The first time I moved into a house where peonies were growing, I was surprised by all the ants crawling on the flowers. Then I heard that the ants helped the flowers bloom.
I’ve since discovered this isn’t true.
What the ants actually do for the flowers is protect them from other insects that would eat the blossoms. When a scout ant finds the nectar on a peony bud, they go back to the nest and let the other ants know. Those ants follow the pheromone trail the scout ant has left on the plant when it went back to the nest.
The ants want all the nectar for themselves so they protecting the flower from other insects that might eat the blossom.
I thought about ants and Peonies today when I was taking a picture of a portulaca flower in my garden with my macro lens, and this ant walked into it. Looking at the photo, I could see that the ant has pollen stuck to its legs. I’d never thought of ants as pollen spreaders.
So I looked into it and found that ants aren’t very good at spreading pollen even though it does get stuck on their legs. It’s something that’s more effectively done by flying insects who can quickly move from flower to flower.