Hummingbirds love nectar, so if you put out a feeder, there’s a good chance they’ll come and visit your garden. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones who are attracted to the sweet smell of sugar water. If you’re not careful you could find your feeder full of ants, wasps and bees.
While hummingbirds do eat insects as part of their diet, they can be put off from drinking sugar water if it’s full of dead bugs. Water full of dead bugs can also be unhealthy for the hummers to drink so how can you stop ants and bees taking over your hummingbird feeder?
Here are a few ideas.
1. Use a feeder with insect prevention built in
Many feeders have bee guards and ant moats built in. It’s always worth paying that bit extra to get one of these if it protects your nectar.
Ants love sweet things and they can climb to get to the feeder. An ant moat is simply a tray which sits around the feeder and you fill it with water. The ants can then get as far as the water, but they can’t get to the nectar. Moats can also protect your feeder from other insects such as earwigs and beetles.
If you don’t have one already on your feeder, these are very easy to install.
Bee guards are tiny cages which fit over the feeding ports. They don’t let the bees get inside, but the hummingbirds’ long, thin tongues can still get to the nectar (there are a selection of bee guards available here).
2. Keep it clean
As the hummingbirds feed, you may get drops of sugar water around the outside of the feeder. If your feeder has a leak, this can also cause a build up of nectar, and this will attract insects.
One way to prevent this is to keep your feeder clean. Sugar water should be kept fresh, and changing this every few days provides tasty, fresh nectar for the birds. When you change the water, check around the outside of the feeder, and wipe away any excess sugar you can see around it.
Once a week you can take the feeder down and soak it overnight in clean water and this will remove any dried on sugar water in all areas of the feeder.
You should also keep an eye on your garden to see if there is any garbage which may be attracting bugs. Flowers and shrubs are a natural attractant, and you need to keep these. What you should be looking out for is spilled garbage, or soda cans left lying around. If you enjoy a meal in your garden, always clean up properly afterwards.
3. Site your feeders carefully
Most of us hang our feeders from a tree or pole, and this can make it easier for insects to get to the feeder.
Use fishing line
Ants can climb poles and branches, but they can’t climb up fishing line as it is too thin.
Insects like the sun, so if you have a nice shady spot in the garden, hang your feeder there. This will also help keep your sugar water for longer too, as sunshine will make it go moldy a lot quicker.
Move it around
It may sound simple, but just moving your feeder a few inches to another branch can help reduce bees and ants. Insects easily lose track of where food has been, and they tend to focus on the most readily available source of food at the time. Hummingbirds use their strong sense of smell and will still find the nectar in the feeder.
We’ve found a YouTube video which has a few extra tips and tricks to keep Bees off your feeders!
4. Consider the color yellow
Hummingbirds are attracted to colors, particularly the color red, which is why most feeders are red. Bees, however, are more attracted to the color yellow. If your feeder is yellow, or has yellow parts, they are more likely to be attracted to it.
You can use this to your advantage, by setting up yellow feeders or feeding stations in a nice sunny spot away from your hummingbird feeder to attract bees to feed there.
5. Provide food for bees
Bees are very good for the local environment and are good to have in our garden. If you provide plenty of natural nectar, there’s a good chance they will leave your feeder alone. You’ll also end up with a very attractive garden.
Some good flowers to plant are fuchsia, trumpet vine and milkweed, but bees love lots of flowers and shrubs which they can feed from.
What To Avoid
If bees and ants are a big problem, you may consider trying other methods to get rid of them, but be very careful, as you may also be endangering the hummingbirds.
- Don’t use insecticides. If anyone suggests you spray the feeder with insecticide, don’t. There’s a good chance this can also get to the nectar, and that could harm the hummers.
- Don’t spread anything on the feeder. Other suggestions include spreading oil or petroleum jelly over the pole or feeder. This will stop insects from using it, but it could also adversely affect hummingbirds. If oil or any substance gets on to their wings, it could be absorbed in to the feathers, making it harder for them to fly.
You will never be able to completely rid your feeder of insects, but by following these few steps you can keep them to a minimum so that your hummers can fully enjoy their sugar water.