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, 20171 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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Anonymous
June 20, 20200 found this helpful

I use a water bottle with just plain water. Use the jet spray not the mist.

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I had luck with just harassing the bees and wasps with spraying them and they did not come back.

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January 23, 20181 found this helpful

I use peppermint oil on my feeders. Using a q-tip, I dab it around, but not to close to port holes. WORKS GREAT! Best thing I have found. I use approximately 2 qts of nectar a day, so, I have happy hummers.

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Anonymous
April 25, 20181 found this helpful

I did paint the yellow flowers on my feeder red and that kept the bees at bay.

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April 25, 20181 found this helpful

I did paint the yellow flowers on my feeder red and that kept the bees at bay.

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February 2, 20190 found this helpful

I use this inexpensive trick every year and it works. Most bees hate Hornets, so I take a simple brown lunch bag, stuff it with paper or plastic, making it look like a Hornet nest.

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Tie the open end and hang near bird feeder. This reaaly works. I had problem with yellow jackets using my feeder, it was very annoying until I heard about bag trick.

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June 11, 20190 found this helpful

Vacuum 4 or 5 bees will keep the rest away? The bees in my feeders are relentless. Vacuuming was not the answer in my yard.

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June 12, 20190 found this helpful

Use hummingbird feeders that the "holes where they drink from" - the (port holes/drinking ports) as they're called, face UPwards, not to the side.

Any feeder that the port holes don't face straight UPwards to the sky, WILL drip as soon as the temps warm up, which is what the bees and wasps want.

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July 27, 20190 found this helpful

That's not true mine are in the shade and the bees still get in

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September 2, 20190 found this helpful

I have a hummingbird and butterfly garden with particular flowers they migrate toward. Unfortunately, bees love the nectar too, so it's a problem for hummers who avoid bees. Elimination of yellow aids some in detracting bees, but hummers need high sugar intake in early Spring since few flowers are in bloom, but you can help hummers by NOT removing spider webs. The hummingbirds are nesting and they dine on insects from those webs when less flowers are available and they feed their young from this too. Once flowers are plentiful, the sugar content in water can be cut back as birds have nectar sources readily at hand. Also, lots of sugar water in hot weather creates fermentation and can make birds ill, so keep feeders changed weekly in hottest weather. I have a Mimosa Tree in our back yard that provides shade for the hummingbird/butterfly garden and it bears flowers for additional nectar and hummers hide from each other in its leafy branches while guarding the feeders. I also planted some coneflowers and the flowers have gone to seed. This year, we saw gold finches dining frequently on the seeds and its another enjoyable addition to the garden.

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