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Heliamphora feeding on ants...

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#1 Jose R

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 11:43 AM

I have noticed over the last few years a steady trail of ants entering my glasshouse and heading straight for my Heliamphoras. This trip has usually proven to be a one way trip for most of the unfortunate ants.
The great ant treks usually occur during the warmer months but living in Sydney we do get some ant activity in Winter, especially on sunny days.
The ants are attracted to all my Heliamphoras with adult pitchers. The never go to plants with juvenile pitchers. They work their way to the nectar spoon and as their numbers increase, they inevitably begin to fall into the pitcher. The smaller plants, “ minor, pulchella, huberi, hispida, sarracenioides and ciliata “ have little or no success in trapping the ants even after they have fallen in but the taller ones “ tatei, ionasii, neblinae, folliculata, glabra, nutans and heterodoxa “ have proven to be very adept at trapping a large number of ants in each pitcher.
I have been growing carnivorous plants for many years and had always seen my other plants catch vast quantities of insects, especially my sarracenias which I have growing outdoors and usually fill each pitcher to the rim with dead insects. The Heliamphoras on the other hand never seemed to catch anything. I put this down to the fact that they were in the glasshouse and could not attract prey or that they were perhaps not carnivorous. With the recent arrival of the ants, I am happy to conclude that they are indeed carnivorous.
I don’t know if the trapping of the ants makes any difference to the health of my plants as the shorter species grow just as well as the taller ones but one difference I have found is that the taller plants which trap the ants produce more flowers than the shorter species which attract the ants but cannot manage to trap them. Will have to keep notes for a few years to come to see if there is anything to this.
I know most of my fellow Heliamphora growers in The UK, Europe and the US grow their plants indoors so ant activity would be very low but if anyone else has experienced this I would be interested.


#2 James O'Neill

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 20:46 PM

Hi Jose, in the summer I put some of nepenthes and helis outside on a certain low growing plant in the garden. The plant, which is a saxifrage, has a large ant nest underneath and among the stalks, and the plants gorge on these. The nepenthes catch the most, but heliamphora catch a proportion of them.

#3 An D Smith

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 22:27 PM

Hi Jose and James

In my ant-free greenhouse, I have noticed that freshly opened Heli pitchers gorge themselves on loads of fungus gnats or Scariad flies. This feast goes on for around a month before whatever the attractant is ceases to work. Slugs too are attracted to the pitchers, usually found drinking the nectar from under the spoon. More than once these have been caught, ultimately rotting and causing the premature death of the pitcher.

The only plant I ever had that attracted ants by the hundred was Nepenthes ampullaria.

Thanks for your observations.



#4 dchasselblad74

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Posted 31 December 2011 - 19:29 PM

In the spring of 2011, I've decided to place my biggest Heli Heterodoxa x Minor outside where it can get full sun while it was still

cool. Spring soon turned into summer and I was starting to get concerned about the heat, but i still left it in the same spot

where it received the full summer sun and the I noticed a bunch of ants holding on to each other while they float in the

water in every single pitcher....I was amazed as to how and where did these ants come from....By the time it was mid summer

and was reaching 90 to 100 degree farenheit outside, I've decided to submerge the whole pot in a tub of water so the

evaporation can cool the plant down and to my surprise, not only are the pitchers filled with ants, they are now also filled with

common black flies and yellow jackets :shock: ...And to my surprise, despite the heat, my Heli just shot out more robust

pitchers...So I guess Heliamphora Heterodoxa x Minor can cope with 90 to 100 Degree Farenheit (35 Degree Celcius)...

#5 Greg Allan

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Posted 01 January 2012 - 18:14 PM

Very interesting- thanks for posting this info.