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Naturally found in wetlands, swamps and bogs, pitcher plants are now grown in homes and gardens throughout the world. Yes they can catch flies and other insects with their traps, but the real question is, can pitcher plants dispose of cockroaches and keep those pests away from our homes?
Pitcher plants can eat small cockroaches if one falls into their trap. The larger the pitcher, the more roaches the plant can eat. Due to the hard cockroach shell, digestion will take a while though.
Why Pitcher Plants Need to Eat Cockroaches
Pitcher plants can create food through photosynthesis just like other plants. If carnivorous plants can produce glucose, why do they even need to eat insects?
Pitcher plants eat cockroaches and other bugs to fulfill their nutritional needs. Because nitrogen and other elements are not present in the soil, pitcher plants have to get it by other means such as eating insects.
Plants have several uses for glucose but chiefly it serves as fuel or food. Pitcher plants for example, use glucose to spur growth, create flowers and develop traps. Glucose also helps in the creation of seeds and thus propagation.
While photosynthesis produces food, insects like cockroaches supply nutrients such as nitrogen. Nutrients enable plants to stave off diseases and infection. A well nourished pitcher plant has no problem reproducing and germinating.
Nitrogen, potassium, magnesium, calcium etc. are usually found in rich soil. These elements go through the roots and into the plant. But pitcher plants grow in very poor grounds. There is little to no nutrients left so these plants resort to catching insects.
You cannot grow pitcher plants in fertilized soil. They are used to getting nutrients from bugs so use only soil made for pitcher plants. A good xample of this is Jungle House Potting Mix which is good for pitcher plants, Venus flytraps and other carnivorous plants.
Pitcher plants have fine tuned their traps to catch crawling and flying prey (if they are drawn to the nectar and land on the pitcher). If a cockroach ends up falling into the trap, the plant will eat it. During the digestive process, the remains of the insect are converted into nutrients.
How Many Roaches Can Pitcher Plants Eat?
There is no single right answer to this question because there are so many pitcher plant species and hybrids. And in general it really should not be a cause for concern.
The number of roaches a pitcher plant can eat depends on the size. A nepenthes can eat 3-4 small cockroaches a month. A large roach however, might be enough to last a pitcher plant for several weeks.
A nepenthes or sarracenia can only eat prey that is small enough to fit in its trap. If the animal is too large it will eat through the leaves or climb out of the trap. A large cockroach for instance, might just fly out of the trap.
Pitcher plants only eat insects when needed. if your plant has already consumed several bugs, it will probably ignore the cockroach in its pitcher. On the other hand, a pitcher plant that has not eaten in a while will have no problems digesting a good sized bug.
Feeding is important of course, but do not get stuck worrying about the exact number of bugs your plant eats. This will vary from species to species and even the same plant may see changes in its appetite. Sarracenia plants can eat a lot of bugs during spring and summer then taper off during fall before going dormant in winter.
Where you grow pitcher plants affects its appetite for cockroaches as well. With enough sunlight, water and the right soil, the plant will eat well. It will have lots of nectar to lure bugs and liquids to digest prey.
If there is lack of light, water and low humidity, a pitcher plant will focus on self preservation. its pitchers will be small with very little liquid. Due to lack of resources, nectar is limited so the plant eats much less.
Are Pitcher Plants Effective Cockroach Controllers?
This is a question asked not just of pitcher plants but also Venus flytraps and sundews. While pitcher plants feed on bugs, they are not insect repellents.
Pitcher plants can only eat a few cockroaches at a time. If your home is attracting a large number of cockroaches, it is more practical to find out the source than rely on these plants to eat them. For roaches and other infestations a good option is Wondercide because it gets rid of many insects quickly and safely.
Carnivorous plants have limits to how much food they can digest. Catching and digesting a cockroach takes a lot out of pitcher plants. They go through it because they require the nutrients. If you force them to eat a lot of bugs, they will end up using more energy than they have.
The best way to deal with a cockroach infestation is to locate the source. These insects are drawn to filth, dirt, spoiled food and thrash. Keep your surroundings clean and that should get rid of the pests. Now you can use pitcher plants in your home or garden in case a cockroach or two find their way in.
How Pitcher Plants Catch Cockroaches
All carnivorous plants have unique mechanisms to capture prey, and pitcher plants are no exception. Whether it is a cockroach, fly, spider or something else, these plants are ready to spring their traps.
Since pitcher plants are rooted to their spot, they use nectar to make prey come to them. It has a sweet, fruity smell, something insects like. A cockroach that catches this scent will look for the source and go to the plant.
Nectar produces moisture which is spread in and around the trap, making the surface wet. Combine that with rain and it makes the leaves even more slippery. If the cockroach falls into the pitcher, it will have a hard time escaping.
These pitchers have viscous liquids which can suffocate small insects. Larvae or other small predators in the pitcher might kill the cockroach as well. Bacteria dissolves the cockroach and makes it easier for the plant to digest it.
Some nepenthes plants have formed symbiotic relationships with certain spiders. The spiders reside in the pitchers where they are protected from predators. They get to eat any bug that falls into the trap. In turn, they help the plant catch more prey and leave some remains for the plant to consume.
Reminders For Feeding Pitcher Plants
- Sarracenia pitcher plants need to eat more during the growth period beginning in spring. During winter they go dormant and stop eating.
- Nepenthes pitcher plants prefer tropical conditions the entire year, but feeding can slow during winter.
- Pitcher plants are carnivorous and feed on insects, but there are certain types of meat they cannot eat.
- Indoor pitcher plants have to be given food. It can be cockroaches, flies, crickets or any other small insect, dead or alive.. Fish food and freeze dried mealworms are fine too.
- Some pitcher plants do not grow well in a terrarium but others do. Refusal to eat is one sign the plant is struggling.
- Do not worry about outdoor pitcher plants eating too much. They will only consume the amount needed.
- If you just bought the plant or moved it to a new pot, it may not eat for a few days. This is nothing to worry about. It is simply the plant getting used to a new location.
- The more ideal the environment is for a carnivorous plant, the less nutrients it needs. These elements are still important, but they can get by with less frequent feeding, i.e. one a month.
- If you are going to hang pitcher plants outdoors, they can get food without any help.
- The pitchers must have liquids in order to eat prey. If yours does not, move it somewhere with higher humidity.
- Sprinkling a bit of water in the pitcher is fine, but do not fill it to the brim.
- All the popular pitcher plant variants and hybrids can eat freeze dried bloodworms and mealworms.
Pitcher plants can and do eat cockroaches as they would other insects. However, they do so out of need for nutrition and not to help us get rid of pests. They are however, good enough to catch and eat the occasional roach that gets in your home.
My fascination with carnivorous plants began many, many years ago with Venus Fly Traps. Now I am more than happy to impart what I know with other enthusiasts and those who are curious about meat eating plants.