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How to Keep Bees Away from Hummingbird Feeders
One of the most frustrating aspects of keeping a hummingbird feeder is dealing with all the bees, wasps, yellow jackets, and other insects it attracts. Here are 9 ways to keep bees (and other flying pests!) away from hummingbird feeders.
Why Bugs are a Problem
It’s never good to have insects invading your hummingbird feeder. Bees and other flying pests can attack hummingbirds, and large swarms can scare hummingbirds away altogether. Because hummingbirds are so small, even one sting can be fatal.
The bugs are attracted to the hummingbird feeder for the same reason hummingbirds are – they love nectar and brightly colored flowers, or they smell something sweet and want to eat it. That doesn’t mean you have to put up with them, though!
How to Keep Bees Away from Hummingbird Feeders
These methods for keeping bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets away from hummingbird feeders vary in terms of cost and complexity. You’ll likely have the most success when you use several of these options at once.
Try a Saucer Feeder
Saucer style hummingbird feeders, as opposed to those with the usual inverted bottle design, can keep bees away. Because the birds use their long tongues to get the food out, rather than having the food drip down to them, short-tongued creatures like bees won’t be able to partake. Here’s an all-red set.
Reduce the Sugar Ratio
Changing from a 1:4 sugar to water mix to a 1:5 can still attract hummingbirds while making bees less interested, since bees like the highest sugar content item in an area they can find.
Just remember that if you’re not careful, you can attract honey bees to these traps! I wouldn’t try them unless you have a lot of wasps or yellow jackets bothering your feeder and very few honey bees.
Keep Your Feeder in the Shade
Keeping your hummingbird feeder in a shady area can preserve the water for longer and keep bees away. Bees and other insects prefer sunny locations and are more likely to flock to flowers in the sun.
Use Nectar Guards
Nectar guards can keep bees and other large insects out of your inverted bottle design feeders if you don’t want to get saucer ones. You’ll have to research the right size guards for your particular feeder, since unfortunately there’s no one-size-fits-all option.
When selecting a feeder (or updating your own) avoid the color yellow. Bees and wasps tend to be most attracted to yellow things, while hummingbirds prefer red above all else. Get an all-red feeder if possible, and try to keep all attachments, like ant moats, red as well. This won’t keep bugs away completely, but it can help when combined with other methods.
Keep Feeders Clean
Keeping your feeders clean can make a difference for your hummingbirds and the number of bees you have around. Because sugar water can seep out or spill, it can harden around the ports and draw in more bad bugs. Deeply cleaning the feeders inside and out on a regular basis keeps the build-up from getting too bad.
(This tip helps with keeping ants out of feeders too.)
Move Feeders (or Take Them Down for a Few Days)
Once bugs have found your feeder, they tend to return to them again and again – just like hummingbirds! However, moving them even 5 feet away can be enough to confuse bugs without upsetting your birds.
If just moving doesn’t help, you can take the feeder down altogether for a few days. Most bugs will definitely have forgotten about it by then, and your hummingbirds will likely return to it.
Plant More Flowers
Possibly the simplest solution is to just plant more flowers! Your hummingbirds (and the local honey bee population) will thank you. Growing flowers can be especially helpful during times when there are fewer flowers for bees naturally – like late summer and fall. Pick yellow ones for the best bee attracting abilities.
DON’T Use Oils or Insecticides
Whatever method you choose for keeping bugs at bay, it’s important to not resort to insecticides or using sticky/slippery oils like PAM on the feeder. Insecticides can kill hummingbirds as well as insects, and oil can get on their feathers and prevent flight. There are plenty of healthier options – so just skip these two!
Happy Hummingbird Watching!
You should now have a good list of options for keeping bees, wasps, yellow jackets, and more out of your hummingbird feeder. Try as many of these methods as possible for the most success!
Bees aren’t the only aggressive feeder visitors – hummingbirds can be pretty nasty to each other, too! Here’s why hummingbirds fight.