Peonies, Ants and Social Stomachs

When I first heard that peonies need ants to bloom, I loved the idea.  It was simple and beautiful and gave us humans a good reason not to kill the ants on our peonies.

But then I learned this wasn’t true.

Peonies don’t need ants to bloom, but ants do help keep away many of the insects, like aphids, that might eat the flower.   So, still, a good reason to be grateful to the big black ants on the peony.

When I saw the ants on the bud of one of my peonies, I thought I’d get a video of them eating nectar from the flower.  Instead, as I looked at the screen of my iPhone, I saw what looked like (and is) one ant feeding another.

It’s called Trophallaxis.

The ants store a certain amount of food in one of their stomachs, known as the “social stomach”,  then they regurgitate it into another’s ants mouth.  They do this to feed each other but also it allows the ants to know that they are from the same colony.

If you watch my video to the end you’ll see the ant searching for nectar and cleaning off its antenna too.

4 thoughts on “Peonies, Ants and Social Stomachs

  1. Thanks for the new (to me) info about ants. That’s fascinating. Also, great job getting such sharp video of relatively small subject matter. The ants appear so large on my desktop computer that they look like creatures invented by Hollywood.

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