People who grow and love peonies may have noticed that ants often appear on new blooms. Around and around the ants go, apparently looking for something, but it’s often unclear what that is. And yet, your peonies don’t suffer from the ants’ behavior, so you may be wondering what the ants are doing there at all. Many happy, healthy peonies host black ants. The ants are not hurting the plants, but they’re not helping them, either.
The explanation that many peony growers have heard is that ants are somehow beneficial to the peonies and that without them, the peony buds wouldn’t open. Because ants are so common on buds and recently opened flowers, it is assumed that ants are either beneficial to the plant or detrimental to the plant.
Ants are neither beneficial nor harmful to the peony buds or blossoms. According to Ron Smith, a horticulturalist at North Dakota State University, the flower bud scales secrete a carbohydrate-rich sap that ants depend on as a food source. Their consumption of the sap, however, hurts the buds in no way.
According to the Heartland Peony Society, the ants should disperse as the buds open. If they don’t, and you want to bring cut flowers inside but would rather not bring the ants with them, just give the cut flowers a slight shaking to dislodge the ants, recommends George Weigel of PennLive.com.
Whatever you do, don’t reach for an insecticidal spray to kill the ants. The ants are doing your peonies no harm whatsoever, and a dose of insecticide will certainly do more harm than good when it inevitably kills beneficial insects. Honeybees are easily killed by insecticides, as are ladybugs and parasitic wasps, all of which are instrumental in keeping your garden alive, as well as naturally pest free.