Greedy plant eats over 6,000 insects an hour

< 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?

There’s the pedANT

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Yep, that’s me. :stuck_out_tongue:

Would love to, especially because I am of the opinion that Darlingtonia is one of the most beautiful carnivorous plants. But it’s rather on the bottom of my list: protection in the US is rather good, infrastructure is also OK, so I can have a look when I’m old and can’t got to other, more challenging places.

The tepuís, for instance. :sunny: :mount_fuji: :palm_tree:
I once met a guy who visited nearly all known species of Heliamphora in habitat. Pretty impressive achievement: unlocked. And I think I know another who has seen both nearly all Heliamphora and most Nepenthes.

Alas, back on topic: there are so many awesome stories to tell about carnivorous plants, and those people reponsible for the above-linked video were simply to lazy for any of them. :cry:


Point well made. We seem not to have made any pogress since that infamous “documentary”, hm?

Shit, I thought it was a prequel to Phase IV.

Edit: Or maybe “Sandkings.” I didn’t know that was GRRM!

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I find your ideas intriguing and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

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Yes, but how many gallons of ants in total? Don’t tell us you didn’t measure!

I kept thinking the tank was full when it was just a few cm deep, but I would dump in the toilet and go back to work. I think I did this at least five times, but this was from something like 3am to around sunrise.

Please, please, please, please, please take me with you.


I distinctly recall walking in the forests of the Pacific Northwest and coming upon a batch of pitcher plants (idontknowicus thenameoftheplanticus) doing their thing in a peaty, swampy spot near a small spring. It’s one thing to see them in museums or stores, but seeing them in their natural habitat was pretty cool.

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Holy mole, that means he also probably has free upgrades on most major and minor airlines! :). I’ve seen half a dozen carnivous plants and only one in habitat, and I thought I was doin’ good. So as they say, Challenge Accepted.

The fact that you recognised them as carnivorous plants shows you are among the enlightend ones. I guess the audience the Smithsonian Channel is targeting has trouble acknowledging the fact that trees are also plants, and that there are two types of trees: birches and non-birches. :wink:

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Very minor airlines, as far as I recall: private helicopter.

AFAIR, you can only get on top of those “lost worlds” by helicopter. You’ll also need special permission by some gouvernments (Brasilian and Venezuelan, for instance, because of their nerarby frontiers and illegal gold exploitation in the surrounding area), and the respective environmental agencies (which in case of Brasil would be like applying for something in the burocracy within a Terry Gilliam film).

Disclaimer: it’s not bloody likely I’ll get any of this, but I need to dream about something… :smile:

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