Sunday, January 04, 2009

Killing Ants on Peonies -- 1945

Reading the 1945 book "1001 Garden Questions Answered" by Alfred Carl Hottes is like entering a Dickensian time warp.

Mr. Hottes was a Professor of Horticulture at Ohio State University and a technical advisor for Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The book consists primarily of his answers to questions sent in by readers of Better Homes & Gardens.

Anyone familiar with peonies knows their ripening buds are covered with ants, which lick up the nectar seeping from the swelling bulb. The age-old question has always been: what are the ants doing and is it harmful or beneficial to the peony?

Professor Hottes' answer was: kill 'em all and let the arsenate of lead sort them out.:

"Are ants injurious to Peony buds?"

Professor Hottes: "The black ants which infest your Peony buds will harm them. They are after the sweet fluid which is secreted in the buds. Dr. Whetzel has found that they carry the spores of the bud rot from one plant to another. See page 85 for ant control."

[Hmm ... page 85 ... here it is ...]

How are ants controlled?

Professor Hottes: There are both meat-eating ants and sweet-eating ants which confine their diets rather closely.

(1) Drench their hills with boiling water.
(2) Pour a little carbon bisulphide or gasoline in the holes.
(3) Moisten sponges with molasses, poisoned with arsenate of lead,
(4) Use pieces of meat or fat and when covered with ants, drop them into scalding water.
(5) Use a commercial preparation containing thallium sulfate.
(6) One ant eradicator contains monochloronapthalene, a formidable name but it is a compound similar to moth balls."

In real life, ants don't hurt peonies any more than bees hurt peonies.

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