I have a morbid fascination with predators. Perhaps this is why I wrote a book about an assassin.

I’m particularly intrigued by “pure” predators, the ones who are predatory without malice. There’s nothing evil about what they do. They are driven by instinct and necessity; being predatory is the core of their nature. My pet snakes are pure predators. If you took the predator out of a snake, there would be nothing left.

If a snake is a pure predator, what about a carnivorous plant? I’m fascinated by these too, because these are predators that don’t even have a brain! I’m not even sure you could say they are instinct driven. Maybe reflex driven? Here are my two carnivorous plants, Catch and Sunny:

Catch is a Venus Fly Trap, and Sunny is a sundew. As you can see, they grow in the same pot, which works out pretty well because they are after different prey. Catch wants flies and Sunny is interested in gnats and fruit flies.

While Catch is the more dramatic plant, Sunny is by far the more effective predator. Catch only succeeds in catching a minority of the flies that show up in our house, while no fruit fly ever escapes Sunny. I have come to adore Sunny for pest control. But while Catch is fun, I have not retired my fly swatter. And I have to supplement his diet with hamburger a couple of times a year.

If you’re curious about raising carnivorous plants, it’s not hard to do, but they require some special care. The most important thing is to never, ever, ever water them with tap water. It will kill them. Water them with distilled water only, and it’s best to water them the way you see in the photo, by filling a bowl with water and placing the pot in the bowl and leaving it there. These are swamp plants that like humidity.

If you don’t get a lot of natural sun, use a full-spectrum plant light as a supplement (a necessity in dark, rainy Seattle). And to hibernate the plant over the winter. It will die back almost to an empty pot, but regrow beautifully in the spring and summer, ready to resume predation on your gnats and flies.

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6 Responses to Predators

  1. Jessi Gage says:

    Interesting post. I feel as though I have peeked in at some kind of freak show.

  2. It seem obvious, but I never though of carnivorous plants as pest control. Do they have ones for fire ants or roaches too? 😉

    • Amy Raby says:

      Maybe? I actually don’t know, but I bet there is a carnivorous plant that will attract and kill fire ants. I’m less certain about roaches because they are so big. The trouble with non-flying insects, of course, is going to be getting them to the plant. They’re attracted to these plants, but if they don’t have wings, they may not have an easy time reaching them.

  3. Jill Archer says:

    I wish they had one for stink bugs!! Great post, Amy. (Where are your share buttons? :-))

    • Amy Raby says:

      Share buttons? Hmm, I will look into that. There might be a plant that will kill stink bugs, but it would have to be pretty big. And bugs without wings have trouble finding their way into the trap. So my plants pretty much do nothing for my spiders, even though Venus Fly Traps will theoretically eat spiders.

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