Pitcher Plants Entice Ants With a Water Slide of Death | Smart News | Smithsonian
Current Issue
July / August 2014  magazine cover
Subscribe

Save 81% off the newsstand price!

Keeping you current

Pitcher Plants Entice Ants With a Water Slide of Death

A Venezuelan pitcher plant's specially adapted, wettable hairs counter the sticky pads and little claws on insect feet and are especially deadly for ants

smithsonian.com

Ants investigate the deadly pitcher plant. Photo: University of Cambridge

In Venezuela, Heliamphora nutans—a type of carnivorous pitcher plant that grows in swampy locales—beckons ants with a water slide of doom. The specie’s specially adapted, wettable hairs counter the sticky pads and little claws on insect feet and especially seem to target ants, Wired reports.

Compared to other carnivorous plants that have capture rates of about 29 percent for ants, researchers found, the wet hairs on this pitcher plant trap 88 percent of ants that encounter the deadly trap. While other plants tend to repel water, H. nutans‘ hairs actually attract tiny droplets. When ants venture onto the slippery surface, they aquaplane into the plant’s bowl.

Even in dry weather, the researchers found, the pitcher plan managers to lace its hairs with water. It transports moisture from its bowl several inches below to the hairs above. Rain or shine, ants lose, plants win.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Back Away from the Carnivorous Plant!  
The Venus Flytrap’s Lethal Allure

 

 

Tags

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus