Skip to content
Search AI Powered

Latest Stories

Turns Out Venus Flytraps Are Incredibly Selective About the Insects They 'Eat' and for Good Reason

Turns Out Venus Flytraps Are Incredibly Selective About the Insects They 'Eat' and for Good Reason
Dionaea muscipula "Sandokan". venus fly trap. pigliamosche. (Photo by: Paroli Galperti/REDA&CO/UIG via Getty Images)

Venus flytrap plants know not to eat the insects that pollinate its flowers.

With appearances in pop-culture staples like The Addams Family and Little Shop of Horrors, Venus flytrap plants often get a bad rap for being creepy, carnivorous creatures that will eat just about anything.

While the creepy and carnivorous part might be true, the eating-anything part is not. As it turns out, Dionaea muscipula, that iconic little plant with the spiky, mouth-shaped leaves, is quite a picky–or savvy—eater.

According to a recent study published in The American Naturalist, the flytrap — which primarily eats insects and spiders — knows not to eat the specific insects that pollinate its flowers.

“It’s a globally famous plant — everybody knows all about the snap traps — but very few people know much else about the rest of the plant’s biology,” Clyde Sorenson, an entomologist at North Carolina State University who worked on the new study, told Popular Science.

Because D. muscipula, a plant-shop staple, grows so well in lab conditions, few entomologists have bothered studying it in its native habitat, the wetlands of North and South Carolina.

Study researchers observed the flytraps in the field, noting both which insects landed on the plants’ white flowers, which grow on stalks 6 to 10 inches above the leaf cluster, and cataloging which insects had been consumed.

“We found things that were alive, that jumped out and probably thought, ‘yay freedom!’” insect ecologist Elsa Youngsteadt told Popular Science. “We also got a few that that were mushy, like you could tell it was a spider but not much more than that. And some were so digested we couldn't even tell what they were.”

The flytraps “consume” insects after the bugs land on the plant’s seemingly spring-loaded, spike-tipped leaf lobes; the lobes then close, trapping the bugs, and enzymes digest the bodies to provide nitrogen and phosphorus, nutrients that are scarce in D. muscipula’s naturally acidic boggy habitat. After about 5 to 12 days, the lobes reopen to await another meal.

The researchers found that even though winged insects like bees and beetles were frequent visitors, the plants primarily consumed ants and spiders. What they don’t eat are flies, contrary to the plant’s name. Because the winged insects can fly to the tall stalks, they’re the chief method of transporting pollen from flower to flower, and without them, the plants would not be able to reproduce.

The most common pollinators, they found, were sweat bees, long-horned beetles and checkered beetles. The researchers surmised the flytraps were using certain scents or colors designed to specifically these insects from landing on or near the sticky leaf traps.

Despite its preponderance in plant shops, native Venus flytraps are actually at risk of extinction due to their limited natural range and popularity among poachers. Researchers hope that learning which insects help pollinate the plant could help conservationists in their efforts to protect or even expand its habitat.

"It may need some more focused conservation management in the future," Youngsteadt toldNational Geographic. “Knowing pollinators is part of knowing that story of what the plant needs to continue thriving."

More from News

shocked woman
Olivia Hutcherson on Unsplash

People Break Down The Most Brutal Insults They've Ever Heard

Let's be honest, it doesn't take any talent to insult someone.

After all, by the time children learn to speak in complete sentences, they're hurling sophisticated comebacks like:

Keep ReadingShow less
Dubai Princess Publicly Demands 'Divorce' From Cheating Royal Husband In Blunt Instagram Post

Dubai Princess Publicly Demands 'Divorce' From Cheating Royal Husband In Blunt Instagram Post

In an unexpected move, Her Highness Sheikha Mahra bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Dubai princess, addressed her husband's infidelity on Instagram, declaring their divorce.

Sheikha Mahra, who is daughter of the UAE Vice President and Prime Minister, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, wrote a scathing and short message to her husband.

Keep ReadingShow less
TikTok screenshot of Jodi Benson watching daughter sing; Ariel from the 1989 'The Little Mermaid'
@coolzjay/TikTok; Disney

'Little Mermaid' Star Jodi Benson Tears Up Watching Daughter Sing 'Part Of Your World' On Stage

A clip of the original voice of Ariel, Jodi Benson, watching her daughter Delaney play the lead role in a stage production of The Little Mermaid has gone viral, and Benson revealed she was moved to tears by the performance.

Posted to TikTok, the video has already garnered more than 4.2 million views in only a few days, and people on the platform said they got a bit emotional, as well.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kate Beckinsale

Kate Beckinsale's Custom Swimsuit Sends Blunt Message To Her Haters Online

British actor Kate Beckinsale has no time for trolls criticizing her looks.

Instead of addressing haters' unsolicited assessments of her online, the 50-year-old actor came for them with a fierce fashion statement that said it all.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kit Connor
Karwai Tang/WireImage/GettyImages

Kit Connor Is Rumored To Be Top Choice For Gay MCU Superhero—And 'Heartstopper' Fans Are So Into It

Fans of Heartstopper were absolutely chuffed and crossing their fingers after hearing rumors that British actor Kit Connor was being considered to play a known LGBTQ+ superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The 20-year-old has been acting since he was just 8 in numerous TV and film projects, including roles in the 2018 films The Mercy, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. He also portrayed a teenaged Elton John in 2019's Rocketman and voiced Pantalaimon in the HBO fantasy series His Dark Materials.

Keep ReadingShow less