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Sundews typically eat mosquitoes, flies and other insects, but suppose bugs are few and far between in your area? Would mealworms be a suitable replacement? Can sundews eat them and more importantly, do mealworms have the nutrients that the plant needs?
While sundews feed primarily on insects, they can also eat mealworms. Mealworms are rich in nutrients and provide the same nutrients that sundews need to grow.
How to Feed Mealworms to Sundews
The following method works for almost any sundew variant. These are applicable to mealworms, bloodworms and other bugs, whether freeze dried or live.
The first thing you have to do is find mealworms for your plant. Our choice is Fluker’s Freeze Dried Reptile Treats. These are not just for reptiles but also for sundews because they contain the nutrients these plants need.
Use a rolling pin to crush the mealworms into tiny bits and drop it into one of the sundew tentacles. After a few minutes – longer depending on the variant – the tentacles will roll over the food and digest it.
The method above works best with fully grown sundews that can handle large amounts of food. For smaller drosera, add a few drops of water. Here are the steps.
- Grind the mealworms into small pieces.
- Use an eyedropper and add a few drops of water into the food. Use only reverse osmosis or purified water.
- Use the eyedropper to place the food mix onto one of the sticky areas of the plant. Just a couple of drops is enough.
The larger the sundew the more mealworms it can digest. Depending on the drosera variant it might take seconds or several minutes before the tentacle rolls over the mealworms. But once it does the digestive process will start.
Freeze Dried or Live Mealworms?
Sundews will eat living and freeze dried mealworms. But it is easier and more practical to use freeze dried mealworms than live ones.
You can easily buy freeze dried mealworms whereas catching live ones is difficult. With live worms there is the risk of the creature escaping the trap or slipping through your fingers.
If you decide to feed live mealworms to your sundew, cut off its head. This will prevent its escape and make feeding easier. Remember to grind the food into small chunks.
At this point you can drop the food directly into the sundew, or you can add some water to soften it up.
If you are feeding freeze dried mealworms, thaw them first before adding water. This should be done not just for mealworms but any freeze dried food you give to sundews.
How Many Mealworms Can Sundews Eat?
Most sundews can eat up to four insects a month. Sundews in the growth stage benefit most from eating 3-4 bugs monthly, while mature ones can live with just one insect per month.
If your sundew already gets 4 bugs a month, do not feed it any mealworms or anything else. You risk overfeeding it. Mealworms should only be provided if your sundew is not getting enough nutrients.
If your sundew is indoors and does not get too eat many insects, feed it mealworms once a week. That should be enough for the plant. Do not forget to water the soil regularly. Make sure it is pure like Smartwater Premium to help your sundews grow faster.
But how will you know if your sundew is eating properly? If at least one of the tentacles on your sundew is always curled and feeding on something, it is getting enough nutrients. If it is almost always empty, the plant needs more nutrients.
When an insect falls into the dew, one of the tentacles will wrap itself around the prey. It will unfurl only when the plant has finished digesting.
Sundews take about a week to digest, so if the plant eats four bugs a month, one of its tentacles should always be curled up. This is a good indicator of how well your sundew is eating.
Of course it is a different story for indoor sundews, where the plant is lucky to catch a housefly every few weeks or months. So it makes sense to feed it manually.
The once a week feeding schedule is not set in stone. Some sundews take longer to digest, so just wait for the tentacles to open again. When it does, that is the right time to give more mealworms.
Why Do Sundews Eat Mealworms?
Sundews, just like all carnivorous plants, typically feed on insects to absorb nutrients. But these plants will try to eat anything small enough that falls into their traps, including mealworms.
This does not mean sundews can eat anything. They cannot bite your fingers for instance or eat cheeseburgers. But if the food is small enough and can be digested, the plant will try to eat it.
First we need to understand that insects are not really “food’ for sundew. Their real food is glucose which is produced through photosynthesis.
What insects, mealworms, bloodworms and other bugs provide are nutrients. These are supplements to the food sundews consume, so it is important for their health.
Sundews need nutrients to produce dew, fight off infection and grow faster. Slow growing drosera in particular benefit from the nutrients that mealworms and bugs provide.
When sundews eat mealworms, they absorb all its nutrients which the plant converts into amino acids. While most sundews eat mosquitoes, mealworms do have important nutrients.
It does not make a difference if the prey is living or dead. Unlike a Venus flytrap that requires stimulation to eat dead bugs, sundews will eat it. Just drop the food into the dew and the tentacles will do the rest.
If it is not possible to feed insects to your sundews, mealworms are sufficient. There are people who give their sundews nothing but mealworms or fish pellets without any issues.
Tips For Feeding Mealworms to Sundews
The most important thing is sundews must have these nutrients. Without these, your sundew will not be able to grow or eat as well as it can. Sundews can survive without nutrients, but they will be in a weakened state.
- If your sundew goes into dormancy, do not feed. Wait for the plant to emerge in the spring.
- If your sundew is outdoors and feeds on bugs, do not give it mealworms. The plant is already getting the nutrients it needs.
- Indoor sundews are the most likely to benefit from mealworms. Proper feeding ensures the plant will grow and reach its maximum potential.
Outdoor sundews that look unhealthy, have little to no dew and blackened, brownish leaves need more nutrients. First you have to rule out other possible reasons for its illness like lack of light, impure water, not the right soil mix etc. If you have determined those are not the causes, add mealworms to its diet.
You can mix and match freeze dried foods. For this month you can go with mealworms, then next month fish food flakes, next month fish food pellets, crickets and so on. You can even create a soup mix with a little bit of everything.
Why is My Sundew Not Eating Mealworms?
There are many possible reasons why a sundew will not eat.
- Not enough dew. Sundews need dew (or mucilage) to eat any prey. There are many reasons why your sundews many not have dew and once you have resolved it, your plant will be fine.
- The sundew is full or overfed. If the plant has already eaten, it will not consume any more prey. You can drop the food into the dew, but its tentacles will make no effort to digest it. If your plant looks healthy and just will not eat, this is the most likely reason.
- Your sundew is sick. Root rot, fungal infection, incorrect soil, not enough light etc. Any of these can weaken a sundew and prevent it from eating.
- The plant is already feeding. You can feed several sundew leaves, but if the plant is undernourished it cannot do so. Check if its other leaves have bugs in it.
While sundews prefer to eat bugs, mealworms are perfectly acceptable substitutes. They contain nutrients that the plant requires and are affordable as well. So if your sundew is having a hard time finding insects to snack on, give it some mealworms.
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.