Tom's Carnivores

Venus flytraps are cool, and feeding them is fun. What's more, even the healthiest plant will eventually slow down its growth if it doesn't catch any prey...

FAQ: What should I feed my Venus flytrap?

Tom Bennet
By Tom Bennet
Published 26 April 2017, updated
I've been growing a wide variety of carnivorous plants for over 2 decades. I got my first Venus flytrap at age 10 and now have an entire greenhouse full of carnivores.

Short Answer

Probably nothing… yet.

If you want your Venus flytrap to be happy and grow big colourful traps, there are lots of things you should do before thinking about what to feed it for dinner.

It might sound boring, but your little plant will be much healthier with proper watering, lots of bright sunlight, and - in the longer run - a cold winter dormancy than with bits of food being dropped into its traps.

Once you’ve taken care of your Venus Flytrap’s basic needs - or if you simply can’t wait any longer - read on…

Fun Answer

Venus flytraps are cool, and feeding them is fun. What’s more, even the healthiest plant will eventually slow down its growth if it doesn’t catch any prey. If your Venus flytrap lives outdoors, or if you can put it outside on sunny days, then it will catch all the food it needs without your help.

But if you keep your Venus flytrap indoors - or just really want to feed your plant yourself - then there are 5 important things to bear in mind:

  1. Don’t give your plant anything it wouldn’t catch naturally. That means no chocolate, chicken, or other human food. Bugs only!

  2. Don’t give your plant fertiliser or any other normal ‘plant food’ - like most carnivorous plants, they prefer to grow in nutrient-poor soil.

  3. Closing a trap requires a lot of energy, so don’t trigger them if you aren’t feeding them. For the same reason, don’t overfeed your plant - one trap per week is more than enough.

  4. Don’t feed your plant anything that’s larger than about 1/3 the size of the trap - it needs to fully seal to digest its meal, and so prey which is too large may rot the trap, causing it to turn black.

  5. Digestion only starts if the trap’s trigger hairs are stimulated after it has closed. If you’re using a dead bug, use a toothpick or cocktail stick to gently ’tickle’ the hairs through the gaps after the trap’s closed over the prey. It’ll soon seal shut.

Next up, the menu!

The best foods for your Venus flytrap:

The Venus flytrap menu: mealworms, bloodworms, and crickets.
The Venus flytrap menu: mealworms, bloodworms, and crickets. View on Amazon.

All three of these foods are suitable for other carnivorous plants as well as Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula). Bloodworms are ideal for almost all species, particularly sundews (Drosera) and butterworts (Pinguicula), while mealworms and crickets are often good for larger pitcher plants (Sarracenia and Nepenthes).

An all-red cultivar of the Venus flytrap awaiting its next meal.
An all-red cultivar of the Venus flytrap awaiting its next meal.

How often should you feed a Venus flytrap?

If you’ve taken care of all its other needs, you can safely feed a Venus flytrap every month of the growing season. Simply pop bugs into 3 or 4 large open traps, stimulate the hairs as described above, and your plant will thank you for it!

Do venus flytraps need live food?

While Venus flytraps and other carnivorous plants will gratefully accept live insects, I’ve found it’s rarely worth the hassle. Mealworms have been known to burrow out of traps, and crickets move so quickly they can easily escape. Some growers purchase tubs of live crickets from specialist reptile or amphibian shops and place the container in the freezer for several minutes to ‘stun’ the bugs, making them easier to feed to their plants. But unless you’re insistent on a diet of live food, dried mealworms are often the best option (link).

Whatever you do, don’t forget to take care of their other needs first! For that, be sure to read my complete Venus flytrap growing guide. I’d also recommend grabbing a copy of Peter D’Amato’s carnivorous plant “bible” The Savage Garden, available from Amazon or - if you’re in the US - directly from Peter’s own nursery . You might also want to subscribe to my email newsletter below to be notified when I publish my next article.

Finally, if you’re looking to expand your collection of well-fed carnivores, remember that US readers can get 10% off orders at California Carnivores by using the code tomscarnivores. They have an extensive range of healthy Venus Flytraps available for quick delivery, as well as many other carnivorous plants which make ideal companions for your flytrap.

Happy growing!

Tom Bennet
By Tom Bennet
Site Owner

I've been growing carnivorous plants for over 2 decades, having been fascinated by these plants since I got my first Venus flytrap at age 10. I now have a large greenhouse to house my collection and am an avid breeder of Nepenthes pitcher plants.

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