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When we think of food for sundews, mosquitoes, flies and other flying or crawling insects come to mind. But what should you do if you see a frog caught in one of its tentacles? Do you remove the frog or let the sundew digest it? Is this safe for the plant or does it pose any danger?
Sundews eat small frogs and other lizards that fall into their trap. Just like insects, frogs provide nitrogen and other nutrients for carnivorous plants. If the frog is too large for the trap however, it should easily get away.
Why Do Sundews Eat Frogs?
Frogs can be found everywhere including watery locations, which is where sundews grow in the wild. So it comes as no surprise that these amphibians have are among the foods consumed by drosera plants.
Sundews prey on frogs and small insects because they have nutrients that sundews need. These plants grow in poor soil so they seek other sources of nutrition in the environment such as animals.
This is the same situation with Venus flytraps, pitcher plants and other carnivorous plants. They only flourish in soil that lacks nutrients. Plant a sundew in fertilized soil and it will die.
Sundews need nitrogen and other elements so they have to find another source. Insects, worms, lizards and frogs have these. To obtain these, sundews developed traps – in this case dew – to catch these insects.
Carnivorous plants depend on light and water for survival. But nutrients play an important role as well. Nitrogen and other elements make sundews stronger and leads to faster growth, more dew and resistance to disease.
Frogs only make up a small part of the sundew plant diet, but because they are often nearby, sundews feed on them. Majority of these plants eat mosquitoes and other flying insects. But if a small frog happens to fall into the dew, the sundew will try to eat it.
The key here is the size. A sundew can only eat small frogs. The large varieties can easily get out of the dew or even chew the leaves off. This applies not just to frogs but all potential food. For instance, if you are going to give Tetra Pond kPO Vibrance to your sundew, do so in small amounts. This will prevent the plant from being overwhelmed while providing the proper nourishment.
Whether it is amphibians, reptiles or small insects, sundews will eat them. The only prerequisite is they have to be small enough and contain the nutrients these plants need.
How Many Frogs Can Sundews Digest?
While sundews do eat frogs, proper feeding is a must. You do not have to worry if your plant is outdoors and catches food on its own. But indoor sundews have to eat the right amount.
Sundew plants can eat 2 to 4 frogs a month. Smaller sundews will be fine feeding twice a month. Keep in mind this refers to everything the plant should eat during that period.
What this means is if the sundew has already consumed three insects this month, it can only eat one frog. Overfeeding sundews is possible and should be avoided. As much as we want these plants to grow big, too much food is bad for their health.
An overfed sundew becomes lethargic and less responsive to prey. Too much nitrogen and nutrients could harm the plant and stunt its growth. There is no telling what the other side effects of overfeeding are. But what is certain is it is risky to sundews.
The fact is it does not matter if your sundew only eats frogs, flies, crickets or different kinds of insects. As long as they do eat 2 to 4 times a month they will be fine. Of course these foods have to be rich in nitrogen and other nutrients.
If your sundew manages to catch frogs often, do not worry. They contain the nutrients that these plants require and have similar benefits as insects. And the opposite is also true. Your sundew will be fine even without any frogs in its diet. What is important is that it gets nutrition from other sources. If your sundew is in a terrarium like the Ferrisland Glass House, feeding is necessary.
These nutrients have to come from the trap, not the soil. If you add nitrogen to the soil this will kill the sundew. This is true for other types of carnivorous plants too.
How Sundews Eat Frogs
Sundews got their name due to the sticky stuff on their tentacles which looks like dew. This substance produces a sweet, fruity scent which animals can smell right away.
Sundews eat different types of animal flesh, and that includes frogs. There are many species of sundews but they use the same basic process to lure and eat insects, worms and other prey.
The combination of this scent and its stickiness make it an ideal trap for bugs. Suppose a small frog smells the dew and tries to get a taste. When the frog jumps onto the sticky tentacles, it gets trapped.
The more the frog struggles the more dew gets all over it. The tentacles nearby grab the frog and trap it further. Eventually the frog dies from exhaustion or is choked by all the dew.
The sundew releases enzymes to dissolve the frog. These juices break down the tissues so it is easier to digest. This digestive process can take several days, and the tentacles will not reopen until the plant has finished eating.
Some sundew variants have additional tentacles that throw captured prey deeper into its leaves. Either way when the plant is done eating, the tentacles will straighten up again.
Here you can see how important dew is for sundews. Not only do they need it to lure and trap prey, but they cannot digest any food without it.
While the dew is sticky, it only works on insects and other small prey. If you touch a sundew the sticky stuff will get on your hand, but it comes off easily. The same thing will happen if a large frog lands on the sundew.
How to Feed to Sundews
If you have never tried this before you can relax because feeding sundews is straightforward. This applies only to sundews indoors, because if your drosera is outside insects likely get caught in its dew regularly.
To feed a sundew, drop the food onto its leaves. You can use tweezers or your fingers, either is fine. Be patient. It might take some time before the tentacles wrap around the food.
Make sure the plant is healthy enough to eat. A sundew that is entirely green is a sign of poor health so treat the plant first. Its tentacles should be red with lots of dew around it.
Feeding frogs to sundews is easy, just drop it onto the leaves. You can do this with spiders and other insects as well. But be certain they are small enough for the plant to eat. Sundews will have problems consuming large prey.
What you can do is cut the food into several pieces. Drosera do not distinguish between living and dead prey. But you may want to add drops of water to soften the food a bit. For live worms, cut off its head so it will not be able to escape.
As long as your sundew is eating, it will continue to grow. As the plant reaches maturity, you can feed them less frequently.
If your sundew refuses to eat, check its color. Is it losing its reddish hues? Does it look burnt from too much sun? Is there dew no the tentacles? Do the leaves look too dry and need more water?
Is there a foul smell coming from the plant or the soil? Is there a sign of insect infestation? There are many possible reasons why your sundew is not eating. You might also consider the possibility the plant is already full.
Sundews will eat any animal small enough to fit into their leaves. That includes frogs so you should not worry if you see one of these caught in the dew. As long as the frog is small enough it will not be able to escape and your sundew will feed.
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.