Feeding on Nectar
- Ants will seek out any sweet substance they can find. Many types of flowers produce energy-rich nectar, so finding ants on leaves, stems and flower heads is not unusual. Peonies are notorious for their ability to draw ants to the opening flowers. Some people think these ants help to open the flowers, but the truth is, they are merely collecting nectar. The flowers will open on their own, even without the ants' help. If peony blossoms do not open, it is probably due to cool, wet weather or where the plant is located, according to North Dakota State University horticulturist Ron Smith.
- If you have ants on your flowers, examine the plants carefully to see if aphids are also present. Nearby ant colonies will often "farm" certain types of aphids as a food source, according to ScienceDaily. The aphids produce a sweet "honeydew" that ants love. The ants produce a chemical on their feet that limits the movement of the aphids, keeping them nearby as a handy source of this honeydew. Scientists have also observed ants biting the wings off the aphids to prevent their escape. If you remove the aphids, you will also remove the reason that the ants are staying near your flower plants.
- Some plants depend on ants to help with pollination. The ants do not have wings, so they must walk to find their food. This food is most often the nectar of plants. As the ants walk over plants, they collect pollen on their bodies, which they carry to other plants as they go. This often occurs on low-growing woodland plants that have small, inconspicuous flowers, with the flowers very close to the stem, according to the U.S. Forest Service site. In this action, the ants serve an important function in helping to propagate plants.
- Though ants on flower heads pose no danger to the plant, you may wish to eliminate them purely for aesthetics. Placing baby powder around the plants will help to deter ants. You can also try removing the scented trails that ants make to lead others to food sources by wiping the sidewalk or path with bleach. You can set out trays of sugar water that ants will be drawn into and drown. Natural compounds such as diatomaceous earth will also help to eliminate ants from your garden.