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Sci-fi and horror movies sometimes show giant plants eating people, so it is natural to wonder if this can happen in real life. Can sundews actually eat people? Since they eat animals, do they also have a taste for humans? If you have never grown a carnivorous plant before, this guide should set your mind at rest about this matter.
Sundews cannot eat humans because they only feed on insects like flies and gnats. A typical sundew grows up to 10 inches, so it is impossible for the plant to eat anything larger than a small bug.
Can a Sundew Hurt You?
There are two reasons why sundews cannot eat people: one they are too small and two, these carnivorous plants prefer insects.
There are several sundew variants, but none of them are big enough to pose any danger to humans. A typical sundew plant attains a height of 10 inches (25 cm), and some sundews are even smaller.
Unless you shrink to the size of an insect, you will not be harmed. All you have to do is look at a typical sundew and its size compared to humans to see there is no danger.. Even the Drosera magnifica can only reach a length of 59 inches (150 cm), and that is not a plant people cultivate at home.
Of course there is the possibility that larger sundews are out there in the wild, undiscovered. Drosera magnifica was unknown to science until 2015 when an amateur biologist discovered it. But even if there are larger drosera species out there, the plant poses no danger to humans because they like to eat insects.
Similar to Venus flytraps, sundews grow in soil that lacks nitrogen and other nutrients. If you are goring a drosera at home, use only carnivorous plant soil. We like Rio Hamza Trading Sphagnum Moss because it is made specifically for carnivorous plants.
Because the soil is poor, they depend on insects and other small prey for nutrients. While Venus flytraps use mouths to catch bugs, sundews produce dew (scientific name mucilage) to capture and eat bugs.
Sundews eat insects because they need nitrogen, potassium and other nutrients. Humans do not have the elements the plants need and even if we did, the plant is just too small to pose a threat.
In spite of what you may see in movies, sundews can only eat very small insects. Butterflies, adult moths and earthworms are too big. These creatures can easily get out of the dew and might even rip the plant’s tentacles.
What Happens if You Touch Sundews?
The sticky stuff on sundews is known as mucilage. But everyone calls it dew because it looks like one, so how dangerous is it?
The dew-like stuff will stick to your hand, but you can wash it off easily. It will not cause skin irritation and not leave marks or spots.
If you accidentally touch the mucilage, pull your hand away. Some of it will get on your skin but it will not hurt.
Getting dew on your hand will not harm you, but it could hurt your sundews. The tentacles need to be covered in the dew otherwise it will not be able to catch any insects. Touching a drosera is going to be more risky to the plant than to you.
Does it feel sticky? Sure it does and probably a little disgusting, but you can wash it off with water quickly. Getting glue stuck on your hand is harder to remove and unlike glue, the dew will not irritate your skin.
This dew has a consistency similar to glue or mucus and contains some water. Sundews need this substance to lure bugs. So if your sundew is not sticky it will not be able to absorb nutrients and weaken.
This dew traps prey so the sundew can eat it. In some cases a bug gets suffocated as it is engulfed in a mass of dew. But that is not going to happen to people because the amount of dew on a tentacle is not enough.
Just place your finger next to one of the plant tentacles. You will see the dew is only enough for small insects, not enough to harm people or large animals. Some animals even eat sundews which underscores the fact they are not a threat to humans or other large creatures.
How Sundews Eat Insects and Why You are Safe
If you have ever seen a sundew capture and eat a prey, it is no wonder why people wonder if they are safe. It is a great example of how nature evolves to give the species the best possible chance of surviving.
The leaves and tentacles of a sundew plant are covered in dew. Like nectar, this substance has a scent that insects and other creatures are drawn to.
A fly is drawn by the scent and lands on one of the tentacles. As soon as the fly touches the dew it gets stuck. As the fly struggles, the tentacle grabs hold of the fly and pushes it deeper into the plant. How long it takes for sundews to close depends on the variant
If the prey is large, other tentacles will come in to hold it down. When the fly is unable to move or dies of suffocation, the sundew will eat it.
Sundews do not eat insects whole. Instead it produces liquids that soften up the tissues of its prey. This allows the sundew to absorb or drink the insect. It might take a week or two for a sundew to fully digest a meal. This is also how sundews consume non-living food such as Liwii Dried Mealworms. You have give only small amounts so the plant can absorb it fully.
So how does this prove that sundews cannot eat people? For one, their trap is good for small insects only. Their tentacles are too small to hurt your fingers. Even if you get the tentacle to wrap around your finger, it cannot harm you.
Second, the dew can trap and suffocate small insects, but not people. An ant would be easily engulfed by that mass of dew. But for humans you will get nothing more than a few bits of sticky stuff on your hands.
Tips For Sundew Caring
- Learn about sundews before buying. The information on this site will help you get the facts about sundews. Eliminating misconceptions is essential to raise this plant.
- Decide what variant to buy. For beginners the best option is Cape Sundews. They are readily available and easy to grow.
- Do not play with the plant. Do not touch it, do not give it bacon, steak or other meats. Keep the plant on a diet of insects, mealworms and fish food.
- Sunlight is important. 6 to 12 hours of sunlight is perfect. Sundews will be fine in direct sunlight as long as the temperature does not go above 100 F (37.7 C).
- Use the tray method. First make sure your sundew container has good drainage. Then place the container in a tray and fill it with an inch of water.
- Never use fertilized soil. Use equal parts perlite and peat moss or carnivorous plant soil instead.
Do not be disappointed if your sundews do not eat all the time. These plants eat four times a month on average, and others just two times. Again, do not touch the tentacles to see if the dew will stick. The plant uses resources to produce dew, so it would be a waste if it just ended up on your fingers. Let the plant use it to catch prey.
If your sundews are outdoors, it should have no problems finding prey. If it is indoors, place the plant by an open window. If that is not an option, you can feed it dead insects or freeze dried mealworms.
You do not need to touch the plant when feeding. Just drop the food onto the sticky leaves or tentacles. The plant will take over from there. Just be patient and wait for the plant to close over and eat the prey.
While sundews look menacing when they catch and eat insects, humans like us are perfectly safe. In fact, sundews need our protection to ensure they get proper nutrition, sunlight, water and soil to grow and flourish.
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.