Greedy plant eats over 6,000 insects an hour

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Christ, what an ant hole!




This is a little misleading. The plant isn’t technically “eating”. It’s passively absorbing nutrients from the insects that fall in, but depending on how much it can take in some of those nutrients might go to waste. There have been reports of pitcher plants so stuffed their pitchers have ruptured. And if enough termites work on the outside they can take down the plant.

I’d like to see something that focuses on the insects that have symbiotic relationships with pitcher plants. There are ants that live in Nepenthes stems, and mosquito larvae that grow in Sarracenia.


It’s only a matter of time before they evolve into this:


As satisfying to watch as the day army ants(similar to, though with a nest) attacked my house in the middle of the night.
My little daughter who had been sleeping on the stone living room floor came in crying covered in ants.
I was out of poison spray but an idea came to mind, effing shop vac!
Like ‘ole’ painless’ which Jessie the Body used against that predator, in that movie about state governors in a jungle, it tore into them.
I would estimate 10,000 ants per square meter for half of the house.
It took a few hours and flushing gobs of swirled-to-death ants down the toilet but I wiped out the first occupying force, took several nights of the ants making counter-attacks though and laying down spray stripes of poison in the yard.
The final strike was when I acquired a liter of concentrated pyretheroid ant poison, mixed with warm water and dumped in buckets onto the remaining colony.
The bastards boiled up and out like lava during an eruption to twitch and die, disgusting yet so satisfying.
I have seen them since, sometimes I have even seen a trail of them in the yard.
They will not make eye contact and avoid us now.
I have found traces of yellowcake ore and pages from technical manuals for centrifuges blowing around in the yard, oy my messy kids.
I am sure the ants are up to nothing interesting though.


If you have a wet-dry shopvac (and if using it indoors, a window to open or a strong exhaust fan), just put an inch or two of ammonia (the common floor cleaner) in the bottom of the shopvac can and turn it on. Every insect sucked up in that vac will be permanently instantly toast. Here in Texas, we have had to deal with many wasps and their nests this way.

Dilute the resulting eh ah stuff as much as possible, and pour on the compost pile or a large pile of leaves. Completely nontoxic and will speed decomposition. Do not pour directly on trees as ammonia by itself can burn roots.


I’ve been waiting for a sequel to Leiningen Versus the Ants.


Damn, I was thinking of that story the whole time, read it in grade school, well and snippets of Predator and Aliens. I had forgotten the title.
Written in Germany 1937, I enjoyed this story, I don’t think I want to know if the ants were a metaphor for Jews and untermenchim like me!



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Should I be worried that Krieger posted this?
I assume that evolve should be “evolve”.



Can this really be healthy for this plant?

That would be anticlimactic.


< rantmode>

I am SERIOUSLY annoyed. F*ck whoever did the screen writing to this video. Nearly everything that voiceover is giving us as “scientific” information is utter bullshit - except the very basic fact that the plant is a white collared pitcher plant (Nepenthes albomarginata W.Lobb ex Lindl.) attracting termites.

Whoever produced this sh*t shall be flogged with cotton balls until he or she begs for mercy giggling.

< /rantmode>

I seriously thought the Smithsonian was a venerable institution of scientific exploration and education. I am very disappointed, and not for the first time.

To get this straight: Termites do not hunt for food, they forage.The termites here are attracted by the white collar, which is high in protein, a ressource in short supply for all termites - and also for the pitcher plants. They can only afford to present the protein bait precisely because they feed on insects, which are a source of protein and phosphorus to it. The termites don’t slip on nectar, and are not at all attracted by nectar. They slip because the surface has a very interesting nanostructure, and can not climb out because the pitcher is covered on the inside with another very interesting nanostructure. The pitcher is not filled with acid, not even a slightly acidic pH. Also, it does not contain rain water, it even has a (N.B., fixed, not movable) lid to prevent downwatering of it’s digestive coctail by rain. The plant produces enzymes which slowly digest it’s prey, and it surely cannot eat 6000 insects an hour - it takes weeks to digest any insect falling in, and the chitinous carapaxes are not digested at all.

Bonus: the plant shown at 1:14m is N. bicalcarata, which indeed offers nectar to visitors (in that case, most likely wasps, and particularly not the beautiful heteropter bug shown). At 1:25m, we have N. albomarginata again, at 1:32m we have N. ampullaria which indeed is filled by rainwater, because the lid grows backwards compared to the direction in most pitcher plants. Of course, all those plants have slightly different diets, and while I agree that most use similar tricks to tend prey, especially the case of N. albomargianta shows that there is quite some level of evolutionary variability in their ‘tricks’.

The grashopper and the bug shown to drop in have most likely been placed there by the film crew, because they are not attracted to Nepenthes and are thus rarely found in the pitchers.

Bottom line: never let facts get in the way of a good story, Smithsonian? Shame on you!


Aw thanks, I was just gathering said details due to headline overtaxing my BS meter

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Tangent–ever been to the Darlingtonia state park in Oregon? It isn’t huge, but really neat!


In all fairness, when given the chance by nature to place a bug into a spider’s web, I’ll do it and watch the resulting incapacitation and death every godamn time. I also boo the spider if they cut the newly-added bug out of the web.

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I was thinking how much better it would have been with lemmings.


Where was the ant?