Peonies and Ants

But what is this thing with the ants and peonies? When you are working in your garden and you brush past your peony plant and argh you have ants crawling on you.

peonies and ants

Peony buds are swelling and some are in full bloom, depending on where you live. What’s better than Peony‚Äôs soft, luscious blossoms that smell so fragrant? Not much, except maybe the fragrance of lilacs, which are also intoxicating! I really love the month of May because there are so many trees, shrubs, and herbaceous perennials blooming at the same time.

But what is this thing with the peonies and ants?

It is kind of nasty, especially when you are working in your garden and you brush past your peony plant and argh you have ants crawling on you! /: O

But please, leave the ants alone to do their work. Peonies and ants have a symbiotic relationship that is quite fascinating. Peony buds secrete nectar as they develop, and the ants come and take the nectar for their own use. I’ve heard that this nectar can actually harden into a waxy substance that can prevent peony buds from blooming.

So Peonies and Ants Help each other?

So there is a little controversy about what role these ants play in the success of your peonies. Are they necessary for successful peony bloom, or are they just a neutral and interesting facet of nature. Whatever is the case; just leave the ants alone okay? There is no reason that you need to spray any kind of chemical or even non-toxic product on them.

Ants will disappear from the blossoms once they are open, so the chances that you will bring ants into your home when you cut them for an arrangement is quite small. But shake the stems a bit outside just to make sure. And check out what Heartland Peony Society has to say about ants and peonies:

Peonies and Ants

Now for some sincere philosophizing about peonies and their ants read this post from Cristy Foster over at Soul Carrot

Speaking of ants, I heard a rumor that ants will “carry off caterpillars,” so I had to check into that. According to a neat little site called Obsession with Caterpillars, ants are more into farming caterpillars like they do aphids in order to have a consistent source of nectar, which caterpillars and aphids secrete. Hmmm, kind of like peony buds! So maybe ants remove caterpillars from flowering plants and place them elsewhere?

That would be great! For example, every year that I plant petunias, invariably by August those little white butterflies are seen hovering over the petunia plants and laying eggs for larvae which turn into those little green caterpillars that devour every petunia bud before they open thus ruining the petunias. It’s war every summer that I plant petunias. They are so beautiful, but I hate the green wormy caterpillars. I have fun hunting them down and squishing them. How’s that for organic insect control?

We Need Ants

Just came across this succinct paragraph about the benefits of ants from New World Encyclopedia,

“Although viewed as pests by many people, ants play a tremendously important role in the earth’s natural ecosystems. They recycle dead plants and animals, enrich the soil, pollinate flowers, spread seeds, and are a major food source for many animals, among other contributions. Beyond these ecological values, humans benefit in many ways, including in the role of ants in keeping potentially harmful insects, such as termites and agricultural pests, under control. In some cultures, ants are used as food and ingredients in traditional medicines, and army ants (with their powerful mandibles) are even used as emergency sutures for wounds. Ants’ numerous symbiotic relationships with plants and thousands of species of arthropods (insects, spiders, mites, etc.) reflects on the harmony of nature, and ants’ unique and often fascinating behaviors adds to the human wonder of nature.”

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Julia has been practicing green cleaning for several years as the owner of As You Like It Home Cleaning and organic gardening for almost 20 years running Julia Houriet Custom Gardening. She studied landscape design at Radcliffe Seminars in Cambridge Massachusetts. Her expertise is gleaned from education and years of experience.

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