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Sundews are among the most popular carnivorous plants due to the way they lure and eat prey. These plants are known primarily for catching and devouring flies, but what about crickets? Is it safe for a sundew plant to eat them? And how many should you give?
Sundews eat crickets to obtain nutrients that are not available in the soil. Most of these drosera plants can eat 1 to 4 crickets a month, though larger species may consume more.
How Sundews Catch and Eat Crickets
Sundews, like all carnivorous plants, have developed traps to catch all kinds of insects to obtain their nutrients. They use the same methods to capture these bugs, including crickets. There are some slight variations depending on the species, but the basic process is the same.
Sundew leaves and tentacles are covered in a substance called mucilage or dew. The substance has a sticky consistency and a sweet scent that draws insects to it. The smell is best described as fruity and is the perfect lure.
When a cricket detects the dew it will immediately land on one of the tentacles or leaves. When the bug lands on the dew it will get stuck, similar to how flies get trapped in flypaper.
Sundews need light to produce dew. If your plant is not getting enough light, there will be very little dew or if there is, will be comprised of mostly water. It will not have the sticky stuff needed to trap crickets.
The more the cricket struggles the more it gets trapped. Eventually the tentacle will curl over the bug and bring it into the leaves to be digested. Some sundew variants take several minutes to curl over their prey. But with others it just takes a second.
When the bug is secured, the sundew will secrete enzymes to digest it. The plant does not eat the bug whole. Instead its enzymes soften its prey to the point it is liquid. This allows the plant to absorb it along with all the nutrients.
Sundews might take a week or so to digest a prey. The larger the cricket the longer it will take to digest. It also depends on how healthy the plant is and how often it feeds. When a sundew is done eating, there will be nothing left of the bug, except perhaps for a few leftover bits.
How to Feed Crickets to Sundews
These steps should work for other insects too. If you want to feed mosquitoes to sundews for instance, you can follow the same procedure.
Sundews eat living and dead crickets the same way. Just drop the cricket into the sticky part and let the plant do the rest. Do not curl the tentacle around the bug. The tentacle will do so by itself in due time.
Crickets are small enough for most sundews to digest. If you want to give the plant something larger, chop it into smaller pieces. A large bug will be too much for its enzymes to handle.
Feeding crickets exclusively to sundews will not harm the plant, but catching them can be difficult. You can mix and match various foods for your sundew. You could for instance, give it a cricket this week, Picky Neb Dried Mealworms next week, beta fish pellets after that and so on.
You can also make a soup with bits of fish food, worms or insects mixed with water. All you need is a small bowl for mixing. Use an eyedropper or tweezers to drop the food into the dew.
Do not give too much food to your sundews. Even a small amount is enough for these plants. Indoor sundews need regular feeding but outdoor ones do not.
While outdoor sundews are more likely to catch bugs, this might not be the case in your area. If the plant looks sick, it might be due to lack of nutrients. Move it to another location or feed it regularly.
Sundews can eat all kinds of insects as long as they are small enough. However they cannot eat processed food. Sundews consume insects but their digestive process is very different from animals.
Why Do Sundews Eat Crickets?
Scientists are not sure why sundews grow in poor soil, but they have adapted well to this environment. These plants have flourished so well that they will not survive in rich, fertilized soil. So what does this have to do with crickets?
Sundews need nutrients to grow. Since they are not present in the soil the plant has to get them from another source like bugs. Crickets, flies, spiders, mosquitoes, etc. are rich in nutrients that sundews need.
Bugs are not food for sundews. They are sources of nutrition. There is a difference between the two and sundews need both to stay healthy.
Sundews rely on photosynthesis to generate glucose, which is plant food. Glucose is not digested the way animals consume their food. However it serves the same function so the comparison is valid.
Nutrients on the other hand, serve as enhancements for sundews. They provide the plant with additional resources to produce more dew, grow bigger and faster and live longer.
How Many Crickets Can a Sundew Eat?
Whether your sundew is outdoors or indoors, it needs sunlight. With light, water and the right soil, your sundew will maintain its appetite for bugs. But there is a limit to how many a sundew can eat.
Sundews need to eat at least once per month, with four or five times the maximum. Too much food makes the plant lethargic and could cause problems later on. This does not only apply to insects but other carnivorous plant food. If you give it Hikari Bio-Pure Freeze Dried Blood Worms for instance, do it once a week.
Of course there will always be exceptions to the rule. Maybe you have an oversized sundew that can eat several more. Or maybe your plant is smaller and cannot handle more than one insect a month. You should make adjustments depending on the type of sundew you have.
You do not have to keep track of this if your sundews are outdoors. If the plant is inside but on a window bay, it should catch enough insects without needing assistance.
The only time you need to keep tabs of feeding frequency is if the plant has limited or no access to bugs. In that case you have to monitor its feeding and make sure the plant is getting enough nutrients.
Tips For Feeding Sundews
Here are some suggestions on how to feed sundews. These are applicable regardless of the species.
- Variety is not necessary. If you want to feed your sundews only crickets, that is fine. If you want to give it a soup mix, that is okay too. It does not matter as long as the food is nutritious.
- Remove any food debris on the soil. If you are hand feeding, take care not to drop any food bits into the soil. Doing so could lead to a buildup of nutrients and as we explained earlier, rich soil is bad for sundews.
- Add water to hard, solid foods. Beetles for example, have a hard shell that is difficult for sundew enzymes to dissolve. You really should not feed the plant any hard shelled insects but if you do, cut them into chunks and mix with water.
- Dead bugs are more practical. Sundews do not care if you feed them dead or living insects. Unless you like catching bugs, just grab some freeze dried or frozen stuff instead.
- Be patient. Feeding sundews requires patience. And when you have placed the food in its tentacles, do not expect it to close in right away. With some variants this could take a while.
- Nutrition is just one part of keeping sundews healthy. The other consists of sunlight, water, airflow and the right soil mix.
If your sundews are outdoors, it should have no problems finding insects to feed on. While most of these plants prefer flies and mosquitoes, crickets will not harm them. In fact these bugs provide important nutrients.