the biggest questions I had with my Venus Fly Trap. Should I remove the bug after the trap opens back up? The answer is no, just leave it.

As I have learned, I would inadvertently cause the death of some of the traps on my Venus Fly Trap by triggering them too often, which can happen if you are trying to remove instect shells.

A trap is designed to only close a few times before it has used up all of its energy and becomes nothing more than another leaf to take in sunlight. While this is not necessarily a bad thing as they are plants after all, they need the nutrients from the bugs.

Venus Fly Traps, in nature, live in nutrient scarce soil, and we have to replicate this when growing them as well. Without the bugs they trap, they will not get the nutrients that they need to be able to make the energy they need to grow and live. You can’t just give them plant food like other plants as their roots are too sensitive and you will burn them.

If the shell is really bothering you, you can gently blow on the trap to remove it. Although if you leave it in place, it does tend to act more like a lure for other bugs. You may find that a trap is closed that previously was open with an insect shell inside. Another insect may have come to investigate it and your Venus Fly Trap may have just gotten a free meal. 

Feeding Seedling Venus Fly Traps

Venus Fly Traps need to be fed from the time they start growing traps, or they will starve and die. Feeding seedlings can be a bit harder than adults simply because of their size. You need to find smaller bugs or just feed smaller amounts of bugs. This can be done by cutting down a rehydrated mealworm or by using a smaller amount of bloodworm paste.

A seedling can start growing traps within weeks of germination; however they are very small traps and slow as they do not yet contain much energy in them. Here are some tips on feeding seedlings:

  • If you do opt to feed them a bit of mealworm paste, make sure that is is no more than ⅓ of the trap size and you do have to give the trap more time to close. It may require a bit more stimulation to fully close as well. 
  • Since seedlings are basically baby plants, they do need more care and attention than adults need. Considering that they do not eat as much as a larger plant will, you will want to try to feed them a bit more often than an adult plant. Once you notice a trap is open, I would suggest feeding them if you can, just to get them the best shot you can.
  • Make sure to check your seedling daily to see if it has a trap that is open and ready. Seedlings that are given a good start at the beginning will carry that on throughout their lives. While most nurseries cannot feed them on a more care attentive schedule, someone raising just a few seedlings can.