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In order for your Venus flytrap to have the energy to snap shut and devour its food, it is important first to provide a healthy environment. Providing the essentials your plant needs to be happy will allow it to spend energy on trapping and digesting food instead of surviving in poor conditions.
You can feed your Venus flytrap most small bugs so long as they are not able to physically damage the plant in any way. Live prey is best, but dead or freeze dried bugs can be used with proper preparation. Some of the best foods for Venus flytraps include mealworms, bloodworms, and small crickets.
Once you have met its basic needs, you can focus on how and what to feed your Venus flytrap. Read on to learn more about the best way to care for and feed your Venus flytrap.
The Best Foods for your Venus Flytrap
Like all plants, the Venus flytrap gets much of its energy from the sun and soil. However, it has adapted to thrive in poor soil by supplementing its nutritional needs by munching on insects. Some favorites include:
It may be surprising given their name, but Venus flytraps don’t often capture flies, but crawling insects, such as beetles and ants. Some of the most convenient foods to purchase include:
- Mealworms: These are a natural and nutritious source of food. They are also easy to get as they are commonly sold in tubes at pet stores and gardening nurseries. However, given their size, you may have to cut the worms into more manageable pieces.
- Bloodworms: This meal option is also easy to come by as they are sold everywhere fish food is. They are often sold freeze-dried and require a couple of drops of water to rehydrate. More on this later. Bloodworms also contain a polymer called chitin which helps activate the plant’s immune defenses.
- Spiders: Along with the other flightless meals mentioned above, spiders are also a standard meal for Venus flytraps. Though nutritious and part of their natural diet, these are less common in pet stores as food products for sale.
- Crickets: Small crickets can make an excellent meal for a large Venus flytrap. You can also buy tubes of dried or fresh crickets online or in pet stores.
Even though the Venus flytrap sources much of its water and other nutrients from the soil, eating insects is another way these carnivorous plants can get what they need.
Do I Need to Feed My Venus Flytrap Live Insects?
There is much debate over the differences between feeding a Venus flytrap live or dead prey. Generally speaking, carnivorous plants grown outdoors should be able to maintain their nutritional needs and catch insects on their own. If your climate does not support outdoor cultivation, here are a few tips to provide your plant with a healthy menu.
Feeding Live Insects to Venus Flytraps
Natural is best when feeding your plant. Inside the trap are tiny leaves that look like hairs. After continuous movement is detected, the trap will close. The insect’s continuous movement then causes the plant to release digestive enzymes. When using dead or freeze-dried food, you have to “trick” your flytrap into closing.
If feeding live mealworms, it is recommended that you remove the heads. This is done to avoid them from chewing through your plant, which is also a problem found from using caterpillars as a food source.
Feeding Dead Insects to Venus Flytraps
If handling the insects is not ideal for you, try using dead insects that are fresh. When using this feeding option, you will need to mimic what happens with living prey. To do this, insert the food using tweezers, and stimulate the trigger hairs to initiate partial closing. More on this later
A potential downside to using this method is damaging the seal created when the trap is fully closed or puncturing the leaf. Your Venus flytrap could also reject your best “live ant” improv act and resist the idea of chomping down.
It is important to note that the rapid closure of the trap requires a lot of energy, so don’t trigger your plant if you aren’t feeding it.
Freeze-Dried Food for Venus flytraps
Feeding your plants freeze-dried food can be much easier to manage than wriggling insects. For this method, put a couple of droplets of water onto the food to rehydrate. After the food has soaked in the moisture, remove excess water with a paper towel before placing it into the trap. Tap water can be too high in minerals and salts so avoid any visible dribs.
As mentioned before, freeze-dried foods are found commonly in pet stores as well as online. Here are a few dinner options for your Venus flytrap:
Live, freshly deceased, and freeze-dried foods can help ensure that your Venus flytrap receives the supplemental nutrients it needs from insects. If you can manage it, providing live prey is a more natural approach, but you can also use the other options if preferred.
Can I Feed Venus Flytraps Meat?
Although they are carnivorous, you should avoid giving Venus flytraps animal meat. The plant is not adapted to digest them, and they can cause the leaf to rot. Placing meat into the trap of the plant can also introduce harmful bacteria into its system.
The best rule of thumb is to only give your plant food that it could catch naturally. While there are some carnivorous plants that can digest small mammals, the Venus flytrap is not one of them.
How to Give Food to Your Venus flytrap
As previously mentioned, it is consistently debated whether living or dehydrated meals make a difference in the overall health of your Venus flytrap. Here we examine the differences between feeding methods.
Providing Live Food for your Venus Flytrap to Catch
The trap contains nectar to attract insects and modified leaves that work as trigger hairs. Once something touches the “hairs” at least twice, it sends an electrical signal activating the trap to partially close.
After the partial closing, continued struggle by the insect produces a full closure reaction and a sealing of the trap leaves. Once sealed, digestive enzymes are released.
If, however, the prey was to escape and not trigger the total closure, the plant would eventually return to its resting state. Waiting for multiple triggers to the “hairs” allows the plant to reserve energy by not closing every time a raindrop or spec of dirt hits the trap.
How to Feed Dead or Freeze-Dried Insects to a Venus flytrap
Suppose you have elected to feed your Venus flytrap dead or dehydrated food. In that case, you must trick the plant into producing natural reactions (both chemical and physical) to encourage it to feed.
To do this, select a freshly dead or freeze-dried insect that is about 1/3 the size of the trap. The size is essential. If the trap cannot fully seal, bacteria can enter the trap and poison its system.
Secure the insect with tweezers and drop it into the center of the trap. Trigger the hairs using a toothpick to simulate movement by its food. Touching two of the trigger hairlike leaves will encourage a reaction. After a partial closure, you will need to stimulate the “hairs” again.
To promote a full closure, you will need to stick the toothpick or a pair of tweezers into the trap again and wiggle it for about 30 seconds. You can also try gently pushing together the trap leaves to trigger the “hairs.”
Both techniques have been touted as successful. However, using living food may be better suited to promote a natural response.
Venus Flytrap Feeding Basics
It is important to remember that you need to provide a good living environment for your plant to live a successful and healthy life.
Once that is established, remember these tips for success:
- Only feed a Venus flytrap food it could naturally catch on its own
- Dab off tap water if used to rehydrate freeze-dried insects
- Avoid stimulating the trigger hairs unless you are feeding it
If you like the idea of using live, natural prey but are creeped out about handling them, keep in mind that Venus flytraps can go a couple of months between meals. Therefore, you can keep your plant happy and healthy by only having to stomach the handling of creepy crawlies a few times a year.