ant_peony.jpgThe relationship between ants and peonies is an old one (and one people have many misconceptions about!). I love watching the ants guard the sticky buds as they grow ever larger (the buds, not the ants), usually one ant per bud. They enjoy eating the sticky nectary substance that the bud produces, and in exchange, keep other insects off the plant. They can get pretty feisty about it. My husband and I watched with interest as a honey bee landed on a peony bud to get a piece of the nectary-action. Within a second or two, an ant came running up from the underside of the bud and ran right into the bee’s backside! The bee took off for another bud and received the same treatment. I thought “Wow…we should all be very grateful that ants aren’t any larger than they are!” I picked up a small stick and touched a bud with it. Within seconds, an ant came charging up the bud, ran on to the stick, and startled me enough to make me drop the stick (hope I didn’t hurt the little guy). I was inspired to grab my camera to catch an ant guarding a bud.

Meanwhile, no, if you have ants on your peonies, it doesn’t mean they are eating them or doing anything bad. And if you don’t have ants on your peonies, that’s not really problem either. (One of my favorite calls at the Master Gardener Help Desk years ago was a lady asking if she should catch ants and put them on her peony buds. What a fun job that would be!)