Multiple ants crawling over an unopened peony bud.

Ants on Peony Buds

If you’ve ever grown peonies, you might have noticed ants swarming around the buds of these beautiful flowers. This sight can be puzzling and may raise concerns about the health of your plants. Are the ants harming your peonies, or are they just innocent bystanders? Understanding the relationship between ants and peonies can dispel some common myths and help you appreciate this natural interaction in your garden.

The Ant-Peony Connection

Ants on an unopened peony bud in search of nectar.

The primary reason ants are attracted to peony buds is the nectar that the buds produce. Peony buds secrete a sweet, sticky substance known as nectar.

This nectar is rich in sugars and serves as an irresistible food source for ants. As the ants feed on the nectar, they tend to patrol the peony buds diligently, often giving the impression that they are either harming or protecting the plant.

A Symbiotic Relationship

Close-up of a single ant on a peony bud.

The relationship between ants and peonies is a classic example of mutualism, where both parties benefit from their interaction. While the ants receive nourishment from the nectar, the peonies gain some advantages as well.

One significant benefit is the protection against herbivorous insects. Ants are aggressive defenders of their food sources, and their presence can deter pests that might otherwise damage the peony buds.

This protective service, although incidental, helps ensure that the buds develop into healthy, vibrant flowers.

Dispelling Myths About Ants and Peonies

Close-up of an ant crawling within an open peony bloom.

One common myth is that ants are necessary for peonies to bloom. While it’s true that ants are frequently found on peony buds, their presence is not essential for the flowers to open.

Peonies will bloom perfectly well without ants. The misconception likely arises from the regular association of ants with peony buds, leading to the erroneous belief that one depends on the other.

Another concern gardeners often have is whether ants harm peonies. The good news is that ants do not damage the peony plants. They do not chew on the buds, leaves, or stems; they are solely interested in the nectar.

Therefore, there is no need to use pesticides or take measures to remove the ants, as they are harmless and even beneficial in some respects.


Finding ants on your peony buds is a natural and beneficial phenomenon. These tiny creatures are attracted to the sweet nectar produced by the buds and, in return, provide a level of protection against other pests.

By understanding the mutualistic relationship between ants and peonies, gardeners can enjoy the beauty of their blooming peonies without unnecessary concern. Rather than viewing ants as a problem, we can appreciate them as part of the vibrant, interconnected life in our gardens.

So, the next time you see ants busily working on your peony buds, remember that they are playing a small but important role in the health and vitality of your plants.