Carnivorous Plants: Insect Eating Plants

Updated on October 30, 2019
angela_michelle profile image

Angela, though not a natural green thumb, has studied gardening in order to better care for her yard.

Albany Pitcher Plant


Weird Plants That Eat Meat

The idea of carnivorous plants is fascinating, causing images like those in the play The Little Shop of Horrors, where a plant grows so large and begins to protect the one person who cares for it... by eating people who hurt him. Okay, maybe that is a very sick idea of amusement, but hey millions watch the movie/play every year.

Fascination with carnivorous plants has been around for centuries. Those who used to practice witchcraft used to use the digestive enzymes for potions, exorcisms, and even medicines. Maybe the fascination with these plants is a result of the appearance of a backward food chain, where plants eat animals, instead of the other way around.

Albany Pitcher Plant


Five Bloodthirsty Ways a Plant Traps Its Prey

Although you won't see these plants chewing and gulping as Audrey II (the plant's name from Little Shop of Horrors) is seen doing, they do trap and digest meat in the form of small insects which land on them or fly near them. Most people, if asked what a carnivorous plant looks like, they would imagine a Venus Fly Trap. There are actually over 550 known kinds of carnivorous plants that find their nutrients in many ways. Some are active captures of their prey, while others will be passive and only capturing those who are unlucky enough to land on them. Aside from just active and passive meat-eaters, there are five specific ways a carnivorous plant can capture its food: pitfall, flypaper, vacuum, snap trap, and lobster pot traps.

Pitcher Plants Use a Pitfall Trap

Pitcher Plants are one type of meat-eating plants that use the process of pitfall traps to capture their prey. They are cylindrical and often have a flap above the plant. This flap overhangs the plant and prevents the insect from instantly flying out of it so that it has a better chance of landing and getting trapped.

Once a bug flies inside, if they choose to land on the interior wall of the plant, they will stick to a pool of bacteria known as digestive enzymes, similar to our own digestive enzymes. The pool of bacteria will not allow the bug to leave, and will instantly start breaking the insect down into nutrients that the plant will use to grow.

To the right, you can see how easily the insects fall victim to this kind of trap. Feel free to click on the plant, and look at all the little black specks. Those are all the different bugs that have found themselves inside these plants, which is a passive way the plant eats because the plant itself does not actively change its position when the bug lands.

There are many different types of pitcher plants that come in different shapes, patterns, and colors. You will see many photos of different types shown at the bottom of this article.

Butterwort Plant

A Butterwort Plant: uses its flypaper like leafs to trap its prey.
A Butterwort Plant: uses its flypaper like leafs to trap its prey. | Source

Flypaper Trap

The flypaper trap is another very passive form of these meat-eating plants, or what Charles Darwin called Insectivorous Plants. They use, just as the name implies, a flypaper material to trap their prey. One example is on the plant you see to your right. By enlarging the picture, you will better notice there are little dots on the plant that appear to be either dirt on your screen on the plant itself. Those are tiny little bugs. These plants solely rely on their sticky leaves to trap and absorb insects. The bugs will usually land on them to eat themselves, and find that they are unable to move, which they then die. The plant then absorbs the nutrients from these bugs. The most recognizable of these flypaper trap plants are the Butterwort plant.

Venus Flytrap Plant


Snap Trap

Now, if Audrey II had been a real plant, you would have found that she utilized a rapid leaf movement or snap trap, which, of course, would be one of the more active plant traps. Many of us are very familiar with the Venus Fly Trap, as it is one of the most well-known types of carnivorous plants. It is well known for being a bizarre-looking as well as the bizarre acting plant. When they are triggered, what appears as a jaw but really just two lobes, close in on its prey like a steel trap. By three hairs that are inside the "mouth," and when touched, trigger the trap. A Venus Fly Trap can only trap five times before the trap itself dies away, but the plant will continue to flourish!

To the right, you can see how similar the Venus Fly Trap looks like a real mouth, which is why it is the most notorious insectivorous plant. The ominous hair-like structures trap the insect inside, in which eventually the insect will land inside the trap. Once the bug lands, the trap will close and will remain closed until the contents of the insect have completely absorbed.

Bladderwort Plant


A Vacuum-like Bladder Trap

Another active plant is a bladderwort plant; this is different from the butterwort plant, which uses the flypaper trap. A bladderwort plant has a unique way of trapping bugs. It is usually a flowering type plant, and on its stem, there will be bladder-like enzymes, which are similar to the same enzymes found inside a pitcher plant. The difference is the bladder-like enzymes act as a vacuum to trap the prey. The bladder will have a tiny hole with a hinged door where an insect will be sucked into the internal parts of the plant. These kinds of plants often grow on waterlogged soil and lack roots. Because they don't get their primary source of nutrients deep within the soil, they need to get these from the bugs they ingest.

More Pitcher Plants

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Lobster Pot Trap

The final way a plant can trap insects is through a lobster pot trap. The lobster plant will have an opening that is very easy for a bug to enter. Still, it is nearly impossible to exit due to downward-pointing bristles that encourage the preys onward movement into the plant. Another belief is that these types of insectivorous plants act like Bladderworts because there is a vacuum type effect due to water movement within the plant. For this reason, it is sometimes classified as passive but also active. So imagine a horror story, where someone enters a cave, that they cannot escape. And though they feel like there is no opening on the other side, they keep going deeper into the cave in hopes of finding an exit. Well, in this case, the cave, or plant, literally eats the bug alive.

Meat-eating plants will forever capture people's imagination and curiosity. Someday, when I don't have plant-eating cats, I'm going to talk my husband into buying one for me. Until then, I will have to settle for a plant-free house, with an occasional visit to local gardens! Below you will see two fascinating books about carnivorous plants as well as a kit that I am so tempted to buy that allows you actually to grow a meat-eating plant. Due to my fascination, if you have any further information on these ominous looking plants, please share, I'd love to hear from you!


  • Carlquist, Dr. Sherwin, et al. “Carnivorous Plants / Insectivorous Plants.” Botanical Society of America, 2005,
  • Michael Mathieson Senior Zoologist and Curator, Queensland Herbarium. "Death traps: how carnivorous plants catch their prey." The Conversation. February 07, 2018. Accessed February 26, 2018.
  • "Pitcher plant." ScienceDaily. Accessed February 26, 2018.

Questions & Answers

  • Do plants like Venus flytraps have venom to sting and kill the prey?

    No, they do not have a stinger or venom. They rely on luring their prey inside their mouth where they close around the prey, and the pray cannot escape. It soon dies and is absorbed by the plant. Other insect eating plants rely on a very sticky interior that the bugs are unable to escape from.

  • What is a sundew?

    This is a carnivorous plant I did not cover in the article. They are very uniquely shaped, with what looks like tentacles. They trap their prey through a sticky substance on the outside. Once the insect is stuck to them, the bug will eventually die, in which case the plant then absorbs the nutrients from the insect, essentially eating it. In other words, they are most similar to the flypaper trap.

© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Diepam Patil 

      12 months ago

      I like your plants photos

    • profile image

      Dr Noor 

      13 months ago

      Are these plants available as pet pot plants for general gardening cultivation?

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      8 years ago from United States

      I find the idea that plants need protein absolutely fascinating as well. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    • profile image

      Keely Valero 

      8 years ago

      Thanks this helped! I was doing a project on the common buterwort and this was so interesting. Thanks. :)

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      9 years ago from United States

      My husband was there a couple years ago, and said all over they were selling fried bugs on a stick. Him and a couple of his friends tried them. We have videos. It's pretty funny watching the guys reactions. :)

    • Harlan Colt profile image

      Harlan Colt 

      9 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

      LOL, no thanks, I'll stick with General So's Chicken or Moo Goo Gia Pan. LOL... bugs on a stick... no thank you.

      - Harlan

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      9 years ago from United States

      Oh, yes, they are full of protein. If you visit China, you can have bugs on a stick. I hear it tastes like chicken? LOL

    • Harlan Colt profile image

      Harlan Colt 

      9 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

      I wish these would grow around my area but they do not.

      - Nice hub tho

      - Harlan

      @ Moneyglitch... I have never thought of bugs as ... meat. Ick. LOL

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      que pex y la bladder trap

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      10 years ago from United States

      I know I totally agree with you. At the gardens where I am a member, they have a whole room of what I refer to as the "blood thirsty plants." LOL!

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 

      10 years ago from Texas

      I've always been fascinated with carnivorous plants! They are both beautiful and creepy at the same time. I think I can't get pass the fact that they are meat lovers. Of course, the Little Shop of Horrors movie didn't help the situation. LOL! :)

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      10 years ago from United States

      Thanks, I haven't seen that movie... but I'm intrigued. I might have to see if I can netflix it!

    • Lady_E profile image


      10 years ago from London, UK

      Interesting Hub - The plants look so pretty, yet so deadly. It reminded me of an old film "seeds of evil".

      Great Hub though. :)

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      10 years ago from United States


    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 

      10 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      Awedome hub! Thank ya' for the follow!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)