Venus flytrap dionia is a plant that eats flies

Appliance of Science: ‘Do Venus flytraps eat flies or melt them?’

I LOVE the way children see things from a completely different perspective. Take this question sent in by six year old Tedโ€ฆ.

โ€œDo Venus flytraps eat flies or melt them?โ€

Iโ€™ve known about these carnivorous plants since my own childhood, but I never thought about how they work in quite such an interesting way. So, to answer Tedโ€™s questionโ€ฆ they do a bit of both; they eat the flies by melting them. Flies are less of a food for them though, and more of a food supplement.

Like other plants, Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula), produce their food by a process called photosynthesis. However, they tend to live on poor boggy soil, where there is not a lot of certain nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphates. They supplement these nutrients from the insects they eat.


Insets are attracted by the sweet nectar that the plant produces and secretes onto the leaves of the traps. Once something lands on the trap the plant needs to be sure that it is a living thing, not just a piece of dust or debris. This is the really clever part; the inside of the traps have short, spiny hairs, called trigger hairs that can detect movement. If these hairs detect two movements within 20 seconds they trigger the trap to shut rapidly.

The trap does not close completely; it remains slightly ajar for the first few seconds, creating a cage like trap with the interlocking bristles on the edges of the trap leaves. This traps larger insects while allowing very small ones to escape, preventing the plant from wasting any further effort on digesting an insect that is just too small to be of nutritional value.

After a few seconds the trap closes fully, creating an airtight seal. This is important as it prevents any digestive enzymes from escaping and also stops bacteria or fungi from entering and rotting the trap. If an insect is too large for the trap to close fully, then both the insect and the trap may rot and the trap will fall off.

If the trap does acc >


Once the trap is closed and airtight, the plant secretes digestive enzymes into the space. These dissolve (or melt) the soft, inner parts of the insect; the parts that contain the nutrients that the plant needs. The tough outer skeleton of the insect is harder to dissolve and does not have any nutritional value for the plant.

The whole process takes about five to 12 days. The nutrients are absorbed into the plant and the trap eventually reopens, dropping the leftover parts of the insect to the ground.


The Venus flytrap is a carnivorous plant, not just an insectivorous one. That means that, as well as insects, it also sometimes eats spiders.


The Venus flytrap is not native to Ireland, but we do have many native carnivorous plants, mostly growing in boggy areas. Examples include sundew, butterwort and bladderwort. Each has its own system of trapping their prey, but, just like the Venus flytrap, they then secrete digestive enzymes, dissolving their insides and absorbing the nutrients.

Naomi is a science communicator and mother to three inquisitive children. She can be found at

Feel free to email your questions to [email protected]

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How Does the Venus Flytrap Trap Flies?

The Venus flytrap ingests insects to compensate for a lack of nitrogen in the soil.

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The Venus flytrap, or Dionaea muscipula, is a well-known carnivorous plant. Many homeowners and classrooms enjoy caring for this fascinating plant that feeds on flies, gnats and any other unsuspecting insect that happens to land on its trap-shaped leaves. While students and scientists have been fascinated by this plant for many years, few know how the plant is able to capture and digest its prey.


Like most plants, the Venus flytrap receives nutrition from air and soil. Its native habitat is in the swampy areas of North and South Carolina. Since the soil lacks in nitrogen, the plant has adapted to be able to ingest insects in order to supplement its nitrogen needs. The plants have become endangered in their natural habitats, so they are often grown in greenhouses and kept in personal gardens, homes and educational settings.

Plant Structure

The typical Venus flytrap has four to seven green stems that end in traps. The stems perform photosynthesis while the traps capture prey to meet the plant’s nitrogen needs. The traps are made up of two elongated leaves with spikes around the leaves’ rims. When open, the insides of the leaves are red, and when the spikes, or trigger hairs, are touched, the leaves snap shut over prey. The leaves only snap shut over prey that is sufficient to meet the plant’s nutritional needs. Larger plants will even capture rodents and amphibians.

Attracting Prey

To attract flies or other prey, the Venus flytrap secretes nectar on to its open traps. Insects smell the sweet nectar and once they land on the leaves, they trip the trigger hairs on the outside of the traps. This causes the cells in the leaves to expand. In less than a second, the leaves shut. At first, the traps do not close tightly so that small insects can escape. When larger insects begin to struggle, cilia within the leaves tighten over the prey, and the leaves clamp tightly over the plant’s meal. Insect secretions, like uric acid, will also cause the trap leaves to close more tightly. Within a few minutes, the traps form airtight seals and begin the digestion process. Since the Venus flytrap lacks a nervous system or muscles, it is still a mystery as to what causes the trapping mechanism. One possibility is that the leaves move via fluid pressure. The plant’s electrical currents that travel through its phloem, or plant tissue, activate this special fluid pressure that allows the leaves to clamp shut.

If the traps shut over something that is not food, like a pebble, the leaves will reopen in roughly 12 hours to discard the object. The plant has digestive glands that line the inside of the trap leaves. When insects are trapped, the digestive glands secrete fluids with enzymes that break down the insides of the insect, kill harmful bacteria and remove nutrients. In five to 12 days, the trap reopens and discards the insect’s exoskeleton. Each trap will only digest three to five meals, spend several months dormant while the plant photosynthesizes, and then fall off. The plant will grow new leaves to replace the traps that die off.

Plant Care

Venus flytraps can be purchased from local greenhouses or ordered online. They are simple to maintain and prefer warm and humid conditions. Terrariums provide suitable habitats, and the plants require plenty of moisture. If the leaves wilt, the plant is getting too much sunlight. If the flytrap is kept in a terrarium, two hours of sunlight is often sufficient. If kept outdoors, it will need four hours of sunlight. If the Venus flytrap is kept indoors, it will need to be fed. A few flies or small slugs every month will provide enough nutrition. Place the insect directly on the trap. If the insect is dead, assist the trap leaves in closing and gently wiggle the trap to activate the trapping and digestion mechanisms. Do not feed the plant raw hamburger. This will give the plant indigestion and cause the leaves to rot. With proper care and nutrition, a Venus flytrap can live for 20 years.

How the Venus Flytrap Kills and Digests Its Prey

Venus flytraps are the speed demons of the plant world. In spite of belonging to a particularly sedate kingdom of organisms, these carnivorous plants snap shut their two-lobed traps in a tenth of a second to capture an insect meal, which they then digest.

Just how they do this is not fully understood, but new research is exploring the mechanisms that allow a plant to become a predator. [Giant Plant Eats Rodents]

The Venus flytrap turned to carnivory to survive in the nutrient-poor soil of its native habitat in North and South Carolina, in and around the Green Swamp. To get the nutrition it needs, the flytrap lures insects, including ants and flies, into the jaws of its trap. The trap’s reddish interior and small nectar-secreting glands along its rim trick the insects into thinking they have found a flower, said Rainer Hedrich, a biophysicist at the University Wuerzburg in Germany. He and colleagues have revealed how hormones play a role in how the plant snaps up and digests its prey.

How the flytrap kills

Each side of the trap has three to four sensor hairs, each no longer than 0.2 inches (0.5 centimeters). An insect must trip a hair twice or two hairs within 20 seconds for the trap to respond; this allows it to avoid snapping shut on raindrops or other false alarms.

The first time a hair is triggered, it creates an electrical signal that travels along the surface of the trap, much like the electrical signal that travels through an animal’s nerve cell. The energy of that first signal is stored. When the second touch occurs, it also generates an electrical signal. Together, the energy from these two signals passes the threshold required for the trap to respond.

The travelling electrical signals result from the movement of charged atoms, called ions, across the membranes of cells within the trap lobes. During the second signal, cells in the center of each lobe lose water along with the ions. This causes the cells to lose turgor, the water pressure that keeps a plant rigid. As a result, the lobes snap together, according to Hedrich.

After the trap has snapped shut, the plant turns it into an external stomach, sealing the trap so no air gets in or out. Glands produce enzymes that digest the insect, first the exoskeleton made of chitin, then the nitrogen-rich blood, which is called hemolyph.

The digestion takes several days depending on the size of the insect, and then the leaf re-opens. By that time, the insect is a “shadow skeleton” that is easily blown away by the wind, he said.

Venus’ hormones

The new research looks at what happens when the insect has been caught and is squirming around as the trap seals itself up. Hedrich and colleagues took samples from traps during this phase and found that hormones play a role in the response.

One of these is a type of touch-hormone, called jasmonate, which allows plants to respond to contact. For instance, when a leaf is bitten by a caterpillar, it may release jasmonate, which elicits a defensive response, such as the production of a poison. But until now, it appeared that jasmonates were only involved in defensive responses.

The researchers were able to induce empty traps to secret digestive enzymes and slowly close by simply spraying the jasmonates on them. This bypassed the fast, first phase โ€” in which an electrical signal snaps the trap shut โ€” and closed the trap using the slower process, initiated by the jasmonates, that turn the trap into a stomach by hermetically sealing it to prevent the digestive juices from leaking out.

“Normally, plants have to defend against their predators. In carnivory, plants turned this around and simply eat their predators,” Hedrich said.

They also found that the drought-stress hormone abscisic acid counteracts the jasmonates, and that spraying abscisic acid on the trap appeared to prevent it from closing when the hairs were stimulated. This hormone prevents the plant from undergoing the water-demanding process of digesting prey during times of drought stress, according to Hedrich.

Hedrich and his colleagues are in the process of sequencing the plant’s genome, by comparing it with noncarnivorous relatives, they hope to explore the evolution of carnivory. They also want to know if and how the flytrap recognizes the insect it has caught to put together a cocktail of digestive enzymes tailored specifically for it.

You can follow LiveScience writer Wynne Parry on Twitter @Wynne_Parry. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.

How does the Venus flytrap digest flies?

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Perhaps the best known of the insectivorous (insect-eating) plants, the Venus flytrap ( Dionaea muscipula) exhibits a unique system by which it attracts, kills, digests and absorbs its prey. Because it is a plant and can make its own food through photosynthesis, the Venus flytrap does not eat and digest its prey for the traditional nonplant objectives of harvesting energy and carbon. Instead, it mines its prey primarily for essential nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous in particular) that are in short supply in its boggy, acidic habitat. So, yes, the Venus flytrap does have a digestive system of sorts, but it serves a somewhat different purpose than an animals does.

How does a stationary organism manage to attract, kill, digest and absorb its prey? First, it lures its victim with sweet-smelling nectar, secreted on its steel-trap-shaped leaves. Unsuspecting prey land on the leaf in search of a reward but instead trip the bristly trigger hairs on the leaf and find themselves imprisoned behind the interlocking teeth of the leaf edges. There are between three and six trigger hairs on the surface of each leaf. If the same hair is touched twice or if two hairs are touched within a 20-second interval, the cells on the outer surface of the leaf expand rapidly, and the trap snaps shut instantly. If insect secretions, such as uric acid, stimulate the trap, it will clamp down further on the prey and form an airtight seal. (If tripped by a curious spectator or a falling dead twig, the trap will reopen within a day or so.) Once the trap closes, the digestive glands that line the interior edge of the leaf secrete fluids that dissolve the soft parts of the prey, kill bacteria and fungi, and break down the insect with enzymes to extract the essential nutrients. These nutrients are absorbed into the leaf, and five to 12 days following capture, the trap will reopen to release the leftover exoskeleton. After three to five meals, the trap will no longer capture prey but will spend another two to three months simply photosynthesizing before it drops off the plant. Plant owners should beware of overstimulating a Venus flytrap: after approximately 10 unsuccessful trap closures, the leaf will cease to respond to touch and will serve only as a photosynthetic organ.

The Venus flytrap occurs in a very restricted range in sandy shrub-bogs in coastal North and South Carolina, where it is listed as an endangered species. The ecosystem that supports Venus flytraps experiences frequent fires that clear out competing plants and volatilize nitrogen in the soil. Hence, Venus flytraps have a corner on the nitrogen market immediately following fire, when they obtain three quarters of their nitrogen supply from insect prey. If fire does not reoccur within 10 years, however, competition with other plants restricts the Venus flytraps access to light and insects, and populations begin to decline. Venus flytraps provide a fascinating example of how organisms adapt to stressful conditions, in this case behaving as predators to make up for the nutrient deficiencies in the surrounding soil.

Answer originally published August 19,2002.

How Venus Fly Traps Eat Bugs

Dionaea muscipula

How do Venus Flytraps eat bugs you ask?

Most people think plant leaves are used for just one thing โ€“ photosynthesis. Over time, though, plants have evolved and leaves began taking on new jobs, including defense (spines), water storage (succulent plant leaves), and support (tendrils). One plant, though, has adapted to a whole new level: the Venus Flytrap attracts, detects, traps, digests, and absorbs insects, all using a single modified leaf!

Venus Flytraps: Bug-Eaters Extraordinaire

A Venus Flytrap eats anything and everything small enough to fit within its trap. This usually includes bugs like beetles, spiders, and ants, but it will close on anything it can catch, including small frogs and human fingers (rest assured โ€“ no humans were harmed in the making of any films)!

To lure in unsuspecting prey, it carefully sets the trap. The trap surface is a bright red color that often attracts bugs. It also secretes a sugary nectar on the surface of the leaves to get the bugs to stay within the danger zone.

Venus Flytraps Can Count

One of the most amazing things about the Venus Flytrap is that it can actually count. If you peek really close at the inside of the trap, youโ€™ll see a few small long hairs on each side of the trap pointing toward the inside. These are actually triggers that the plant uses to sense whatโ€™s going on inside the trap. Each time a trigger is bumped, it sets off a very small electrical signal that travels across the leaf. Bump a trigger once and nothing happens. Bump a trigger twice in a row, though, and the trap shuts. This way, the trap avoids shutting for false alarms like raindrops and makes it more likely to catch wriggling bugs in the trap.

The trap is able to shut by using rapid-fire changes in the turgor pressure of the cells. Think of plant cells as balloons. When fully inflated, theyโ€™re very rigid and firm. When partially inflated, theyโ€™re very loose and saggy. (One of the reasons plants need to be kept well-watered is to keep their cells fully stocked with water. If you forget to water it, the cells lose water and the plant starts to droop.) When a Venus Flytrap senses prey, it instantly shifts intra-cellular water so that the cells on the outside of the trap become very rigid with high turgor pressure while the cells on the inside become very loose with low turgor pressure. This causes the trap to quickly snap shut.

How Venus Flytraps Digest Bugs

Once the trap snaps shut on the unlucky prey, the bug starts to panic. It twists and turns and squirms around, all the while bumping up against the triggers that set off the trap in the first place. Once the triggers are bumped five times, the plant will begin converting itself to an actual stomach. It seals off the edges of the trap to make an air-proof pouch, and then begins secreting digestive enzymes to break down protein and chitin.

Setting Up Shop Again

Admittedly, bugs arenโ€™t very smart. If only it knew to calm down and stop moving, its captor would think it was a false alarm and would open back up in a day (albeit, a very terrifying day) so long as it didnโ€™t trip any more triggers. Instead, depending on the size of the bug, it takes between 5 to 12 days for it to be fully digested before the trap opens back up again with just the empty exoskeleton of the bug it caught. This will blow away or fall out of the trap quite easily, and the trap is set again for the next unsuspecting prey.

Individual traps have a finite life span. They can open and close about 10 times if triggered by false alarms, or they can digest about three to five meals before they stop responding to touch. At this point, the leaf becomes just a leaf, and the plant will use it only for photosynthesis.

Why does the Venus Flytrap eat bugs?

The reason the Venus Flytrap eats bugs is because itโ€™s difficult for the plants to get enough nitrogen from the acidic, boggy soil where it lives. So the Venus Flytrap gets its nitrogen directly from the protein in bugs rather than from the ground and through the roots.

Unfortunately, the plant has a very small range, centered around Wilmington, North Carolina, and the wild population is shrinking. Due to human encroachment and poaching (yes โ€“ itโ€™s a thing), the Venus Flytrap is now threatened in the wild.

Regardless of the status of the wild population, though, itโ€™s unlikely that the plant will go extinct due to its fascinating biology and ease of home cultivation. Theyโ€™re easy to find online and in many garden shops in the US, and for around $10-$15, you can have your very own bug-eater extraordinaire!

Venus flytrap dionia is a plant that eats flies

Simply a death trap for insects, but.

The leaves of Venus’ Flytrap open wide and on them are short, stiff hairs called trigger or sensitive hairs. When anything touches these hairs enough to bend them, the two lobes of the leaves snap shut trapping whatever is inside. The trap will shut in less than a second. The trap doesn’t close all of the way at first. It is thought that it stays open for a few seconds in order to allow very small insects to escape because they wouldn’t provide enough food. If the object isn’t food, e.g., a stone, or a nut, the trap will reopen in about twelve hours and ‘spit’ it out.

The trap constricts tightly around the insect and secretes digestive juices, much like those in your stomach. It dissolves the soft, inner parts of the insect, but not the tough, outer part called the exoskeleton. At the end of the digestive process, which takes from five to twelve days, the trap reabsorbs the digestive fluid and then reopens. The leftover parts of the insect, the exoskeleton, blow away in the wind or are washed away by rain. The time it takes for the trap to reopen depends on the size of the insect, temperature, the age of the trap, and the number of times it has gone through this process.

If you feed a Venus Flytrap something that doesn’t move, e.g., a dead insect, it will not close tightly over it. You need to squeeze the trap and move the food around so it imitates the action of a live insect.

The lobe manufactures digestive juices and an antiseptic juice. This keeps the insect from decaying over the few days it is in the trap and purifies prey that it captures.

People still do not understand fully how the trap closes. The Venus’ Flytrap does not have a nervous system or any muscles or tendons. Scientists theorize that it moves from some type of fluid pressure activated by an actual electrical current that runs through each lobe.

The Venus Flytrap is one of the easiest carnivorous plants to grow. If you wish to grow one or more, they have only a few requirements such as, wet roots, high humidity, full sunlight, and poor, acidic soil. It comes shipped to you as a bulb or rhizome. Plant it root side down so that the top of the bulb is even with the soil. A recommended soil mixture is one that contains sphagnum moss and sand. Do not add fertilizer or lime. Your plants will do better if you transplant them into new soil every few years.

In order to provide high humidity for your Venus Flytrap, plant it in a terrarium or in a glass container with a small opening. An old aquarium or fish bowl make good containers for this purpose. You need to watch your terrarium in the summer because the temperature inside the glass may get too hot. Two hours in the sun may be sufficient. If your plants wilt, then they need to come out of the sun sooner. Just the opposite is true for winter. If it gets very cold in your area you may need to move your plants away from the window or cover them at night in order to keep them warm and moist. However, your Venus’ Flytrap will experience a dormant period in the winter, from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day so it needs fewer hours of daylight and cooler temperatures.

Another way is to plant it in a pot and place the pot in a larger container such as a bucket. Partially cover the top of the bucket with a piece of glass or Plexiglas. Don’t cover the entire top because air needs to circulate.

If you grow your plant outs >

After your plant matures, it may produce flowers on a tall stalk far above the leaves. It has to be high above the leaves so insects pollinating the flowers do not get trapped in the leaves. Each flower produces very tiny seeds. They are about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Plant the seeds right away or store them in the refrigerator. If you pinch the flowers off, the leaves will grow more vigorously since growing flowers takes a lot of energy from the plant.

The Venus’ Flytrap also reproduces via its rhizome. It never has more than seven leaves. If your plant has more then seven leaves, it has already split off another plant from the mother plant. You may want to try pulling a leaf off and replanting it. Eventually, this leaf will die off and a tiny, tiny new plant will emerge.

If you wish to obtain and grow Venus’ Flytraps you may check to see if you have a local greenhouse that carries them. If not, you will need to order them from a greenhouse. Many of these have a minimum charge, such as $ 10 to $25. They also include shipping charges because shipping is difficult.

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