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How to Keep Ants Out of Hummingbird Feeders
Struggling to keep ants away from your hummingbird feeder? Whether you’re dealing with ants, earwigs, or another creepy-crawly bug, you want them to leave your hummingbirds alone! Here are 10 tips for how to keep ants out of hummingbird feeders.
Why You Should Keep Bugs Off Your Feeder
While pests like ants and earwigs may not seem like a big issue at first, they can harm your hummingbirds. Because they’re small and fit through the nectar ports on your feeder, these insects will crawl into the nectar and drown, spoiling the sugar water faster and potentially sickening your birds.
In addition, they’re stealing food that’s meant for hummingbirds, and, as birders, we don’t like that!
While hummingbirds do enjoy eating insects, ants aren’t included on that list, so their presence is purely pesky. There are a few tricks to getting rid of these flightless bugs. (If you have bees, wasps, and the like bothering your hummingbirds, here’s a separate post on how to get rid of them.)
How to Keep Ants Off Hummingbird Feeder
Here are 10 tips for keeping ants out of hummingbird feeders. They vary in cost and complexity, and you’ll have the most success when you try several methods at once.
Use an Ant Moat
When dealing with ants, earwigs, and other non-flying insects, the solution for a bug-free hummingbird feeder is often simple. The most effective way to keep ants away from your hummingbird feeder is to use an ant moat. The moat is a little cup filled with water with hooks on either end. It keeps the ants from walking down into your hummingbird feeder, since they can’t pass through the water.
You can also get feeders with built-in ant moats if you don’t want to use a separate attachment.
You can even make your own ant moat using plastic bottles or large caps – here’s one tutorial:
Obviously the key here is to keep the moat full – if it runs out of water, they can walk through the moat and continue to get into your hummingbird feeder. Refill the moat regularly, especially if it’s hot or dry out. If you can’t keep up with refilling the water in your moat, you can try sprinkling cinnamon on the inside of it.
Try an Ant Guard
Similar to an ant moat, an ant guard is suspended between your feeder and the string to prevent ants. Instead of water, the ants are repelled by the permethrin mixture inside.
Suspend the Feeder with Fishing Line
Another option for stopping ants and earwigs includes suspending your feeder with fishing line string. Since it’s too thin and slippery for ants to climb on, they’ll leave your feeder alone. Try using string that’s safe to at least 10 lbs. to make sure the line will hold the nectar-filled feeder’s weight.
Clean the Feeder Regularly
Ants usually first find the feeder when there’s hardened sugar underneath or on the outside of the feeder. If the feeder is thoroughly cleaned on at least a weekly basis (more, including daily cleanings, are great), they won’t find sugar!
Check for Leaks
This tip can be combined with cleaning, since you can check for any cracks or issues with the feeder while you have it emptied. Cracks can cause additional sugar water leaks that will draw in even more ants. If you find cracks or other damage that causes leaking, either find a fix for it (sometimes as easy as tightening the parts) or invest in a new feeder.
Ants tend to be less interested in climbing things that are harder and farther to get to, making porches, decks, gutters, and more great places to suspend a feeder from. Traditional options like shepherd hooks aren’t as ideal, since they often give ants a clear path to the feeder.
If you have a small body of water, like a fountain, you can also try adding a shepherd hook to the middle of it and hanging your feeder from there. Ants won’t cross any significant amount of water.
Block the Ants’ Path
Wherever you choose to hang the feeder, make sure that there are no branches or other convenient bridges an ant could use to get closer to your feeder.
You can also try spreading cinnamon, cayenne pepper, vinegar, or diatomaceous earth along the path an ant would have to take, such as at the base of a shepherd hook.
Move Your Feeder
If ants have found your feeder already, try moving it at least 5 feet away. Your hummingbirds will still be able to find it, but ants can quickly get confused when a food source disappears from its usual location.
(Find out how hummingbirds find feeders.)
Keep It Out of the Sun
Positioning the feeder in a shaded area can help keep ants away and helps the sugar water stay fresh longer.
DON’T Use Insecticides or Oils
No matter how bad your ant infestation gets, don’t use any slippery oils or insecticides on or near your feeder. Oils, greases, petroleum jelly, and other sticky or slippery substances can keep ants at bay, but they’ll get on hummingbird feathers and keep them from flying. Rather than using oils or sticky tapes, use natural deterrents like cinnamon.
Insecticides are just as deadly to hummingbirds as they are to insects, so never use them anywhere near feeders or flowers!
Happy Hummingbird Watching!
You should now know how to keep ants away from hummingbird feeders! Try a combination of these tips to find what works best for you. Happy hummingbird feeding!