The peonies in my backyard always have ants crawling on the flower buds. A popular myth that ants “tickle the buds” or “lick the sugar” to help them open is not really true. The ants are attracted to the sweet nectar exuded on the buds, but the blossoms would open regardless of the ants' presence.
The ants do provide protection—they attack other bud-eating pests by stinging, biting, or spraying them with acid and tossing them off the plant. By protecting their food supply, the ants help my peonies bloom.
The first buds usually open after Memorial Day. The pink, red, and old-fashioned white peonies are the focal points in my backyard. I treasure them in my garden, but I also fill my house with their beauty and fragrance. Before I move the blooms indoors I carefully shake off the ants.