Ants on a Peony Bud

We have peonies in our backyard garden, on the verge of flowering. I saw that there were ants on every single bud. I had see this before, and didn’t think it a cause for alarm as I have never seen any damage done to the plant or to the flower, but had never looked into it.

What little I could find on the Web suggests that the ants are definitely not harming the plant in any way, though nobody seems to be entirely sure what they are doing.

Watching the ants it definitely appeared as though they were interested in some substance on the buds — the following picture shows a pair of ants with their pincers down on the split in the bud, seemingly touching the top surface but not doing any visible harm to the plant, or even gouging anything out of it. Whatever it is they are interested in must be on the top layer of the bud, perhaps a fine layer of liquid sugar or something similar. I also wonder if perhaps there is some benefit to the emerging flower, the ants likely driving away anything else that might do real harm to the plant.

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