Can Venus Flytraps Survive without Bugs?

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The most fascinating about Venus flytraps of course, is they eat bugs. We take it for granted, but how many of these does your plant need? And what happens if you do not feed it any insects? This guide will clear up the air and explain the essential facts.

Venus flytraps will survive even if they do not eat insects, as long as there is sunlight and water available. However, insects provide nutrients that Venus flytraps need to stay healthy and fight off infection.

Why Do Venus Flytraps Eat Bugs?

Insects are not necessary for Venus flytraps to survive. These plants produce their own food called glucose through photosynthesis. So strictly speaking, bugs are not Venus flytrap food. They are nutrients or supplements to glucose.

Nitrogen is the most important nutrient Venus flytraps need. This is found in fertilized, rich soil, but Venus flytraps do not grow there so they have to find it from other sources like insects.

Venus flytraps do not have a digestive system like animals, so they release enzymes to break down its prey. These enzymes liquefy the insect’s soft tissues, allowing the plant to reabsorb it along with the digestive fluids.

It might take few minutes or hours to kill a bug. But the actual digestion can take several days. Small insects are consumed in five days, but larger ones take up to two weeks.

If the prey is very large, the trap that caught it might turn black or refuse to close. But as long as the Venus flytrap was able to absorb the bug, it will benefit the plant.

Once an insect has been digested the trap opens up, leaving only its hard shell and some digestive goo. It is ready to catch another prey. Venus flytraps only need to eat once every two weeks or so. Too much nutrients could harm the plant as well.

You cannot substitute rich soil for insect nutrients. Venus flytraps naturally grow in poor soil and exposing them to rich grounds can be fatal. Never use regular potting for any Venus flytrap variant.

Venus flytraps can only eat bugs if they are healthy. This starts with plenty of sunlight, water and the right soil mixture. When you meet all the growth requirements, the feeding part becomes easy as the traps are better equipped to deal with prey.

What Happens if Venus Flytraps Does Not Eat Bugs?

So if bugs are not required, what is their purpose? Venus flytraps that eat bugs can grow several traps and propagate faster. Even just one insect a month will have a significant impact on its development.

Depriving Venus flytraps of bugs will not kill them. However it will slow their growth and make them more vulnerable to infection.

In spite of common belief, Venus flytraps do not eat insects for food. Glucose is their food and they use it to fuel their daily activities. Without glucose Venus flytraps will die.

Insects on the other hand, are not necessities. Experiments have been done proving Venus flytraps can live without eating a bug. All they need to survive are sunlight, water, soil and air.

When someone asks what happens if Venus flytraps do not eat, the answer is nothing. The plant will still live, but its traps will be smaller and growth will slow dramatically.

Think of a human being who does not take vitamins. As long as the person eats and drinks, he will stay alive. But without vitamins he will be weak and susceptible to ailments. That person will have a hard time recovering from sickness.

The same rule applies to Venus flytraps. With plenty of sunlight, the right soil and water, the plant will live. But without nutrients the immune system is weak. You will not see any effects right away, but over the long term you begin to notice it.

The first thing you will probably notice is that the traps become smaller and less active. Because the plant does not get any nutrients, it no longer has the energy required to make traps.

Less nutrients also means slower development. The plant is going to reserve its strength for survival and not have enough to accelerate growth. More important, there is little defense left in case of a bacterial infection.

Do Venus Flytraps Prefer Dead or Live Bugs?

Venus flytraps in the wild only eat live bugs because dead ones cannot set off the traps. But live and dead bugs have the same nutritional value, and Venus flytraps have no personal preferences.

Venus flytraps eat spiders, flies, small moths, gnats, ants, crickets, wasps and other small insects. They lure the bugs into their trap with nectar before trapping them.

Contrary to widespread belief, Venus flytraps do not eat everything that falls in their trap. They wait for a confirmation signal first.

When a bug lands in the trap and touches one of the hair sensors, it sends a signal to the rest of the plant. If this is repeated in 30 seconds or less, the trap shuts. If not, the trap remains open.

So what does this have to do with live and dead bugs? Dead insects cannot trigger the sensors. Only living prey can, and that is how Venus flytraps know the object in the trap is alive and possibly nutritious.

Each trap can close for 4-5 times. If it clamped down every time something fell into it, the plant would lose a lot of energy and potentially miss out on the real prey.

When a live prey gets caught, its struggles will trigger the hair sensors again. And that tells the Venus flytrap it is time to release its enzymes and eat the object.

The plant cannot do that with a dead bug since it will not give off any signals. They cannot tell the difference between a dead bug and a rock.

This is why Venus flytraps only eat live insects in the wild. If your plant is outside it will do the same. But it is possible to feed it dead bugs as we will explain next.

How Do You Feed Venus Flytraps?

The simplest way to feed Venus flytraps is to leave it outdoors or by an open window. The plant will catch bugs on its own and fulfill its nutritional needs. This is the most practical method for beginners.

You do not have to worry about how much food it ate or if you are giving it enough or too little. Venus flytraps only need 3 to 5 insects a month anyway, and even once a month is fine.

But most of us want to watch Venus flytraps eat, so manual feeding is needed. Here are the steps.

  1. You can feed Venus flytraps dead bugs, freeze dried mealworms, bloodworms or crickets and even fish food.
  2. The food must be 2/3 or less the size of the trap. No need to use a ruler here. Just do not fill the trap so it can close easily.
  3. Place the food in the trap.
  4. Tap the hair sensors twice. The trap will now close and digest the food.

That is all you need to do. The trap can take several days to digest its meal. In the meantime, there is no need to feed the other traps. When the trap finally reopens, there will be nothing left. except maybe leftover inedible parts. Remove those to prevent bad smells from emanating.

If the trap turns black after eating, it means you gave it too much food. If you are sure you only gave a small portion, it could be a sign of poor growth conditions. Make sure the soil is nutrition free and the plant receives at least 6 hours of sunlight.


Venus flytraps captivate us because of how they lure and catch insects. And as we have explained here, those bugs provide a lot of benefits. So while not essential for survival, they make it possible for these plants to produce large traps and fight infection.