Originally posted on Tembua’s website.
Our former Marketing Coordinator holds a degree in horticulture and at one time ran a business that installed and cared for plantings in commercial settings. Plants wandered in and out of the office with her and helped us endure dark days.
Some time ago I noticed a small odd-looking plant on her desk. It was a Venus flytrap, she said. The edges of the almond-shaped leaves look like the teeth of a comb. Because the leaves are set in pairs, they resemble fuzzy cupped hands. In the wild, when an unsuspecting bug lands inside one of the hands the leaves spring shut, and the projections on each leaf join to cleverly trap it.
Indoors, of course, there aren’t many flying insects (see The Horsefly and the Badminton Racket), but the plant needs to be fed. Finding a box elder bug on the window, the marketing coordinator deftly used tweezers to lower it into one of the leaf pairs. We were all mesmerized watching the trap spring and the bug disappear.
Sunday evening I stopped by the office to pick up a file. My daughter and her 3-year-old were with me, and I was anxious to entertain them with the new addition to the office.
I didn’t have tweezers with me, but my fine motor skills are above average. With my fingertips I caught another box elder bug from outside, and, while my granddaughter watched entranced, I dropped it into the plant.
Snap! went the leaves. “Ugh! Ick!” my daughter and I said as the plant captured only half of the bug, leaving the head sticking out, feelers frantically waving. I don’t know where the spring release is on a Venus flytrap, and neither did my daughter. We picked up the 3-year-old — who was yelling, “The bug is stuck! The bug is stuck!” — and fled.
The following Monday morning I heard our Marketing Coordinator say, “That’s interesting. I wonder why it only caught half the bug?” I went to look. “It’s still there,” I gasped. I had assumed the bug would be gone overnight. No. It had managed to pull about ¾ of its body out of the grip of the plant, although it did look faded. My colleague looked at me and said, “What did you do to my plant?!” When I confessed, she shook her head, pulled the bug out of the plant with her tweezers and firmly placed it in the center of another set of leaves, where it was trapped completely.
Somehow it seemed all right when I could no longer see it. “By the way,” I asked, “exactly how does the plant eat the bug?” She fixed me with a stare. “A long, slow, painful acid bath.”
Is there an SPCB — Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Bugs?