Do fly-eating plants really work?

Feeding the Venus Flytrap: Important Notes for Beginners

Venus fly traps are a bit scary, but somehow also extremely interesting. After all, you don't see a plant eating insects every day. But how does that even work?

Beetles, flies, woodlice, spiders and ants: if the size is right, the carnivorous Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is not particularly picky about its prey. As the saying goes: hunger drives it in. But how does this amazing carnivorous plant, also known as carnivore, actually catch its prey and what do you have to watch out for when feeding?

The natural catch mechanism

Venus fly traps catch their prey with the help of the leaves that snap shut like trapping irons. The folding traps consist of the strongly thickened leaf stalk and two oval to round shaped leaf blades. These are bent outwards when open. In the center of the leaf blade there are some hair-thin feeler bristles. The edge is equipped with dense catching bristles.

As soon as the leaves are fully grown, they open and the insides take on an intense red color when exposed to sunlight. The Venus flytrap leads the insects to believe that it is blooming and supports this impression by exuding a sweet, nectar-like liquid.

As soon as an insect touches the feeler bristles twice within 20 seconds, the trap snaps shut. It works similar to turning a soft contact lens and only takes a fraction of a second. The catching bristles on the edge of the leaf blade interlock.

Lucky again - tiny ones are undesirable

Very small insects, for which the effort of digestion would not be worthwhile, can crawl into the open between the bristles. Larger, usable insects are now literally trapped and digested in a process that takes around ten days. When the digestive process is complete, the trap opens again and the unusable remains, such as the chitin shell, fall to the ground. Each latch can open and close up to seven times. After that, the catch leaf dies and is replaced.

Feeding - not necessary, but exciting

Venus fly traps catch enough prey without your help. However, if you want to initiate the exciting spectacle yourself, nothing speaks against it. Keep the following tips in mind:

do not do regular finger tests:

Don't touch the traps. Each snap of the finger means less snap for the plant to catch real prey. However, you can allow yourself a one-time test to satisfy the understandable curiosity.

do not feed dead food:

Do not feed dead insects or leftovers from lunch. The trap also closes over a dead beetle or a piece of schnitzel. But if there is no movement, digestion does not start. After a day at the latest, the trap opens again and the plant has wasted a lot of useless energy.

do not feed very large or small insects:

The optimal prey of the Venus flytrap is about a third as long as a hinged trap. Very small insects will escape through the bristles. Very large insects, such as a stag beetle, are often powerful enough to fight their way out of the trap. In addition, the digestive capacity of each trap is limited. In the worst case, a large insect will begin to rot and the mold will spread to the plant. So proceed with a sense of proportion.

This is how a Venus flytrap catches its prey:

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