Venus Fly Traps are among the curiosities of the world because they catch live insects to feed upon. They attract them through a sweet odor and capture them when small hairs in the trap are touched. When the trap closes, the inner surface exudes an antibiotic wash which protects the trap from rotting, as well as acids and enzymes to digest its prey.
Just how the trap closes is still a mystery. What is known is that a small electric current is transmitted through the trap when the trigger is touched. More than one touch of the trigger hairs is required for the trap to snap closed. Botanists think this is a way to protect against false alarms; for example, to keep raindrops or falling debris from accidentally triggering the trap.
The trap closes in two distinct stages. In the first stage, the teeth interlink, but there is enough space for smaller insects to escape. This is thought to be in the plant’s interest since there are a limited number of insects that a trap can eat, and larger insects would have more nutritional value. The second stage is particularly remarkable.
It is only initiated by the struggles of the captured victim. In this stage the lobes of the trap seal closed to form the airtight “stomach” for digestion. The lobes can press against each other with enough force to crush a victim. The sealing of the trap is the result of cells growing on the outside of the trap. This is the fastest cell growth known in any plant.
Each trap can eat about four insects, taking about ten days to reopen after each meal. When the trap opens, all that remains is the dry outer shell of the insect. A trap can sustain about ten false alarms before it dies. It usually takes 24 hours to open after a false alarm.
Venus Fly Traps grow approximately March – October. They go dormant in the winter. During dormancy there are chemical and metabolic changes in the bulb of the plant which help it to grow the following spring.
Proper watering practices are the key to maintaining happy plants. Venus Fly Traps require pure water, as the additives from tap water will damage them. Use rain, distilled or purified water. Remove the plastic cup that covers your plant, and place the pot in a waterproof tray or bowl and maintain 1/4” to 1/2” of water in the tray or bowl during the growing season. During the winter dormancy period, allow the soil to become barely moist until new growth begins.
Your Venus Fly Trap also requires ample sunlight. Leave the protective clear cover off the pot and place pot on a windowsill where it will receive a minimum of 4-6 hours of sunshine; try a south or west facing window. A plant with small undeveloped traps is probably not in enough light.
Your Venus Fly Trap can survive for years in this container without needing transplanting. You need not make extra efforts to find it insects if it is grown outside. Most likely it will capture its own. The trap gets redder when the plant is deprived of nutrients. Some think this could be an attempt to attract more insects. But, in nature, the plants live in nitrogen poor soils and supplement their nutrient requirements with live insects. They will not “starve” if they don’t catch anything.
Enjoy your Venus Fly Trap. It is truly one of the Living Treasures of the plant kingdom!