Carnivorous Plants: All About These Insects-Eating Plants

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Contrary to the movies we’ve seen, carnivorous plants do not trap or eat human beings. Although some species can grow up to 8 feet tall like the Malaysian devil’s tongue “Amorphophallus titanum” it is unfit to digest big animals and humans.

Carnivorous Plants Evolution

Carnivorous plants are perennial plants that grow in wetlands such as lakes, swamps, bogs, and marshes. Most of these plants are found in the southeast part of the country and stretch as far as California and Hawaii. Due to habitat loss, climate change, and other human-made factors, many of their species are gone extinct.

There are at least 583 species of carnivorous plants and only a few of them are available to the public. ( We sure hope it stays that way huh? ) Thanks to Darwin, the Father of modern botanical carnivore research,  we’re able to understand and admire what truly magnificent these carnivorous plants are and their ecology.

Carnivorous plants can trap, digest and absorb nutrients from their prey using different techniques based on their species. Throughout the decade, they have been evolving independently along with the change in their environment.

Due to their peculiarity, collecting them became an alarming phenomenon leading to their extinction. 

Carnivorous plants

An example would be the famous Venus flytrap. Venus flytraps are already listed as endangered species according to The National Wildlife Federation. In North Carolina, the Venus fly trap is considered a “Species of Special Concern” and it’s a felony to poach them since 2014. 

The Kind of Insects They Eat

Carnivorous plants lived in boggy environments with poor nutrients soil. It feeds on insects, arachnids, small amphibians, and animals to get additional supplements and nutrients necessary for their growth. Carnivorous plants don’t eat all the insects flying around them. 

In general, insects are necessary for their nitrogen fix. Without nitrogen, they won’t be able to distinguish their victim from a pollinator. Interesting isn’t it?

They have a way of separating their prey from pollinators. Smithsonian Institution assessed carnivorous plants’ use of techniques how to separate their target from pollinators.

How Carnivorous Plants Distinguished Their Prey from Pollinators?

These insect-eating plants have a way of separating their prey from pollinators. Smithsonian Institution assessed carnivorous plants’ use of techniques how to separate their target from pollinators.

  • Spatial separation

Their flowers are high above the ground to attract flying pollinators while their traps are close to the ground to attract crawling insects.

  • Temporal separation

Their flower attracts pollinators first then develops a trap to attract their prey.

Types of Carnivorous Traps

According to the University of California, carnivorous plants use several techniques to trap their prey such as smell, visual, and sound attractants. Once the target is trapped, the carnivorous plant releases digestive enzymes to help digest its food. These unique trapping techniques allow them to thrive in nutrient-poor environments.

Except for the Nepenthes bicalcarata, which doesn’t have digestive enzymes for its trapping technique.

Snap trap

venus fly trap

When the hair is triggered or touched, these plants automatically snap to catch their prey. An example would be the Venus flytrap, sensing the panic of its victim, it stimulates its trapping mechanism and digestive enzymes.

Lobster-pot trap

pitcher plant trap @flickr

The lobster pot trap is a passive trapping mechanism that allows the insect to crawl deep into a trap thinking there’s food or nectar inside. Insects are attracted to the pitcher by nectar and coloration, but find it difficult to escape due to the inward-pointing hairs and slippery walls.

Bladder trap

bladderwort trap @flickr

These plants have small, bladder-like structures that are under negative pressure. When triggered, this carnivorous plant pulls prey like a vacuum once it triggers its miniature trap doors. Only bladderwort plants use this trapping technique for their aquatic and semi-aquatic prey.

Passive flypaper traps

byblis trap @flickr

Rely on their sticky substance when the surface of their leaves or stems is triggered. Immobilizing their prey without escaping. This is similar to the passive pitfall trap. Sundews and Butterworts both have this trapping mechanism.

Carnivorous Plants Indoors or in Your Garden

It’s fascinating how these plants select the kind of insect they will feed on so we’re hoping we can bring them home to eliminate those irritating and bloodsucking insects we want to get rid of. 

In bringing these plants indoors, it is imperative to know what kind of potting mix we will use to help replicate the environment they’re native in. In line with the International Carnivorous Plant Society, the default “CP mix” for most carnivorous plants is damped sphagnum peat, sand, and perlite.

carnivorous plants @flickr

Some growers, wash their peat to remove nutrients and other microorganisms present in peat.

If the sole purpose of bringing them home is to eliminate these bugs other than being interesting then we have to focus on their potting mix – low on nutrients for our friend to focus on bugs and insects. You can also use normal potting soil which is low on nutrients.

Check this Best Ways on How to Get Rid of Bugs on Your Plants article for other options for getting rid of pests and insects in your garden.

Carnivorous Plants Care Guide At Home

If we want these plants to thrive and be happy at home without the presence of insects, then we also must need to consider these three major factors:


carnivorous plant lighting condition

Full sun to bright, indirect light. Remember, they need the sun’s energy for photosynthesis.


watering carnivorous plants

Use pure water such as rainwater and distilled. If any of the two types is not available during the feed, you can use tap water. As long as the tap water has been stilled for 24 hours to remove major contaminants such as arsenic, chlorine, and pesticides.

If you’re growing these meat-eating plants in hot or dry climate regions, distilled water would be necessary.

Temperature and Humidity

50 degrees F and above. Most carnivorous plants thrive in highly humid areas. If you bring them indoors, putting them in a terrarium would be a great idea.

carnivorous plants in terrarium

Although carnivorous plants thrive outdoors, we can grow them indoors. It may not be able to eliminate all the bugs and insects in your home, but it will control the situation.

5 Most Famous Insects-Eating Plants You Can Grow at Home

Venus flytraps ( Dionaea muscipula )

venus flytrap in a pot

Venus flytraps are famous meat-eating plants that feed on insects and arachnids. They best thrive outdoors in full sun, sitting in clean water. It may take days for Venus flytraps to digest their food and it will go months for their next meal.

Butterworts ( Pinguicula )


A succulent-looking carnivorous plant. Butterworts use their adhesive pads to trap small insects and have an attractive bloom to attract pollinators. Unlike the Venus fly trap which thrives in full sun, butterworts appreciate bright, indirect light.

One of the famous butterwort species is the pink-flowering Pinguicula moranensis, which can best be placed in a terrarium or near a glass window.



This carnivorous plant doesn’t go to dormancy compared to the butterworts. You can grow different types of sundew in one container with clean water and in bright light. A sunny windowsill would be an ideal place in the house to put them.

These cute buggers feed on insects, tiny organisms, and mosquito larvae like many species feed on. Sundews possess tentacles with sticky droplets. Once insects are trapped, it produces enzymes to break them down, enabling the plant to absorb the nutrients it needs. 

Check our Sundew Plant Care article for more care guide tips.

Pitcher Plants

pitcher plants

Pitcher plant is another famous carnivorous plant with a slippery surface from where bigger insects slide and trapped. It produces slimy fluid to drown its prey, making it impossible to escape. This plant appreciates bright light to partial shade.

If your home has plenty of wasps, flies, and ants, pitcher plants will love it. Tropical pitcher plants ( Nepenthes) and American pitcher plants ( Sarracenia spp ) thrive best outdoors in direct sun among other carnivorous plants but can also be grown indoors near a sunny window with sheer curtains.

If your home doesn’t have natural light coming in, you can make use of fluorescent or other cool-temperature grow lights for support. All carnivorous plants love high humidity, pitcher plants are no different. An indoor terrarium or outdoor wet garden would be ideal for these beautiful creatures.



Bladderwort carnivorous plant has multiple bladders to trap insects. When its hair is triggered, it traps the insects and closes its leaves like a vacuum. This plant is perfect for keeping the mosquitoes in your house at bay.

For more information on these carnivorous plants and their care guide, check out our “Best Carnivorous Plants for Your Indoor Garden” 

If you want to experience the real wonders of thee meat-eating plants, the United States Botanic Gardens (USBG) “Savage Garden” showcases how they interact, live, and trap insects via exhibits, sculptures, and hands-on activity. Within the USBG’s impressive collection, visitors can admire the unique adaptations and captivating beauty of these insect-eating wonders.

Frequently Asked Questions

Although you can grow these carnivorous plants mentioned above, Sundews, butterworts, and bladderworts would be ideal to plant indoors. They don’t need special attention and control any common insects in the home such as mosquitoes, bugs, flies, and ants.

In their natural habitat, they grow in swamps, bogs, and marshes. You can let them sit in rain or distilled water tray or container when you treat them as indoor plants.

Possibly. Carnivorous plants eat whatever falls in their trap. Their traps are attracted to the smell and color patterns. Although this situation rarely happens since their traps is mostly 6-10 inches below the flower.

Their flower attracts pollinators while their trap near the ground attracts crawling insects.

Carnivorous plants can live up to 20 years. The Venus fly trap can live up to 20 years in its native habitat while the pitcher plant has a lifespan of 10 to 20 years.

The first thing that we need to consider is why carnivorous plants eat bugs and insects. In their natural habitat, these plants live in poor-nutrient soil. As a result, they feed on insects to get the nutrients they need. 

You may find your carnivorous plant thriving without bugs or insects if the potting mix used is nutrient rich. 

I do not specifically depend on fertilizers. The plants I cultivate have a natural mechanism for nitrogen absorption through insects, which serves as a solution in itself.

Nevertheless, you can enhance their growth by incorporating organic matter into their environment. Adding compost or vermicast to their mixture promotes optimal health and aids in their development.

Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!

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