Peony Power

What else would you call it. The peonies put the insects in a sweetened trance. I have heard the Allium are a bee favorite, but not one bee was seen circling the onion; not one bug passing through.

But the peonies call out with the offer of sweet nectar. Everybody looking for a handout, but the buds are tight as a clam. Ants crawl and wasps fly in.  The peony offers up the sweet treat most likely to use the ants in some way. Not as the popular myth suggests, but possibly to have ants dine on insects detrimental to the peony. There must be a logical function to the luring in of the insects.

Ants get a bad rap all the time yet have many fine qualities. Their fine qualities get used by example in kid’s motivational stories. Hardworking, determined, collaboration are all qualities to instill in our little people.

People spray to rid them of home and garden. I noticed that they are pretty harmless and their stay on the peony is quite short. They are NOT harmless on my strawberries though.Ants are always so maligned, yet it does not stop the ants from completing their day’s work.  They stay the course and work as a team.

Black Ant (Formicidae fusca)

Pretty white butt band on this little worker.

Flies like the peony nectar too. Flies do not seem to have admirable qualities.

These tiny ants all seem to work together. Round and round they go, intoxicated on nectar.

Now the wasps are social too, but forage by themselves. I saw a few wasp, ant squabbles too when they vied for the same spot.

Paper Wasp

The colors and patterning on the wasp below is beautiful. I took photos at all angles on this type of wasp. I never noticed before that the wasp has this transparent membrane at the base of the wing. The light glistens off of it in the image below. Above it has a lacy look. Here I have the macro lens on the camera. See the wing?

Here I am back to the 18 to 135 zoom. A little difference in detail.

Paper Wasp

No bugs here either. The peonies are the main show as far as the bugs are concerned. Next post I will show all the other blooms the bugs are ignoring.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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32 Responses to Peony Power

  1. lula says:

    You are so detailed when it comes to narrate a story that one could miss out! I love bees doing their work, for your images I can picture you shooting at flowers. Really fantastic!

  2. lifeshighway says:

    I have always been a little intimidated by peonies. I can’t wait until you show them opened up in all their glory.

  3. Donna says:

    I concur with Lula, I was imagining you frozen to the peonies as you watched, waited and clicked. I have so many pollinators buzzing around even on the little blooms I spotted small bees and flies. I would never see them if I wasn’t waiting, gazing and clicking…beautiful post Donna

  4. I have never noticed the translucent membrane on the wing either. Thanks for showing us in your photos. My peonies are blooming now, but I also love the buds of peonies.

  5. I love peonies! I’ve never grown them myself but love seeing them in bouquets and especially in others’ gardens. Those are some beautiful close-ups of the insects. Great post!

  6. Masha says:

    Amazing close-ups! I loved the pictures of the paper wasp, although I confess I like them no more than the ants…

  7. aerie-el says:

    Those are incredible images! Worthy of NatGeo, I’d say!
    It is fascinating the way each creature has its function in nature.

  8. b-a-g says:

    Brillant photos – especially of the wasps. I have read that ants don’t eat aphids. They suck nectar out of them, then transport them to less populated plants.

  9. Grace says:

    Great shots. I love the wasp photos especially, even though I’m not terribly fond of wasps. Nice job!

  10. One says:

    Donna, thanks for the link. I have several kind of wasps in the garden right now. Like you, I took shots from all angles. I posted the one that was grinning. Didn’t know they can grin. 🙂 Who knows, what else the wasp could do?

    I love your first photo and also your drawing of ants. They are just too cute.

  11. Holley says:

    I don’t mind ants in the garden, as long as they are not fire ants. I remember watching them for hours when I was a kid. (Back before electronics! 🙂 ) Great shots!

  12. Greggo says:

    I understand that wasps are beneficial. But I’ve had my issues with paper wasps and hornets. As in club shaped hands and face after getting stung by those mamajaammas!!!They are mean in masses.

  13. It’s almost Memorial Day and that’s when my Peonies usually bloom. I’m thinking they might be a little later this year, but we’ll see. Looks like you’re on a similar schedule. Amazing shots, as always!

  14. Theta says:

    Thanks for delighting me with your photos. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the beauty in ants and wasps before!

  15. Laurrie says:

    Incredible shots! And I like the onion photos. MoBot had acres and acres of purple globe alliums blooming when I was there last week, but I couldn’t get a single good shot of them. All mine ended up washed out and looking stick like. Your purple globe photos are amazing. Love the ants, not the flies.

  16. Donna, I love the posts that you do on fauna–so interesting and well photographed. You need to think of at least one nice thing to say about flies–they are crying :-). My mid-season (old-fashioned) peonies just started to open this weekend and now it will be almost 90 degrees for the next week. Bye, bye peonies.

  17. debsgarden says:

    I really enjoyed your close-up of ants and bees. They really put the insects in a new perspective! I am trying to decide a sunny spot where I can plant peonies, not easy in my mainly shady garden. But fabulous peonies grew at my childhood home, and I have a sentimental yearning for them.

  18. Cathy says:

    What amazing photography! The detail on the wasps is exquisite! Wish I could grow alliums like that!

  19. Dear Donna, I just did a seminar on pollinators, and some new gardeners were sure the ants were harming their peonies. I don’t think they believed me when I said they do their share of pollinating and do no harm. Wish the pictures in my slide show were as good as yours. P. x

  20. Kala says:

    You have captured some fantastic details of the wasps. I love peonies, bugs and all.

  21. Susan says:

    Wow…those are soe beautiful. I love purple.
    Have a blessed day!

  22. NCSue says:

    STUNNING macro work! Wonderful
    I stopped by from McDougall Photography’s site, and I’m so glad I did!
    BTW, I have a page on my site that lists more than 200 hops, memes, and photo challenges… some for each day of the week. Check under the header for the link to that page. I’ve also just started a BlogFrog community that focuses on hops, carnivals, memes, and photo challenges. Go to to visit & participate.
    I hope you’ll visit me soon. I follow back!

  23. Serline says:

    Great close-ups, although from an eye-pleasing standpoint, I much prefer the bug-less photos of the beautiful flowers ;-P

  24. Terrific photo work… Happy Friday!!

  25. deb says:

    I enjoyed your post. So many incredible photos! The peonies are so pretty. What a beautiful color! A lot of the ants around here are definitely not harmless. Their bite is painful!

  26. Oh my goodness. These shots are so beautiful. I love what you captured.

  27. If I were a bug, I’d choose the peony too 🙂 Lovely, incredible macros on those insects. Just delightful XOL

  28. livvy30 says:

    Thanks for stopping by! I don’t think I’d get that close to a wasp!

  29. LOVE peonies…and these photos are stunning!

  30. Wow! Some amazing shots here – I love the one of the ants circling around but my favorite is the second paper wasp shot. They are all great.

  31. Barbara says:

    Thanks so much for these fabulous photos! As a science teacher and gardner, I really appreciate and enjoy them!
    btw, a small sprinkling of cinnamon on the counter where ants used to visit me in the spring, seems to deter most of them. Super! I’d rather see them outside!

  32. What a fabulous assortment of insects all attracted to the peony buds. I’m not a fan of ants. They ranch the citrus scale on my lemon trees…they farm the aphids on the new leaves on the apples…and worse still, they try to steal food from the bee hives. I don’t kill them, but we have had to construct various tanglefoot/moat type barriers to keep them out of the hives. It is funny how insects are heavily attracted to the same plant all at once. Our Encelia and Ceanothus seem to have a similar effect, no doubt also producing an abundance of sweet nectar.

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