The same sugar solution that attracts your hummingbirds will also be attractive to ants, bees and wasps. Not only will they drink, they will also contaminate the nectar and sometimes even keep the hummingbirds from using the feeder. Ants getting inside the feeder will drown and contaminate the nectar as their bodies decompose.
As for bees and wasps ….. I have seen bees and wasps at my feeder so thick that the hummingbirds couldn’t feed at all. Thumping them with a rolled up newspaper seemed to help a little, but every time I thumped one, it wasn’t long before it was replaced by another. Besides being a little too risky …. after a while it begins to take a toll on your feeder! So, let’s examine some alternative possibilities to controlling pests at your hummingbird feeder.
- Keep the ants from finding your hummingbird feeder
Using a drip less feeder is one way to help keep the ants from locating your hummingbird feeder. Bottle-type feeders have a tendency to drip. When the air that’s trapped above the nectar heats up, it expands and forces the nectar out through the feed ports. Basin or saucer type feeders are designed so that they are less likely to drip.
- Keep the ants away from the hummingbird nectar
okay, the ants have found your feeder …. go to plan b ….. The best way to keep ants away from the nectar is to use some sort of “ant guard”. An ant guard is a barrier that’s placed between the ants and the
hummingbird nectar. These aunt guards are built into some feeders in the form of an ant moat that can be filled with water to keep the ants away from the nectar. But they can also be purchase separately and added to a feeder. They usually consist of a plastic cup about 3 inches in diameter that fits tightly around the hanger wire above the feeder. Once the cup is filled with water the ants can’t get to the nectar.
You can also make your own ant moat using the plastic cap from a spray can. Punch or drill a hole in the cap to run the feeder hanger wire through, then use hot glue or silicone sealant to seal the hole and make the lid water proof so you can fill it with water. (my personal cheapo re-purposing favorite!)
Controlling bees and wasps
- Buy a feeder with bee guards Some hummingbird feeders come equipped with plastic mesh bee guards. Unfortunately, a lot of these Hummingbird feeders will also be prone to dripping which will undermine the effectiveness of the bee guards.
- Try moving the feeder Sometimes just moving the hummingbird feeder a few feet will trick the insects into thinking that it’s gone and they won’t find it. If your insects happen to be too smart to fall for this one….. try taking the feeder down for a day or two until they quit looking for it. The hummingbirds won’t give up as quick as the insects, so once you hang it back up the Hummingbirds will find it again.
- Give the insects their own feeder Personally, I would rather go back to thumping them with a rolled up newspaper before I conceded and tried this trick, but it’s a technique used effectively by lots of people, so I thought it appropriate to mention here. You will need two hummingbird feeders, one for the bees and wasps and one for the hummingbirds.
Bees and wasps are more attracted to higher concentrations of sugar, so in their feeder use a nectar ratio of 1 part sugar to 3 parts water. In the hummingbirds feeder, instead of using the standard 1 to 4 ratio, use a ratio of 1 part sugar to 5 parts water. This ratio although not as sweet as the 1 to 4, will still be good enough for the hummingbirds, but not nearly as attractive to the bees and wasps as the feeder with the 1 to 3 ratio. Give the bees and wasps a few hours to attach themselves to their feeder then move it away from the hummingbird feeder and hope they follow.
- Buy a basin or saucer-type hummingbird feeder. These type feeders are pretty much drip proof, so they’re not as likely to attract insects in the first place. Also, the nectar level will be lower and out of reach to the insects, but not out of reach to the hummingbirds with their long tongues. My favorite basin-type feeder is the HummZinger. It’s only slightly more expensive, but has several features that might warrant a high price. The HummZinger has patented Nectar guard tips which are flexible membranes attached to the feed ports that prohibit entry from flying insects, but allow Hummingbirds to feed as usual. The HummZinger also has a built in ant moat that will stop crawling insects from getting to the nectar. This hummingbird feeder can solve your ant, bee and wasp problems all at the same time.