Ants On Camellia Flowers: Why Are Camellia Buds Covered With Ants

A pink camellia flower bud on a shrub
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When you see ants on camellia buds, you can bet there are aphids nearby. Ants love sugary sweets and aphids produce a sweet substance called honeydew as they feed, so ants and aphids are perfect companions. In fact, ants love honeydew so much that they protect aphid colonies from their natural enemies, such as ladybeetles.

How Do You Get Ants Out of Camellias?

To get rid of ants on camellia flowers, you must first get rid of the aphids. Once the honeydew source is gone, the ants will move on. Look for aphids on the buds and on the undersides of the leaves near the buds.

First, try knocking the aphids off the camellia bush with a strong spray of water. Aphids are slow-moving insects that can't make their way back onto the shrub once you knock them off. The water also helps rinse off the honeydew.

If you can't get control of the aphids with a jet of water, try insecticidal soap. Soap sprays are one of the most effective and least toxic insecticides you can use against aphids. There are several very good commercial soap sprays on the market, or you can save money by making your own.

Here is the recipe for insecticidal soap concentrate:

  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) dishwashing liquid
  • 1 cup (235 ml.) vegetable-based cooking oil (peanut, soybean, and safflower oil are good choices.)

Keep the concentrate on hand so you'll be ready next time you see camellia buds covered with ants. When you are ready to use the concentrate, mix 4 tablespoons (60 ml.) with a quart (1 l.) of water and pour it into a spray bottle.

The spray must come into direct contact with the aphid to be effective, so aim the spray at the colony and don't be stingy—spray until it drips from the leaves and buds. The spray doesn't have any residual effect, so you'll have to repeat every few days as the aphid eggs hatch and the young aphids begin to feed on the leaves. Avoid spraying when the sun is directly on the leaves.

Jackie Carroll

Jackie Carroll has written over 500 articles for Gardening Know How on a wide range of topics.