How to succeed in carnivory without really trying: a guide for plants

Plants, do you live in a low nutrient environment? Having trouble getting the nitrogen you need to grow and succeed? If so, then you aren’t alone. Thousands of plants just like you have the same problem. In this seminar, we will explore tried and true methods to capitalize on a plentiful and nutritious resource: animals.

You may be thinking, “how can I possibly catch mobile animals when I am literally rooted in place?” Solution: trick them into coming to you using one or more of these patented strategies.

1) Dress to impress using attractive colors.

2) Pretend to be a flower or fruit by smelling like one.

3) Sweeten the pot with a sugary treat.

4) Pro technique: sometimes provide a reward without any trap to lure social insects into returning with their friends.

Now that you have lured in your prey, there are a variety of successful traps available in today’s market. An entry-level product is the use of sticky goo, like fly paper, to hold insects in place while they are slowly digested. Premium products include full-body bear traps, trigger-controlled aquatic prey suction, and inescapable pits lined with slippery, downward pointing hairs.

As with other business ventures, we can’t stress enough the importance of networking and partner organizations. Working relationships with bacteria allow access to proprietary enzyme blends for insect exoskeleton digestion. Or, recruit bacteria to reduce the surface tension of liquid in traps to drown prey more quickly and effectively.

Want to survive in today’s “red in tooth and claw” world? If so, consider diversifying your portfolio of nutrient acquisition strategies by giving carnivory a try.

Success stories:

Feel like escargot tonight? Animal traps like these used by this venus fly trap aren’t just useful for catching insects. Watch as it captures a tasty land snail for dinner.

This monkey cup pitcher plant living in a garden in Somerset caught a bird, which was unable to escape and either drowned or starved. Become a real horn of plenty by using the same system!

Even mammals are not out of your reach for professional-grade pitcher plants. Buy a jumbo package and reap the benefits.


Featured image by Noah Elhardt.



Armitage, D. W. (2016). Bacteria facilitate prey retention by the pitcher plant Darlingtonia californica. Biology Letters, 12(11), 20160577.

Chan, X. Y., Hong, K. W., Yin, W. F., & Chan, K. G. (2016). Microbiome and biocatalytic bacteria in monkey cup (Nepenthes pitcher) Digestive Fluid. Scientific reports, 6.

Di Giusto, B., Bessière, J. M., Guéroult, M., Lim, L. B., Marshall, D. J., Hossaert‐McKey, M., & Gaume, L. (2010). Flower‐scent mimicry masks a deadly trap in the carnivorous plant Nepenthes rafflesiana. Journal of Ecology, 98(4), 845-856.

Donnelly, C. The hunting strategies of carnivorous plants. Mental Floss. Available at:

Jürgens, A., El‐Sayed, A. M., & Suckling, D. M. (2009). Do carnivorous plants use volatiles for attracting prey insects? Functional Ecology, 23(5), 875-887.

Rice, B. (2007). Carnivorous plants with hybrid trapping strategies. Carnivorous Plant Newsletter. Available at:

Sci News. (2015) Carnivorous pitcher plants use clever strategy to lure their prey. Available at:

Smithsonian channel video on carnivorous plants.

Ulrike Bauer et al. (2015). How to catch more prey with less effective traps: explaining the evolution of temporarily inactive traps in carnivorous pitcher plants. Proceedings of the Royal Society B; doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.2675.

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