Do Venus Fly Traps Die After They Eat?

When it comes to unusual plants, perhaps the most famous is the Venus fly trap (Dionaea muscipula). Known for their carnivorous trait of capturing insects on their sticky insides and consuming them, these plants are incredibly unique. But how long do Venus fly traps live for—do they die after they eat?

Venus fly traps do not die after eating. After a few cycles of consuming insects, the “trap” does die and fall off, but the plant as a whole does not die and instead grows a new trap to allow it to consume more insects. Some Venus fly traps have lived more than 20 years.

While many people have a general idea of what a Venus fly trap is, very few people actually understand how these traps work and why they consume insects to supplement their diet. Read on to learn more about Venus fly traps, including how they kill insects, how they transform the insects into nutrients, and what their life cycles consist of.

Life Cycle of a Venus Fly Trap

Imagine coming to the modern-day United States hundreds of years ago and deciding to plant your garden in North Carolina. As you plant your vegetables and fruits that you will harvest in the fall, you notice that year after year, an odd-shaped plant that regrows in the same spot. As you look closer at the plant, you realize that it is capturing insects on its leaves and seemingly eating them!

As you can imagine, you’d be pretty surprised. When European settlers came to North America in the 1700s and documented their discovery on the Carolina coastline, they instantly became a popular topic of study among botanists. Over time and after much research, scientists began to have a solid understanding of the plant’s life cycle.

Venus fly traps are perennial plants that go into a hibernation state underground during the winter months and sprout again in the spring and summer. Once the seed is planted in the ground, it takes between two and three years for the plant to reach maturity, utilizing the process of photosynthesis to produce much of its energy.

After three years, the plant will start to reliably capture insects and begin producing new seeds to grow its population. The traps themselves also undergo a unique life cycle in which:

  1. they sprout
  2. capture an insect
  3. close and consume the insect
  4. and reopen

After multiple times of closing and reopening, the trap will close permanently and die. The trap is then replaced with a new one that sprouts from the soil.

This unique life cycle normally allows the plant to live up to 20 years in the wild, though some gardeners have been able to extend the plant’s life in captivity, reaching upwards of 60 years.

How Venus Fly Traps Eat Insects

Now that we understand the life cycle of the Venus fly trap and exactly how long the trap survives, it’s important to understand exactly how these fly traps work. Unlike humans or other animals, these plants don’t have teeth, or even a digestive system, needed in order to digest the insects. So how exactly do these plants kill and digest the insects that they are able to trap?

  1. The process begins by luring the insect into the trap. The inside of the fly trap is bright red and produces a sweet-smelling nectar that insects mistake as a source of food. 
  2. The insect crawls inside the trap. The insect touches a small whisker-type stem inside the trap that causes the sides of the trap to close in on one another. As the bug continues to struggle, the trap closes tighter and eventually seels the insect inside.
  3. The plant starts digesting. Once the trap is fully closed and the insect is trapped, the fly trap releases a digestive acid through the pores of the leaf into the trap. This acid kills the insect and destroys all but its exoskeleton, leaving behind a lifeless shell. 
  4. The fly trap reabsorbs these liquids. Once fully reabsorbed, it reopens itself. When it opens, the insect’s exoskeleton falls out and the process begins again.

Typically, the time it takes for the fly trap to complete this process after it feels the first tingle of the insect is between 5 and 12 days. If you’re a bug, this means, unfortunately, a very long and painful death. You can check out this video if you want to know what happens inside the venus flytrap:

Other Sources of Energy for Venus Fly Traps

Though Venus fly traps are known for their famous insect consumption, flying insects actually account for only about 5% of the plant’s diet. Though some of the energy the plant consumes comes from eating other insects such as ants or spiders, the vast majority of the energy and nutrients the plant consumes comes from, like most other plants, the process of photosynthesis.

In this process, the plant absorbs sunlight and carbon dioxide from their leaves and water and other important nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium from their roots in the soil. When all of these important nutrients are absorbed, the plant then undergoes a chemical reaction that converts carbon dioxide and water into glucose (a type of sugar). The plant then uses the glucose to power its regular functions.

When it comes to the nutrients gathered from the fly, they tend to be nitrogen and phosphorus but also include some carbohydrates. These are broken down and converted into the same sugars it normally uses.

So, if Venus fly traps tend to get most of their energy and nutrients from the process of photosynthesis, why would they even evolve to trap flies? The reason for this is that in their native climates, fly traps weren’t able to get much of the nutrients they needed from the soil. The marshes in the Carolinas that the plants are native to have small amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, so the plants supplement this by eating flies.

Other Types of Carnivorous Plants

While Venus fly traps are the most popular of the carnivorous plants and are incredibly unique in the fact they are carnivorous, they aren’t the only plant species that consume other organisms to supplement their diet. In fact, there are over 600 different types of carnivorous plants.

Some examples of carnivorous plants are:

Most carnivorous plants don’t actively capture insects, however. Each of these three plants has some sort of sticky substance or disorienting feature that prevents the insects from escaping. The Venus fly trap is incredibly rare in the fact that it actively takes steps to capture insects.

Carnivorous plants are also not restricted by climate. Though most reside in marshy or tropical zones, some carnivorous plants reside in dry, arid climates like the Australian Outback and even underwater. For some plants, the carnivorous absorption of organisms like insects makes up for a large portion of their diet, while other plants rely on it to help supplement their diets.

While most carnivorous plants consume some variation of insects, other larger plants can consume reptiles and small mammals. Newts and small lizards are often the most common of these animals, though sometimes mice and other small rodents are consumed. 

Fortunately, no plant is large enough to harm humans, and many are actually kept as plants grown and kept to help ward off insects and as nice decorative house plants. Though originally native to only one small region in the US, Venus fly traps can now be found in many places around the world.

Final Thoughts

Venus fly traps are perennial plants that can live for as long as 60 years. Though Venus fly traps are incredibly unique in their carnivorous trait, they are not the only plant known to eat other organisms. 

Though the traps do die after a few cycles of consuming insects, the plant overall is still alive and replaces the traps with new sprouts. Venus fly traps only consume insects to supplement their regular photosynthesis and can survive without them.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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