Better know a kind of rubbish carnivorous plant: Nepenthes bicalcarata
Okay, so blah blah if you don’t know how pitcher plants usually operate, it’s like this. Nepenthes bicalcarata operates by outsourcing. To ants. Yes, that’s right, this motherfucker is a carnivorous myrmecophyte. Technically it’s also primarily a myrmecophage, which handily demonstrates that you can’t trust ant-plants any more than you can trust plant-ants.
It’s actually kind of an open question about whether or not it’s a kind of rubbish carnivorous plant or like the best plant to ever carnivore, because for fuck’s sake, it’s a carnivorous plant that dispatches its ant (Camponotus schmitzi) hordes to destroy you and feed you to it if it looks like it might not be up to the job itself. Also, it eats the ants themselves. Probably after they’re dead, but I mean, I wouldn’t put it past these bastards to demand routine anty ritual sacrifice. Because plants. And ants.
So the plant’s kind of rubbish insofar as its digestive pitcher fluid is like practically fucking rainwater in comparison to most pitcher plants’ pitcher fluid. It’s got a pH of like 5, for real. Neutral is 7. Most plants who want to be taken seriously in the “drowning and eating things” world clock in at somewhere around 2.5. They also don’t bother with a lot of the surfactants and polymers that drown the fuck out of things. I mean, it’s basically just an ant wading pool at this point, which is good for the ants they keep in their stems.
What the pitcher plant does is basically have super-long-lasting pitchers. They’re big, and deep, and they last a really long time, and the stems that support them have this puffed up little knob that provides space for the ants to nest. The ants spend most of their time hanging our under the peristome. Well, hiding under the peristome is a more accurate way of putting it, really.
Above: Ants that are as happy as ants ever get.
Unlike most plant-ants, they don’t really give a fuck if you want to crawl around on their plant so long as you’re not trying to eat it. They basically wait for something to fall in, at which point they bite their feet, swarm the fuck out of them—or both—and prevent them from escaping.
The plant kind of needs this bonus, because it hasn’t really invested in wax coating, either. The interior of the pitcher is just not actually very slippery. It’s fucking ridiculous, the fucks this plant can get out of giving because this ant hangs around. They even clean the edge of the peristome, keeping it nice and shiny and slippery because that way they don’t have to fight fair. I mean, really. This fucking plant, and these fucking ants.
Anyway, what happens then is that the ants remove the bug—usually another, bigger ant— from the pitcher, haul it up to the underside of the peristome, and eat it themselves. Or some of it, anyway. They bite it into pieces, eat what they want, and drop the rest of the corpse into the pitcher. They’ll also chuck their own dead into the pitcher, and of course any detritus or waste products of their own that they clean out of the colony’s living space wind up in the pitcher too. Everything goes into the pitcher! Yay!
The only concession these plants really make to being death-traps is a pair of nectar-secreting spikes that hang over their gaping, ant-filled maws and point directly down into their gaping, ant-filled maws.
Ants who haven’t come to an agreement with them crawl down the spikes to get the nectar, and then are frequently unlucky enough to take a nosedive to their doom. Pretty much apart from that, the plant has discovered that trying is hard, and if it waits long enough, some ants will just come along and take care of most everything for it.
Meanwhile, the ants have learned to swim and dive and recognize the difference between the weevils that attack new buds (which will eventually turn into the colony’s new home once the current pitcher dies) and every other bug on the planet that they don’t need to worry about until it falls into the trap. They also kill and eat (and feed leftovers to the plant) the fly and mosquito larvae that take up residence in the pitcher’s sadly not-very-acidic fluid. This not only prevents the larvae from swiping the plant’s dead prey before the plant can digest them, but it makes sure that the biomass the larvae has already taken mostly goes back to the plant. I mean, either the ants are getting taken for a ride, or the plant has tricked them into thinking of it as their deity.