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The Ant & The Peony, a garden haiku, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

benevolent myth
growing in gardens worldwide
do ants open buds?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Do Ants Open Peonies?, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2009, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

When the peonies on the side of our house start to bud in June, lines of ants quickly follow. Until a moment ago, I believed that ants licked the sugar off the peonies, helping their transition from bud to bloom. Turns out that’s a myth. According to Robert F. Gabella at GardenOpus, the ants’ annual ritual of  “tickling of the buds” occurs because they are attracted to the sweet resin on the peonies; the buds would open regardless of the ants.

Of course, it’s more fun to bury my head in the compost and keep believing that the ant has a reciprocal and benevolent relationship to the peony, much like the mythology surrounding the ant and the grasshopper — (for more detail, see ybonesy’s post The Ant & The Grasshopper – Ann Patchett & Lucy Grealy). For me, the myth is more delicious than the truth; perhaps the ant wants to keep its little secret.

 
 

Do Ants Open Peonies?, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2009, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

A few other Fun Facts about peonies:

 
 
 
 

  • they may not flower until after the first season
  • established peonies can be heavy feeders
  • peonies are especially needy of potassium (essential for stem strength and disease resistance)
  • herbaceous peonies are known to remain in the same position, undisturbed, for over a century
  • after cutting, you can remove ants from peonies by using a mild soap spray or dish detergent (from The Old Farmer’s Almanac)
  • ants do provide protection–they attack other bud-eating pests by stinging, biting, or spraying them with acid and tossing them off the plant (also from The Old Farmer’s Almanac)

 
 
If you are like me, you spend a lot of time digging in the dirt and constantly have questions about plants and gardening solutions. Do you know the names of your flowers? Maybe you have trouble with groundhogs or slugs, or need advice about seed startingpassion flowers, or orchids. You can read more tips from award-winning horticulturist, hybridist, photographer and author Robert F. Gabella at GardenOpus (also found on Twitter!)

 

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, June 18th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), Ghost With A Green Thumb, PRACTICE: Digging in the Dirt – 10min

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Child of the Earth and Me, a Jerusalem Cricket in the Rio Grande Valley on a March morning, photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



The weather is getting warm, which means insects and spiders are coming out.

I almost burned the sausage the other morning on account of running outside to look at an unusual creature in our front yard.

“It’s a CHILD OF THE EARTH!” I screamed.

We used to see them all the time when I was a child of the earth myself. They scared the pee out of me, with their shiny translucent casing and black-dot eyes on either side of their humungous heads.

The Child of the Earth is really a Stenopelmatus Fuscus, or a Jerusalem Cricket. In other, less dramatic parts of the world, it’s commonly known as the Potato Bug, and I guess one could argue that it vaguely looks like a spud. (I, however, think it more closely resembles a crawling fetus.) It’s innocuous (like you’d expect a child to be) and lives mostly burrowed underground, which accounts for its pale complexion.

I’m fascinated by most bugs. The other day we came across a big, thick centipede. I was simultaneously freaked out and hypnotized by its long, plastic-looking body and pincers on the tip of its head (or was that its bottom?). It wasn’t until it started to amble — with its oodles of legs — in my direction that I let out a yelp and high-tailed it out of there.

In short, I’m both attracted to and repulsed by creepy crawly critters.




What about you? How do feel about moths and ants and crickets and beetles?

Do you run the other way when you see them, or are you the one others call to come get the Daddy Long Legs out of the bathtub?

Think about all manner of bug-like creatures. Think about your response when you see them. Which ones creep you out? Which ones do you consider to be magical?

Set your timer for 15 minutes and at the top of your page write the words, Everything I know about bugs….

Get your hand moving (as if you have ants in your pants) and don’t stop until the buzzer rings.




Ants in my Croiss-ants, the first ants of spring having a picnic in our kitchen on a warm March day, photo © 2008 by Jim. All rights reserved.


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