Do Bees Like Peonies?


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No spring garden is complete without an assortment of beautiful flowers. And peonies are certainly that! With their ruffled petals and delicate appearance, these sophisticated blooms are nothing if not beautiful. But what’s a beautiful flower without a happy little bee to pollinate it? So, do bees like peonies?

Bees love peonies, so plant them in your garden with confidence. These gorgeous flowers produce ample amounts of nectar before and after they bloom. They’re perfect for attracting more of these pollinators to your backyard.

Do bees like peonies better than other flowers?

Whether bees like peonies better than other flowers depends on each hive’s preference. However, it is safe to say that peonies are among many bees’ favorite flowers. And, it’s not hard to see why.

Peonies have extrafloral nectaries, meaning the glands of the flower that produce nectar don’t rely on the pollination process to do so. As a result, peonies typically begin leaking small amounts of nectar before they even bloom. It’s not uncommon to see bees buzzing around peony bushes before the buds have opened.

Once the flowers finally open up, the fragrance is overwhelming. So much so that most bees can’t resist it. Many bees are so eager to visit these flowers that they’ll fight each other for the chance. Fortunately, the flowerheads are fairly large — some peonies measure ten inches across. So there’s plenty of room for everyone.

To a small honeybee, the flowerheads are massive, and they’re brimming with pollen. A little worker bee can stay on the same peony for ages, filling up its “pollen pants”, the hairy spikes on its back legs used to hold onto pollen. 

So, you see, peonies save bees a lot of trouble. If bees can get all the pollen and nectar they need in just a few stops, that makes these flowers high-yield. Bees are more likely to visit flowers that are easy to feed on. It’s no surprise that peonies and bees are a match made in heaven. 

Do peonies attract ants, too?

Bees aren’t the only ones who are attracted to peonies. Ants are big fans of these blossoms, too, happily feasting on the pool of nectar peonies have to offer. Most people don’t want to bring ants to their backyards, and that’s understandable. However, there are some good reasons to do so. 

Ants are a blessing for plants in more ways than one. They help aerate the soil, which loosens up the ground and makes it easier for air and water to penetrate. They also eat caterpillars, which, when left to run riot, can cause irreparable damage to some plants. While you certainly don’t want to let ants take over your whole backyard, it’s okay to have a few here and there. 

Other tiny insects that congregate on peonies can damage the plant and prevent them from blooming. Peony thrips, small fly-like insects, enter the buds and eat them from the inside out. Peonies may also suffer damage from bulb mites, small white arachnids that eat peony bulbs, leading to rot. If you notice a group of insects overtaking your peonies, consider applying a bee-safe pesticide, such as diluted white vinegar. This should help eliminate the problem without harming the bees.

Do peonies attract other pollinators?

Did you know it takes peony bulbs three years to bloom? Four to five years if you start them from seeds. That may sound like a long time to you (and that’s because it is), but perfection can’t be rushed. Besides, these flowers are well worth the wait since they have the potential to attract so many pollinators to your yard.

Wasps are also attracted to peonies. They love the smell of peony buds and will be just as eager as bees to visit them. Even though wasps don’t collect pollen as bees do, they’re incidental pollinators, transferring the small amounts of pollen that stick to them from one flower to another. So they’re good to have around, too.

Peonies may not be as attractive to butterflies, though. The nectar present in double bloom varieties is often difficult for them to get to. And since peonies are so popular with bees, it’s possible that butterflies just don’t like the competition. You may see a butterfly visit your peonies here and there, but you’re better off planting snapdragons or lantana if you want to attract them.

Hummingbirds may or may not enjoy feeding on peonies. But, because hummingbirds also eat small insects, like flies and beetles, they may visit these flowers to prey on them. So even though these pollinators may not be pollinating the peonies, the peonies will still attract them to your backyard. 

Which peonies are bees most attracted to?

If you want to bring more bees to your backyard, you need to think like a bee. Which is better, the ornamental flowers that bloom again and again but have no nectar or pollen to speak of? Or the flowers that may not be as flashy, but are loaded with food? To a bee, the answer is most definitely the latter. 

Double bloom peonies are all the rage these days. But that extra layer of petals around the center makes it difficult for bees to get to their food. If you want to make things as easy as possible for them, plant single bloom peonies. Look for ‘Color Magnet’, ‘Baby Face’, and ‘Blitz Torte’ peonies. With the petals all located around the center disk, bees have plenty of room to explore these flowers.

If you’re itching to get your hands on double bloom peonies, but you still want the bees to be happy, you can have the best of both worlds. Semi-double bloom varieties like ‘Dreamtime’ and ‘Cincinnati’ have a lusher appearance than single blooms, but are still open enough for bees to pollinate them. Whichever cultivar you choose, deadheading is a good idea. Removing dead flowers helps the plant put more energy into producing new ones, instead of making seeds. And more blooms equal more bees. 

For best results, plant more than one peony plant. Whether you choose the same variety or pick and choose different ones doesn’t matter. Just make sure you have enough blossoms to feed your hive! Grow your peonies in well-drained soil in a spot that gets full sun. When taken care of properly, your peonies will last for years, growing bigger and bigger with each season. 

Peonies add a touch of refinement to any garden. By choosing the right varieties, you’ll be dressing up your backyard and helping out your local hive all at the same time — and that’s what growing a wild yard is all about!

About The Author
Michelle Sanders is an outdoor enthusiast who is passionate about teaching others how to observe and support their local wildlife. She enjoys gardening, birdwatching, and trying (in vain) to get butterflies to land on her.

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