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When the Plant Is the Boss

by Laura Overdeck

Fan picture pitcher plants original artowkr by James HIt must be tough being a plant, worrying that some bird or bug will munch on you. But some plants fight back: the pitcher plant eats bugs! How does it do this? The plant has tube shapes filled with a sweet, sticky liquid. Ants and flies that dare to come close slide down the leaves into the pool, and can’t get out. Eventually they mix into the liquid and disappear; that’s how the plant “eats” the vitamins. So our friend James H. asked, how many bugs can a pitcher plant eat in a year? (and sent a photo of his own pet plants!) We haven’t found exact numbers, but one scientist figured out that some plants can catch up to 20 bugs at a time!

Wee ones: If a plant eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner just like you do, how many meals in a day is that?

Little kids: If the plant eats an ant, then a fly, then an ant, then a fly…what’s the 8th bug it eats?  Bonus: How many flies has it eaten by then?

Big kids: If a pitcher plant eats 20 bugs in each meal 3 times a day, how many does it eat in a day?  Bonus: If it kept that up every day, about how many would it eat in a year? You can round to 400 days to make a quick guess! (Hint if needed: How many would it eat in 4 days…then see how many in 40 days…then try 400.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answers:
Wee ones: 3 meals.

Little kids: A fly.  Bonus: 4 flies.

Big kids: 60 bugs a day.  Bonus: 24,000 bugs!

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