Venus Flytrap Feeding

Venus Flytrap Feeding

There has been a fair amount of confusion among gardeners about Venus Flytrap feeding, and what is the proper way to make sure your plant gets the nutrition it needs.  But the answer to proper feeding of your Venus Flytrap may surprise you.

First, before we discuss ways to feed your Venus Flytrap plant, let us first take a look at the native habitat of this fascinating plant, and what it can tell us about how the plant feeds itself.  The habitat of the Venus Flytrap is characterized by warm humid climate, moist (not wet!) well drained soil that is poor in nutrients such as nitrogen.  The Venus Flytrap plant is a native North American plant, and is found on the coast of North Carolina and South Carolina.  The soils on the Coastal Plain of the United States are predominantly consist of poorly sorted sand.

The climate is hot and humid in the summer, and cold and rainy in the winter.  This part of North and South Carolina, receive approximately 55 to 57 inches of precipitation a year, mostly all in the form of rain.  However, snow does fall on these plants from time to time.  The native Venus Flytrap habitat is not tropical!

Because of the abundant rainfall and well drained soils, nutrients are not retained in the soils, and the soils become poor in nutrients such as nitrogen.  Plants growing in this kind of habitat have to struggle to compete for the nutrients that may be available.

The Venus Flytrap is different.  It catches its nutrients!

The Venus Flytrap plant is designed to lure insects (and the occasional small reptile such as a frog) into the traps which are cleverly designed to look like a flower.  The insect is attracted by the presence of small amounts of nectar within the trap.

Once in the trap, an insect sets off the trap by touching a trigger hair two times in succession.  The trap closes quickly around the insect.  As the insect struggles, the trap closes even tighter.  The plant then secretes digestive enzymes which dissolve the internal organs of the insect and then drawn back into the plant.

Here is a great video showing how an insect sets off the trigger hairs in a Venus Flytrap.  There isn't any sound, but it is still good to watch:

Venus Flytrap feeding is based around the trapping and digestion of insects.  But Venus Flytraps are not meat eaters.  They are insect digesters!

Venus Flytrap plants really don't need to catch many insects to maintain their nutrient levels.  One large insect will supply a Venus Flytrap with enough nutrients to sustain the plant for a long time.

When the Venus Flytrap plant is small, such as when you are growing these plants from seeds, you will see really, really small traps.  And as you expect, the insects these plants catch are also very small.  And if you are growing your plant outside or even inside during the summer, insects are abundant.

So when you grow Venus Flytrap plants, you may get concerned that your plant is not feeding.  But unless it is the dead of winter, and if you allow the plant to spend time outside, the plant will attract and catch it's prey and feed.

You don't have to worry.  The Venus Flytrap plant is a hardy plant and capable of long stints without feeding.  Just be patient.

And don't drop meat into a trap.  Why?  It will mold and rot and cause the trap to die.  And the plant itself may catch disese from bacteria growing on the meat.

Venus Flytrap feeding is simple.  Just let the plant catch it's prey.  Be patient.  And wait.

And you will be rewarded someday by watching your Venus Flytrap feed by catching a buzzing fly or a crawling beetle or a moth.  And your plant will be feeding well.

12 Responses to Venus Flytrap Feeding

  1. Manos says:

    I recently got a Venus flytrap and I wonder if it will ever be able to ever attract anything to eat since I keep it at a 4th floor balcony and the Drossera next to it seems to be much more successful at attracting small flies.
    How long can the plant last without its growth being effected by a lack of flies?

    > At some point I will need to replant it to a larger pot. Do I need a special soil fo rthis?

    • mikegreen says:

      You are worried about if the plant will attract enough insects for growth? How old is your Venus Flytrap plant? As the plant gets older the traps get bigger, and it becomes generally more successful at attracting and capturing insects.

      Actually if the plant never gets an insect, it can still live, although it probably won’t get to the size that you want because (hopefully) your Venus Flytrap plant is growing in a nutrient deficient soil.

      If you really want to make sure it gets an insect now and then, you can always feed it a live cricket, which you can obtain from your nearby pet store. Crickets are used to feed frogs and small snakes, and are great for your plant. Just don’t use hamburger or meat of any kind, raw or cooked!

      And yes when you repot your Venus Flytrap plant your soil is special – mixture of clean silica sand and sphagnum moss. Don’t use potting soil from the bags you can purchase from your local garden center.

      Hope this helps.


      • Richard Harold says:

        Crickets are a little large for my VFTs. Is there a somewhat smaller insect that would also work. I bought a supply of dried flies which I reconstitute with distilled water the day before feeding. The only downside, is that there is a considerable amount of undigested carcass remaining which I have to pick out of the trap with tweezers which causes the trap to close. What about bloodworms or mealworms or???

        • mikegreen says:

          Richard, remember that Venus Flytrap plants are digesting insects for nutrients, not energy. They aren’t really eating like you and I eat. And they don’t really need to “eat” or capture insects that often. In fact, in my interview with Mr. Venus Flytrap plant himself (Joel Garner) – which is coming out soon! – he points out that Venus Flytrap plants can survive without capturing and digesting insects at all. The traps and plants will be smaller, but they will survive.

          Even if you are growing plants inside, during a typical summer, there are probably enough insects getting into your house through the open doors and screen windows, to be a food source for the plants.

          The fact that there is a considerable amount of undigested fly carcass remaining, that you have to pick out of the trap, says that this probably won’t work for long term. And this could be a potential source for fungus or other diseases to get a foot hold.

          If your traps are small, try a small mealworm. This larva stage of the darkling beetle, and is an insect. Probably a better choice than a bloodworm.

          My suggestion would be, before getting carried away and feeding your plant a lot, just observe and note if your plant is capturing insects on it’s own from insects within your house.

          Let us know how it goes!


          • Richard Harold says:

            Why do you say that small meal worms are a better choice than rehydrated bloodworms? From my point of view there is the convenience factor. Dried bloodworms are easy to rehydrate and storage is not of concern. However , live small mealworms have to be fed themselves and cared for with a lookout for dead ones that need to be plucked from the batch. I eagerly await your response.

          • mikegreen says:

            Hi Richard, I say that small meal worms are better choice than re-hydrated bloodworms, because a meal work is alive. And the the larval stage of an insect.

            Again, think about the native habitat of a Venus Flytrap, growing in the bogs and swamps of North or South Carolina. It catches insects. Not rehydrated blood worms.

            A Venus Flytrap plant really doesn’t have to feed that often. Only once in a while. It’s not like you have to worry about it feeding daily.

            If it catches insects a couple of times a month, it will do fine. My interview with Joel Gardner points this out.


  2. Kristi says:

    And when I say feed it, I mean give it a cricket

    • mikegreen says:

      And yes Kristi, a cricket is a great source of nutrients for your new Venus Flytrap plant. But give your plant some time to adjust itself from the shipping and transport.


  3. Kristi says:

    Just got my Venus Fly Trap in the mail. I’m not gonna feed it yet, as I’m sure it’s stressed, but how long should I wait to feed it. I’ve read on the web that the traps are probably exhausted from the transport, and a light tap on an open trap produced nothing. How long should I wait before trying again? Do I need to wait until it produces new leaves?


    • mikegreen says:


      Thanks for your question. Don’t worry about feeding it. Your new Venus Flytrap plant can do very well on it’s own for a long time without eating an insect.

      If you just got the plant, focus first on providing the proper light, water, and soil conditions that a Venus Flytrap needs to thrive.

      And you may not know it, but a single tap on the leaf doesn’t close the trap. There are trigger hairs inside each trap, and these trigger hairs have to be touched in order for the trap to close.

      Just be patient, and focus first on providing your new plant what it needs – light, the right kind of water and soil, and you will just be fine.


  4. Elona Wagner says:

    A friend is sending me a venus fly trap. I assume it’s the most popular one that one sees all the time. I have an aquarium. I want to grow it there. Can you tell me what is the best light for me to use?

    Thanks so much!


    • mikegreen says:

      Hi Elona, it is exciting to think that you are going to be growing and taking care of these marvelous plants.

      Just curious why you think you need to grow a Venus Flytrap in a terrarium? If you live in hardiness zone 8, then you live in an area that is already pretty warm, and doesn’t get that cold. In fact that is the hardiness growing zone of the native growing environment of the Venus Flytrap. And remember, the Venus Flytrap can tolerate cold temperatures and even some frost in the winter. Some greenhouses that grow Venus Flytraps, grow and cultivate the plants exclusively outside.

      As for light, natural sunlight is best. The plant needs a full sunlight, or at least a few hours of direct sunlight supplemented by indirect or artificial light.

      If you only have one plant in a pot, and if you are careful about the location and it gets full sunlight, you probably don’t need artificial growing lights.

      Hope this helps.


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