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Keeping Bees Away from a Hummingbird Feeder

Question:

We have hummingbird feeders and its horrible to see the little hummingbirds trying to eat at the feeders with all the bees. No matter how many feeders I put out the bees are all over the feeders. I hope that someone can help. Thank you.

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Jodi from Texas

Answer:

Here are my ideas for keeping bees, wasps, and other stinging insects away from your hummingbird feeders.

First, keep in mind that it's never safe to use any chemicals to control insects at bird feeders. That's a given of course, but it needs to be stated anyway. Any flying insects (yes, even the wasps) that choose to feed on hummingbird nectar are likely to play an important role in pollination.

In the case of bees, swarming to the feeder for nectar is usually a transient problem. This isn't always the case with other stinging insects, but bees tend to flock to feeders only when other food supplies are low (e.g. few open flowers or lack of rain).

Here are some suggestions:

  • Deny the bees (and other pests) access to the syrup. Some hummingbird feeders are designed in such a way (basin style) that the syrup level can be kept too low for insects to reach, but easily within range of hummingbird tongues. Others come equipped with "bee guards" which are fine mesh coverings that fit over the feeding ports. If you feed a lot of hummingbirds, it might be worth buying a new feeder in one of these styles to see if it makes a difference.
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  • Try moving your feeder-preferably to a shady location (bees prefer feeding in the sun). Don't worry about the hummingbirds finding the new station. They will. Meanwhile, offer a saucer of nectar on the ground at the old station to keep the bees occupied. If that doesn't work, take the feeder down for a day, or until it seems like the bees stop looking for it.

  • The rumor is that bees and wasps are attracted to anything yellow. If your feeder has those little fake plastic yellow flowers around the ports, either color them red (using a non-toxic marker, paint, or fingernail polish), or remove them altogether. I don't know if this is true, but it can't hurt to try.

  • Reduce the sweetness of the nectar, and the bees will eventually leave. Bees require high levels of sugar in their diet. Using 5 parts of water is just enough to keep the hummers happy and to make the bees go somewhere else.
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  • Vacuum the bees and wasps. Once you suck up 4 or 5 of them, the rest won't be back.

  • Plant more hummingbird and bee-friendly flowers. In the future, these will provide additional options for both the birds and the bees to feed from.

A Caution about using oils:

Many people have found that applying cooking oils and sprays to the outside of the feeder ports deters bees, wasps, and other insects. Be very careful if you do this. These tiny birds expend enormous amounts of energy. They need to feed constantly and have little margin for error when it comes to making a livelihood. Oil that accidentally gets on the hummingbird while feeding or during feeder fights can spell disaster when it comes time to preen their feathers. Birds produce their own oils for preening and additional oils can cause their feathers to become matted, which reduces their ability to fly and keep warm. If you decide to use oil on your feeder, please use it with caution.

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Ellen

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services.

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August 13, 20170 found this helpful

Your suggestion to use the vacuum was perfect! I had three/four yellow wasps that would frequent my feeder and were a nuisance to my dear hummers. I had tried everything I could think of so a big thank you for your suggestion. I do not like killing anything but this time it seemed the only thing I could do to give me peace and the hummingbirds peace.

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August 21, 20170 found this helpful

None of the suggestions work, have tried all of them.

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September 16, 20170 found this helpful

I agree with every suggestion EXCEPT for vacuuming up the bees. As annoying as it may be to have these little guys feeding on nectar intended for the hummingbirds, the fact is that they are endangered, and also represent a very important part of our ecosystem, so getting rid of them in a "non-lethal" way is definitely preferred and recommended!

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