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Venus Flytraps Do Not Eat Insects That Pollinate Their Flowers

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The Venus flytrap is different from most plants. It has a special diet made up largely of meat. The carnivorous plant feeds mostly on small invertebrates such as spiders and ants that it liquifies into nutrients within its traps.

Selective Of The Insects That They Eat

An earlier study suggested another remarkable characteristic of this plant. It uses "math skills" to trap its prey. Findings of a new study now show that the plant also has a mechanism that allows it to be selective of the bugs that it eats.

Study researcher Elsa Youngsteadt, from the North Carolina State University, and colleagues found that the Venus flytrap do not eat the insects that pollinate them. They made the discovery while investigating how these carnivorous plants pollinate in the wild.

The researchers collected the bees, flies, beetles, spiders, and other bugs that crawled on the flowers of flytraps They also pried open the traps to see what the carnivorous plants were digesting.

Top Three Pollinators Of The Venus Flytrap

The researchers found about 100 types of insects on the flowers, but only a few carried a lot of pollen, the top three being the green sweat bee, the checked beetle, and the notch-tipped flower longhorn beetle. Sweat bees carry the most pollen, which means that they are the top pollinator of the Venus flytrap.

When the researchers retrieved preys from the traps, they observed that despite finding the top three pollinator species of the Venus flytrap on its flowers, these were not in the traps.

How Carnivorous Plant Avoid Gobbling Up Its Pollinators

The researchers said that the architecture of the plant is one mechanism that helps prevent the pollinators from being gobbled up. The flowers of the plant, for instance, are on top of stems high above the trap. This allows winged insects to avoid the trap.

"Spatial separation of traps and flowers may contribute to partitioning the invertebrate community between nutritional and reproductive functions in D. muscipula," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the American Naturalist on Feb. 5.

Of the flower-visiting insects that the researchers collected, including the three important pollinating species, 87 percent could fly. Only 20 percent of the prey, on the other hand, have wings to do this.

"The pollinator species may simply be staying above the danger zone as they go from flower to flower, making them less likely to be eaten," Youngsteadt explained.

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