Plants have always been known as harmless, green organisms who use photosynthesis to take energy. However, the Venus flytrap does not live up to this reputation. The flytrap is best known for its carnivorous eating habits. Insects such as flies, ants, grasshoppers, and spiders are all victims of the plant’s two-lobed traps. Yet, despite such well known eating habits, not many know exactly how the flytrap consumes its prey.
Captivating the Enemies
First, let’s understand how the Venus flytrap lures its prey; insects don’t exactly just land on the flytrap for fun.
The Venus flytrap has small nectar secreting glands on its rim. Along with its reddish coloured interior, this appearance and smell resemble a flower’s. The insect is then tricked, and lands on the ‘flower’. Little do they know, the flower is more of a death trap. Literally.
The Digestion Process
After the little critters land on the trap, they must trip on the trap’s sensor hairs (around 0.5 centimetres) twice within 15-20 seconds to trigger a response; this is so the flytrap does not suddenly snap its jaws shut on rain, twigs, or other inedible things.
After the trap has snapped shut, the Venus flytrap seals the trap and turns it into an external stomach, so no air can escape. Then, glands produce enzymes that help the flytrap digest the insect: the plant will dissolve the critter’s tough exoskeleton first, before processing the nitrogen-rich blood. Depending on the size of the insect, the digestion will last around 8-10 days before the leaf opens again. When the flytrap finishes digesting, the insect becomes a “shadow skeleton,” which can be blown away.
A Bad Ending… for the Bugs
Fortunately, the Venus flytrap can go months without eating, so such a long digestive process is no problem. Unfortunately, for the trapped insects, they face a slow, perhaps painful, death; some experiments have shown that ants are still alive for several hours after being caught.