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There is nothing scarier for a Venus flytrap owner than seeing a trap turn black after eating, so many are now wondering how often this carnivorous plant can eat before it dies. The answer depends on several factors as will be explained here.
Each trap of a Venus flytrap can eat 3-5 times before it dies. A healthy Venus flytrap usually has 5 to 10 traps simultaneously, but only one needs to fed at a time.
Why Venus Flytraps Turn Black After Eating
Venus flytraps can turn black for many possible reasons: lack of sunlight, the prey is too large or the trap is near the end of its life. Lack of water, stress and incorrect soil or potting are also possible culprits.
Overfeeding. It is very common for new Venus flytrap owners to overfeed the traps. Of course they want the plant to be as healthy as possible, but overfeeding will do more harm than good.
If you are going to feed a Venus flytrap with dead gnats for instance, make sure the trap is only one third full. If you are giving it a large prey, slice the insect into small pieces.
Eating requires a lot of energy. If the traps are turning black, it means the plant is using a lot of resources to consume its prey.
If its leaves are becoming black, try the following. Follow these guidelines even if your Venus flytrap is healthy.
- Feed one trap only.
- Venus flytraps should be given food every two to four weeks.
- Only one third of the trap must be filled.
- If a bug is hanging out of the trap, those parts will rot and could spread to the trap. Cut them off.
To keep your Venus flytrap healthy, feed it live insects or Value Grubs Mealworms as it provides several benefits. With proper care and feeding, those traps will no longer turn black.
The trap is dying. Each trap can only close 3-5 times before dying, regardless if it catches insects or not. If this is the fourth of fifth time, the blackening could simply be natural death.
Eating has nothing to do with the trap dying. It is just that the trap can only shut a limited number of times and it is at the end. In any event, a new one will take its place.
Do Venus Flytraps Die After They Eat?
If the traps are fed properly there should be no issues. But if the traps do not last long, there could be other reasons.
Venus flytraps do not die after they eat. If the trap turns black, it means the plant is having trouble digesting or is being overfed.
Plants can get stressed by repotting. You can buy a nice container for it, but you have to give the plant time to adjust. Do not be surprised if the traps of your repotted Venus flytraps die after eating. This is normal and does not mean the plant is sick.
After some time, the plant will get used to the new pot. When you feed it food, you will see the traps no longer turn black.
Using the wrong type of soil can harm Venus flytraps. It will affect their digestive process and the trap could die after consuming prey. It has nothing to do with eating per se, but due to the improper media used. To avoid this, use only potting media that is meant for Venus flytraps such as Organic Earth Soil.
Use the Right Soil
Do not use nutrient rich materials because they can kill the traps. Venus flytraps grow in nutrition poor soil in the wild. That is the reason they consume insects, to get the nutrients they need.
The best soil for Venus flytraps are long fiber sphagnum moss and pure meat moss. Add perlite or silica sand to either sphagnum or peat moss and you have the perfect mix.
If you plant the seeds in nutrition rich soil and feed it insects and other foods, it will lead to overfeeding. The traps will wither and turn dark after digesting the food, and this could kill the plant too.
The only time the mouth of a Venus flytrap should turn black after eating is at the end of its life. If the mouth / trap has closed four or five times, it is normal for the leaves to turn dark and die.
Otherwise, the traps should retain their color after digesting food. If it does not, it is a sign of not enough sunlight, stress or other health issues that you have to look into.
Can a Venus Flytrap Overfeed Itself and Die?
Venus flytraps only consume the amount of food it requires. Usually the plant only needs to eat every two weeks or so. And since its trap takes two weeks to digest food, there is little risk of overfeeding.
Venus flytraps in the wild cannot overfeed themselves, but cultivated Venus flytraps can be overfed by their owners.
If your Venus flytrap is outdoors, do not feed it. No freeze dried worms, fish food, dead bugs, nothing. As long as it receives sunlight, the plant will be fine. There are plenty of flies, spiders, ants and other bugs outdoors to keep the traps healthy.
Of curse there are cases where Venus flytraps will consume large amounts of prey. If there is a swarm of ants nearby, the traps will open once the sensors are activated.
But these circumstances are rare, and most flytraps in the wild only capture 2 to 5 insects a month. And that is what you should aim for when cultivating a flytrap at home.
The risk of overfeeding is higher with indoor Venus flytraps. As long as you feed it every two weeks and the trap is never filled up, the traps will be fine.
What Actually Happens When Venus Flytraps Eat
A Venus flytrap can eat many types of insects, mealworms, crickets and even some baby cockroaches and frogs. If the plant senses the object is edible, it will always use the same digestive process.
A Venus flytrap uses nectar to attract insects. When a bug steps onto one of its traps, it will activate the sensors.
These hair triggers have to be set off two times before the trap clamps down. The trap shuts slowly so smaller, less nutritious insects can get out. Venus flytraps will not waste energy on bugs that cannot provide nourishment.
When a bug is sealed inside the trap, the plant secretes enzymes to dissolve it. Antiseptic fluids are also released to prevent the meat from rotting.
It might take anywhere from 3 to 12 days for the trap to fully digest the prey. It will not consume the entire thing, only those it can eat and obtain nutrition from.
Nitrogen is the most important nutrient in insects that Venus flytraps need. Its digestive juices use nitrogen to fuel the plant. It is turned into amino acids and other nutrients so the Venus flytrap can continue to grow.
Venus flytraps do not necessarily need insects to stay alive. But it does help the plant grow larger and healthier traps. So under these circumstances, there is no reason for the plant to die after eating.
In fact it is the other way around. Venus flytraps get healthier when they eat. The problem arises if the traps are overfed. In that case you might see the leaves turn black and wither.
The key point to remember is that Venus flytraps will grow when fed the right amounts of food. But just like with other plants – and animals – feeding too much will lead to problems.
And we mentioned earlier, proper potting, water, sunlight and enough time for dormancy are all needed to ensure the traps remain healthy.
So if the traps on your Venus flytrap turn a dark color after a meal, there is no need to panic. It is probably normal and will be replaced by another one. However you should always be on the lookout and ensure the plant is properly cared for.