By Julie-Ann Sherlock
“Get off me!” is something you can hear me whisper, utter in despair, or scream at random points of the day when flies decide that I am an appropriate place for them to land. They are highly irritating when they tickle your skin or buzz noisily in your face while you are trying to sleep. But, even more annoyingly, they spread disease.
Yeah, I can’t be dealing with these buzzy nuisances. Imagine if there was a way of reducing their numbers in your home in a natural way…
…enter carnivorous plants.
Almost like something from sci-fi, there are actually plants that eat these little bothersome bugs. (I know, they aren’t classified as bugs in biology, but they sure as heck bug me!) Let’s look at some of these brilliant botanical wonders that help cull the fly population and see which ones might work in your home.
I’m starting with the most famous of the fly-eaters, the Venus Flytrap—the clue is in its name! The spiky, hinged lobes at the end of each leaf are a natural enemy of flies, ants and spiders. It gobbles them up when they move around inside the “flower”, tickling the tiny hair-like surface and triggering it to clamp shut with the spikes interlocking to prevent its dinner from escaping.
Requiring sunshine and moist soil, it subsidises its diet with the creatures it catches. Unfortunately, it can survive for months without a kill, so it will not necessarily keep your home a no-fly zone. Still, it looks cool!
Another lazy eater, Sundews plants only devour a few insects a month, using its captured prey to supplement the nutrients it gleans from the moist, moss-rich soil it thrives in. With sticky, tentacle-decorated leaves, they trap small insects such as flies, beetles and ants and slowly digest them with the enzyme secretions over a few days.
As these plants are primarily native to bogs, they enjoy a damp or humid atmosphere and soil rich in acidity. They are perfect candidates for terrariums and like a lot of sunshine and warmth. (A bit like me then!)
With over 200 variants, the Bladderwort plant is native to watery habitats such as rivers, lakes and streams. It loves a diet of small insects such as aquatic worms and water fleas and can thrive in water up to 6 feet deep. As it lives in H20, it doesn’t have roots as such, and its bladder-like flowers float on the surface, capturing insects and larvae.
Unsuspecting dinner guests instigate their death by landing on the tiny bristles outside the flower, triggering it to open. The water pressure change sucks the insect inside, where it is digested by the hungry Bladderwort. Eh, yum?
Catapulting Flypaper Trap
A member of the Sundew family, the Catapulting Flypaper Trap is a terrifying combination killer. It entraps its prey using its sticky tentacles, like its close relation, but when the insect struggles to free itself, it triggers a catapult effect whereby the snack is thrown into the centre of the flower for digestion, much like me throwing Skittles into my mouth.
Primarily found in Australia, the Catapulting Flypaper Trap also likes sunshine and moist, peaty soil. It is perfect for a home terrarium and will eat flies and springtails.
The tropical climate-loving Monkey Cups plant has a funnel-esque shape, allowing it to lure insects to their deaths. The pitcher-style leaves emit a nectar odour that attracts its prey into the cup. There, they will discover that the waxy residue lining makes it impossible for them to grip on, and they fall into a pool of liquid for digestion. Cheeky monkeys.
Requiring a wet environment to thrive, the Monkey Cups plant prefers to sit in a pool of moisture, so place it in a deep plate or bowl of rainwater or soft tap water.
The Lobster Pot or Eel Trap plant is similar to the Monkey Cup in that it uses an aroma of nectar to attract its prey to the outer chamber. Then, using tiny hairs lining the inside of the pot, the plant pushes the insect towards doom, where it will be digested and absorbed into the plant.
Predominantly found in Northern California and Oregon, these plants like damp, boggy soil and a moderate 16 to 21° Celsius temperature. Because they get their nutrients from eating insects, they do not require plant (or human) food.
These fascinating plants will bring some interesting shapes to your indoor spaces, garden or balcony and will surely be a talking point when you have guests. While not the conventional choice for many, the added benefits of their insect-killing properties make them a great option if you are fed up with artificial fly traps, swatting or keeping your doors and windows closed!
Watch out, flies; Google knows where my local flytrap stockist is!
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