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How to escape a Venus flytrap, in one easy step

The gaping jaws of the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) are famous for snapping shut on any creature unlucky enough to wander too close. But a new study shows that some insects never fall prey to this carnivorous plant. Their secret? They’re the pollinators that help the plant reproduce, researchers report this week in The American Naturalist. Because the flytrap, native to only a small area of North and South Carolina, could potentially eat the bugs that help it breed, researchers wanted to know how it discriminates between pollinators and dinner. So they collected more than 600 insects: 400 that had visited the killer flowers and 200 victims from three different study sites. The researchers then measured the Venus flytrap pollen on each bug to find out whether it was a frequent pollinator. They found very little overlap between prey and pollinator—checkered beetles and sweat bees, for example, were almost never eaten. That’s likely because the plants’ flowers stand far above the gaping traps below—about 15 to 35 centimeters. So flying visitors can feast, while insects on the ground become the feast.