Mastering Venus Flytrap Feeding: Essential Do’s & Don’ts for a Thriving Plant

Venus Flytraps are famous for their ability to catch insects and spiders with their amazingly sophisticated “snap-trap” jaws. These Carolina natives make fascinating houseplants that are a source of fun and interest for the whole family, and part of Flytrap care is knowing what and how to feed them.

Like all green plants, Venus Flytraps make their energy food through photosynthesis, which they do all the time with enough sun. But they also need essential minerals, like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, to stay healthy and help the photosynthetic process run.

They can’t get these minerals from the acidic, nutrient-poor, boggy areas where they’re native, so they have evolved to get them from catching bugs. Outdoors, Venus Flytraps have unlimited critters to trap and eat. Indoors, though, you’ll have to feed them yourself.

So, what is appropriate to feed your plant? How do you do it, and how often? Let’s find out.

What to Feed Your Plant

People ask what kinds of insects are appropriate to feed a Venus Flytrap. They have evolved to eat just about any type of bug that is small enough. That said, some insects are easier for them to digest than others.

Venus Flytraps prefer live bugs to eat. If it doesn’t bother you to catch them, go ahead, but make sure they are small enough for the traps to handle. The maximum size of the bug should be only a third the size of the trap, which is about 1” long.

Dead bugs can be as nutritious as live bugs, but you’ll need to hydrate them first by soaking them in distilled water or rainwater before feeding them to your Flytrap.

Ants make up a large percentage of what Flytraps eat, followed by spiders, flies, and crickets, so you can’t go wrong with them.

Bugs with hard exoskeletons, like beetles, wasps, and pill bugs, are more difficult for them to digest than softer-bodied critters. If the bug can’t completely digest a bug, its remains will sit in the trap and mold, causing the trap to die.

Avoid any kind of meat. It will harm your plant since it won’t be able to digest it and absorb its nutrients.

Some bugs, such as live maggots, caterpillars, beetles, and earwigs, can chew their way out of the traps, so it’s best not to use them.

Some people have reported that Venus Flytraps will digest jellybeans, but in my opinion, no candy is healthy for your plant.

Betta fish flakes and betta fish pellets from a pet store can be an excellent alternative to bugs. Mix the flakes with water into a paste, and then only feed it a morsel that is a third the size of the trap.

Betta pellets are best crushed into a fine powder before sprinkling them in a trap. Freeze-dried mealworms and bloodworms from a pet store are also good choices.

Here is a list of recommended and non-recommended menu items for your Venus Flytrap:

Appropriate Food for Your Venus FlytrapWhat Not to Feed Your Venus Flytrap
AntsBeef/pork/ham/sausage/chicken/turkey/fish
SpidersStink bugs
FliesBeetles
CricketsLarge bugs (grasshoppers, praying mantises)
FirefliesPlant fertilizer
MosquitoesCheese/milk
Fruit fliesFruit
Fungus gnatsCandy
LanternfliesSlugs/snails
WoodliceEarthworms/lizards/salamanders
SpringtailsBees/wasps/hornets
Freeze-dried mealwormsCockroaches
Freeze-dried bloodwormsPill bugs (rollie-pollies)

How to Feed Your Venus Flytrap

On the inside surface of the traps, there are three to six tiny hairs called trichomes or trigger hairs that cause the traps to snap shut when the sweet-smelling nectar attracts an insect to a trap. Two hairs have to be touched within seconds of one another for the trap to seal off completely.

A cocktail of enzymes washes over the bug, first dissolving its exoskeleton, then its soft internal organs. After five to twelve days, the trap will open again to release the empty exoskeleton.

If you feed the plant a live insect, it can easily trip two hairs as it struggles inside the trap. But if the bug is dead, you will have to help the plant recognize the food.

Place the insect inside a trap with tweezers. It will partially close, and then you can tickle the hairs inside with a toothpick to get the trap to close down tight.

You’ve done your part, and the plant will take it from there and digest the bug.

How Often Should You Feed Your Plant?

Dionaea muscipula finger

You should feed the plant one bug every one or two weeks, and it’s best to feed a different trap each time if you can tell them apart. After three to five meals, a trap will become inactive and unable to catch and digest any more bugs.

It will simply become a photosynthetic leaf until it drops off the plant.

 NOTE: The trap will become unresponsive after about ten empty closures with no bugs to digest. Playing with the traps and stimulating them too much will cause them to become inactive and eventually die.

Author & Editor | + posts

Nancy has been a plant person from an early age. That interest blossomed into a bachelor’s in biology from Elmira College and a master’s degree in horticulture and communications from the University of Kentucky. Nancy worked in plant taxonomy at the University of Florida and the L. H. Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, and wrote and edited gardening books at Rodale Press in Emmaus, PA. Her interests are plant identification, gardening, hiking, and reading.