Ants on peonies

Question: “Help, I’ve got ants on peonies, and they’re all over the buds. Can I spray them?”

Answer: Contrary to popular belief, these insects don’t harm the peony flowers at all, so there’s no reason to spray them.

If you have ants in the garden, they will be attracted to a sugary coating on the peony flower buds. So don’t worry too much: these insects may get a lot of bad press, but they don’t harm peonies at all.

ants on peonies

Don’t spray or you’ll kill
beneficial insects too

Ants on cut flower peonies

Granted, ants can be a nuisance if you’re cutting peonies for display in vases.

To get the ants off your flowers, dip them into a pail of cool water for about half a minute or so to swish the insects off before you take your flowers into the house.

A lot of gardeners think that peonies need ants for their buds to open.

But this is another common myth that just won’t go away. There’s no truth to this old wives tale.

So unless ants establish a colony in or around your peony plants, they shouldn’t bother your plants too much. They are more of a nuisance than a pest.

Can I spray the ants?

Answer: You and your garden are better off if you don’t. Ants on peonies won’t hurt your flowers, but indiscriminate spraying of pesticides will kill off beneficial pollinators and good insects such as ladybugs. Insecticides will also leave harmful residues that you don’t want on flowers for the house.

More information on peony pests

Other insects that may bother peonies include flea beetles, which can cause bud damage, and thrips, very small insects that resemble flies, which can damage the flowers and cause the petals to turn brown. When you see evidence of these pests, you can spray them with insecticidal soap every three days for two weeks.

Rose chafer beetles can also damage peony buds. Those you can control organically with neem-based products.

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