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Venus flytraps are of course best known for how they eat flying insects. But what about other bugs, specifically ants? Ants are small enough for these plants, but is it going to cause more harm than good? There seems to some disagreement here, so what do you do?
Ants make up 30% of the Venus flytrap diet in the wild and provides nitrogen essential for the plant. Larger ants can eat through the leaves, but it will not cause long term harm.
Will Ants Harm a Venus Flytrap?
Research has shown that Venus flytraps eat ants more than other bugs, at least those that grow in nature. The insect is a natural part of its diet.
Yet if you go to online discussion forums and talk to some Venus flytrap owners, they will probably tell you not to feed ants to Venus flytraps. Why?
A few Venus flytraps are sensitive to chitinous insects like ants, hard shelled beetles and lightning bugs. A diet full of these bugs might kill the trap, but not the entire plant. This only happens with a few Venus flytraps. The majority have no problems eating them, which is why they are often used to repel these insects.
If your Venus flytrap is healthy it should have no issues eating ants or other insects. On the other hand, a sickly plant is going to have trouble digesting not just ants but other bugs as well.
So how can you tell if ants will be problematic for your Venus flytrap? If the plant is outdoors it has probably digested several of these already. And if the plant is healthy there is nothing to worry about.
If your Venus flytrap is indoors, it is easy to find out. Use tweezers to put an ant in one of the traps. This can be tricky so use something like Eskoni Tweezers, as they are ling and ideal for gripping tiny insects.
If the ant is dead you have to use your finger, tweezers, chopstick or some other object to stimulate the trap. Once the trap closes the plant will release digestive enzymes to consume the ant.
From hereon you can observe if your Venus flytrap exhibits any side effects from eating the ant. If the plant is sensitive to chitinous insects, the trap will turn black or die out.
If this happens, do not worry as it will not harm the rest of your Venus flytrap. The plant will grow another trap to replace it.
Can I Feed Dead Ants to a Venus Flytrap?
Venus flytraps feed on living and dead ants and other bugs as long as it fits in their trap. If the plant is outdoors, it will have no problems catching live ants that fall in its leaves.
If the plant is indoors, it is easier to feed it a dead ant than a live one. Capturing a live ant and trying to place it in one of the traps is difficult. Venus flytraps are not capable of hurting you as explained here so you can feed it dead ants safely.
Just follow the same steps as above. The only difference is you have to stimulate the trap to close it. A live ant will struggle and that is enough stimulation. For a dead bug you have to touch the filament triggers using tweezers or another object.
It takes 3 to 5 days for a Venus flytrap to digest an insect. After a week the trap with the ant opens up to reveal its leftover remains.
There is no difference in terms of nutritional value between a living and dead ant. The same applies to other bugs that you can feed to a Venus flytrap.
Keep in mind that one insect every four weeks is enough. If the plant captures more insects with its other traps, let it. But do not hand feed the plant too many bugs.
If you do not want to bother with ants or want to try something different, fish food will do. With Aqueon Pro Foods Betta Fish Food for instance, it is as nutritious as bugs but much easier to feed.
Whether the ant is alive or dead, give the Venus flytrap only one ant per trap at a time. That is sufficient to satisfy its nutritional requirements.
Why are Ants Attracted to Venus Flytraps?
Ants are drawn to Venus flytraps because of its nectar. Once an ant – or another insect – draws near and sets off the triggers, the trap springs into action.
Venus flytraps use nectar to lure ants and other prey. These carnivorous plants grow in soil that lack the nutrients they need to survive. So the plants evolved and extract nutrients from their environment, specifically small insects.
Venus flytraps eat ants the most followed by spiders and other insects. Carnivorous plants consume these because they contain the nitrogen they need to grow.
Once a Venus flytrap digests an ant, the nitrogen is used to produce DNA, protein and amino acids. More than half the nitrogen in a Venus flytrap comes from ants and other insects. And the more nitrogen a Venus flytrap consumes, the larger the traps it can produce.
If your Venus flytrap is hungry and there are not too many insects in your garden, try fish food. This is going to provide the plant with the essential nutrients needed to produce large traps and live longer.
Now what if it is the opposite problem? Suppose your Venus flytrap is drawing too many plants in the garden or in your house? The solution is quite easy.
All you have to do is find out where the ants are coming from. If the Venus flytrap is indoors, look for cracks in the walls or flooring and seal it.
This is not as hard it sounds. If you see a swarm of ants, follow their path back and you will find where they came from. From there is it is a matter of sealing their entry point.
Another option is to add another Venus flytrap or carnivorous plant to get rid of the ants. But it could have the opposite effect and bring more of them in.
What Else Can I Feed a Venus Flytrap Besides Ants?
Venus flytraps need nitrogen to survive. Because they grow in poor soil, the plant relies on insects to supply its needs. So insects with the most nitrogen are the most beneficial to Venus flytraps.
Aside from ants, you can also feed Venus flytraps with bloodworms, fruit flies and other insects. Other good sources of nutrition are crickets, mealworms, spiders and any predacious insect that can fit in its trap. Wasps are generally good for Venus flytraps as well.
As mentioned earlier, avoid giving lightning bugs or hard shelled beetles. Slugs, snails and caterpillars will not harm the plant. But they can chew the leaves off and escape.
Butterflies and moths do not offer enough nutrients for Venus flytraps. Their wings also make it difficult if not impossible for the trap to close. A Venus flytrap could waste a lot of energy trying to trap a butterfly and not get sufficient nutrients in return. So do not give the plants butterflies or any insect larger than its trap can handle.
Grasshoppers make up a small part of the Venus flytrap diet, but they are nutritious enough. In contrast, ants comprise the bulk of the plant diet in the wild. This is why we stated that most Venus flytraps have no trouble digesting them.
While Venus flytraps are best known for catching flies, flying insects comprise only 5% of their natural food intake. This applies to plants in the wild of course, as Venus flytraps grown at home likely consume more flies compared to other insects.
If your Venus flytraps can eat ants, that is well and good. But do not limit the plant to just dead ants. Give the traps different foods to stimulate growth. The healthier a Venus flytrap is, the larger it can grow.
If Venus flytraps in the wild feed on ants, there is no reason why they cannot when grown indoors or in your garden. As stated some Venus flytraps do not take as well to ants as others, so keep an eye on the plant and how it responds to a diet full of these insects.
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.