...Squeamish to Insects

BunsenH

Seedling
How do they react to, say, a bit of egg, or a small piece of dried earthworm? Or tofu, if you have any around?
 

Muckydoo

Carnivorous Plant Addict
Not an experiment that I want to attempt lol.
But of someone wants to try.... I'd be interested in the results.
 

BunsenH

Seedling
A couple of days ago, three of my four VFTs seemed to be somewhat recovered, with large healthy traps open. So I decided to see how they'd do with tidbits wrapped in onion membrane (dried and rehydrated).

First: that membrane is annoying to deal with. It's as flimsy and clingy as thin plastic cling film, sticky with residue from the onions when it's wet. Next time, I'm going to try soaking it in a glass of water for a while before I try to use it. The problem is that when it's pulled into the air from soaking in water, it tends to collapse together into a wrinkled mass that's difficult to spread out. That is to say, there's a surface-tension problem.

The traps that I fed with textured vegetable protein and "earthworm jerky" have remained closed, after the usual process of tickling the trigger hairs to close the trap and then gently massaging it from outside. They appear to be digesting as normal; "candling" with a flashlight looks like there's a pocket of liquid enclosed by the trap sides. The trap that I fed with a bit of tofu is reopening. I don't know if there's a problem with using tofu in this way (remember, tofu was a big hit with my VFT last year), or if I didn't use enough of it, or if I overwrapped it, or if I just didn't stimulate the trap enough. Or if the plant is more ill than it looks, and needs to put its energy into root growth, or ..? I'll try again after a couple more days, when I'm able to remove the little packet, and the plant is ready to be fed again.
 

BunsenH

Seedling
The TVP and "earthworm jerky" plants are still working on their meals. The trap with the tofu only reopened partially. It looked as though the dried onion membrane, sticky as it was, might have been holding it partially closed.

I've got my VFTs in a good environment, at present: 30°C, 50% humidity (humidex 34°) and intense sunlight. I spent about 10 minutes spraying water (humidifier condensate, tested for aluminum thanks to Lloyd) into the trap via its open side at intervals of a couple of minutes, to rehydrate the membrane-wrapped tofu. Then I put the frayed end of my plastic broom bristle into the trap and spent about 10 minutes tickling the trigger hairs. The trap closed firmly, very quickly. Then I spent another few minutes gently massaging the trap from outside. It rapidly assumed its "squeezed shut around prey" configuration.

I'm hoping that when the trap exudes its digestive enzymes, they'll break down the sticky components of the onion membrane, so the trap won't be held shut again. But I don't know why the membrane is sticky in the first place, let alone how the enzymes may affect it. Research studies I'm seeing on-line say that amylase does some degradation on mucilage, so clearly amylase affects carbohydrates other than just starch. I should have a better idea of what's going on in a few more days.
 

BunsenH

Seedling
I assume that the main structure is cellulose, but I'm hoping that a single layer of cells will be thin enough or porous enough that the enzymes can penetrate. Especially after the membrane has been killed by dehydration. The traps on the other two plants have stayed in "squeezed shut around prey" mode for five days, which suggests that the traps are being stimulated by digestion products.

I found an interesting paper which describes how onion membrane is able to transport sugars in only one direction, but ions can move either way. I don't know how this barrier might be affected by the enzymes.
 
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BunsenH

Seedling
I'd be surprised if sausage casings -- whether made of intestines or collagen -- weren't digested by a VFT. Plastic casings wouldn't be, but are also unlikely to let the enzymes and digestion products pass. And my curiosity is somewhat focused on how to make a VFT happy on a vegetarian diet.
 

spiffyzha

Carnivore
Quick info drop of science. I'm away this week so I guess I won't know exactly how long it takes to re-open the traps and such. But, things have been learned!

My VFT has been happily eating some different things for the last 'slightly over a week'.

* Raw egg white. It ate it just fine, and re-opened ~ 6 days later, but the residue sort-of stuck the spikes together to prevent it from re-opening all the way, and I had to detatch them myself.

* an uncooked (thawed) pea: This was actually more food volume than I expected. Maybe too much for the trap that ate it. It's been digesting for 10 days and isn't done yet. I think the trap will die though.

* raw sesame seed: It's also been working on this for 10 days, and I see no indication that it will hurt the trap. This one actually seems pretty promising!

The last time around, things finished digesting much more quickly. But I've used a different plant this time, and it seems to be taking much longer with its food. I don't know what cultivar either plant is, but they're clearly not the same. It didn't occur to me before that this could make much difference, but in retrospect -- of course it can.
 

BunsenH

Seedling
I guess that leaves out my casein.
That would depend on how it was made. I remember trying to make casein in grade 7±1; as I recall, the recipe involved adding a solution of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) to skim milk to precipitate the protein, then preserving it in formaldehyde. I probably used skim milk from skim milk powder, and in retrospect, the "formaldehyde" may not have really been formaldehyde — it was whatever liquid my middle-school science lab had on the shelves for preserving specimens.

I suspect that formaldehyde-preserved casein wouldn't be good for a VFT, and I'm not sure how well magnesium-precipitated casein would go over. My experiments with "paneer" (skim milk heated to near-boiling, then precipitated with a bit of vinegar) are inconclusive, since my plants were having root problems at the time.
 

BunsenH

Seedling
* Raw egg white. It ate it just fine, and re-opened ~ 6 days later, but the residue sort-of stuck the spikes together to prevent it from re-opening all the way, and I had to detatch them myself.
How did you get raw egg white to stay in place in the trap? Cooked or semi-cooked would be easy, since they'd be more or less solid.
 

spiffyzha

Carnivore
How did you get raw egg white to stay in place in the trap? Cooked or semi-cooked would be easy, since they'd be more or less solid.
I dipped a table knife in the raw egg white, then sort of slid the flat part of the knife across the inside of the trap, which triggered the trap, and the plant itself removed the egg as I removed the knife. It worked pretty well, except for the excess egg that got on the outside teeth.
 

BunsenH

Seedling
I think it's possible that the trap got glued closed by the egg white around the edges, which didn't have much contact with the digestive fluid. Rather than by residue from the egg white that got digested.

When I've had problems with traps getting stuck partially closed, I take some time with opening them... spraying with warm water repeatedly at intervals of a few minutes. Likewise when I'm cleaning residues off the traps, such as from my egg-and-mushroom "quiche". I don't know how much force is safe to use, nor how vulnerable the traps are to damage from being scratched. I do most of my scraping with toothpicks rather than anything sharper such as wire. I assume that in the wild, any residues in the traps (including the insect skeletons) are rinsed repeatedly by rain until anything sticky gets washed away.
 

BunsenH

Seedling
When plants are changing, they get extra attention from us: germinating, emergence from the ground, flower bud formation, etc. Carnivorous plants take this to an elevated level: what will my VFT (or whatever) do next? They're more active than most other house plants; many respond to stimuli on time scales from seconds to hours. In some ways, they're closer to pets.

And my VFTs do require a bit more care than my other plants. They have to have special water, rather than tap water, and they have to have a certain water level maintained rather than being watered weekly and allowed to get fairly dry. And of course I'm giving mine a bit of extra care now, since my poor choices when I repotted them this spring apparently were the cause of their getting pretty ill.
 
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spiffyzha

Carnivore
I think it's possible that the trap got glued closed by the egg white around the edges, which didn't have much contact with the digestive fluid. Rather than by residue from the egg white that got digested.

When I've had problems with traps getting stuck partially closed, I take some time with opening them... spraying with warm water repeatedly at intervals of a few minutes. Likewise when I'm cleaning residues off the traps, such as from my egg-and-mushroom "quiche". I don't know how much force is safe to use, nor how vulnerable the traps are to damage from being scratched. I do most of my scraping with toothpicks rather than anything sharper such as wire. I assume that in the wild, any residues in the traps (including the insect skeletons) are rinsed repeatedly by rain until anything sticky gets washed away.
Yeah, I'm sure the egg residue problem could be improved with a better feeding technique that didn't get so much outside the trap to begin with -- though I'm not sure what feeding technique that might be. The trap needs some stimulation to make it close properly, and I can't think of a way to do it without leaking egg juice.

I wasn't nearly as gentle as you in un-sticking the teeth, but to be fair it wasn't stuck very hard. Just used a straightened paper clip, threaded through length-wise underneath all the teeth. Then I pulled it directly away. The idea here being that sometimes the trap will bend its teeth directly outwards on its own while it's digesting, so it *must* be possible to bend them that way without inflicting too much damage.

But in any case, I don't think I'll be regularly feeding my plants an egg-based diet... I don't actually like eggs very much, so I rarely cook with them. And then it seems absurd to crack open a whole egg just to feed a tiny tiny bit to my plants every time my plants need food.
 
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