Carnivorous plants catch bugs in the same way that flowers attract bees, with color and smell.
However, a carnivorous plant also has a mechanism that traps the bug once it lands. In the case of the pitcher plant, all varieties sport a hollow tube or bowl that has downward-sloping hairs on the inside and a lid on top.
Digestive juices sit in the bottom of the bowl. An insect drawn to the plant, looking to get a little bit of nectar, goes into the hollow tube and can’t get out because the hairs and lid make it difficult.
It eventually flounders and drowns in the liquid at the bottom. Surprisingly, though, many of the bugs that fall into a pitcher plant do escape. Some insect species are completely immune to the digestive juices and actually set up house in the bottom of the plant, feeding on the other bugs that fall prey.
Any leftover bug parts or the excrement of the living bug are still food for the pitcher plant, so everyone’s happy, except, of course, the hapless bug victim.
In the case of the Venus’ fly trap, the process is a little more complicated.
The plant has triggers and moving parts that are necessary for it to catch insects. Without tendons or muscles, it’s hard to fathom how exactly the plant does this, although we do know it involves a series of electrical impulses and may include the shifting of fluids within the plant’s veins.
Regardless, carnivorous plants are some of the more fascinating, and merciless, members of the plant kingdom.