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Keeping Bees Out of a Hummingbird Feeder

Category Pest Control
Bees and hummingbirds are often found in the same places in your garden. However, if you are putting out food for the hummingbirds it can attract an unwanted amount of bees. This is a guide about keeping bees out of your hummingbird feeder.
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By 2 found this helpful
July 7, 2009

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.

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.

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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.

  • 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.
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    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.

  • 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.
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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.

Ellen

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Questions

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By 0 found this helpful
September 10, 2011

We have honey bees in our hummingbird feeders. We have the feeders with the red flowers which someone suggested would keep bees and yellow jackets away, but it doesn't work. Any other suggestions will be appreciated.

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By clyde n

Answers

September 13, 20112 found this helpful
Best Answer

They sell little caps for the feeders that don't allow the bees or wasps to penetrate the water. I bought a set of them for just a few dollars at the Backyard Bird Shop here in Portland.

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June 2, 20165 found this helpful
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We had 19 feeders, and 15 hummingbirds that enjoyed them every day for years, and when the bees came, every single hummingbird left within a few days. We then bought the feeders with the bee guards on them, and those don't work for nothing! Finally, we bought what they call Flat Feeders, and those WORK. The bees absolutely cannot, at all, get to the juice and the bees will continue checking to see if they can for a day or two, then they'll leave as they see there's nothing there for them.

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September 16, 20165 found this helpful
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I believe this type of feeder is referred to as a flat feeder.

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April 8, 20153 found this helpful

My brother insists that 100+ bees drained his hummingbird feeder within minutes, and I say this is impossible. Anyone have an answer for this?

By B. Jones

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April 9, 20151 found this helpful
Best Answer

Definitely can happen! Bees can empty a hum feeder and quickly. I have not seen it happen myself but my husband has and he is an entomologist.

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July 22, 20162 found this helpful
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I have honey bees and hummers. The solution that has worked for me is to use a bee feeder close to Hummer feeder. These can be found at bee supply stores or online. Instead of the recommenced 4 to 1 Hummer mix, the bee feeder uses a 50/50 mix more suited to honey bees and yellow jackets. The design of bee feeder only accommodate insects, thus draws the pest from the Hummer feeders, also water cup or barrier holding water prevents ants from crawling to Hummer feeders.

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By 4 found this helpful
July 31, 2011

I have been using vegetable oil around the holes to keep bees off. It really works! It is very sticky when cleaning though. Has anyone else tried this?

By Mainehummerluver from Bridgton, ME

Answers

July 31, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

If you get feeders where the feeder part is deep and the sugar water is not to close the bees will not be interested in the feeder. the color of the flower part has nothing to do with it, the bees smell the sugar. if they cant get to it they wont come back. the oil is not good overall to the bees but not good for the hummingbirds either.its not going to kill them but this will help keep down any uneccessary things to our critters to help keep them healthy! but the yes the oil does help on our two fancy favorite feeders (we have since put up)but the others we make sure the the feeder part is deep. hope this helps when you buy feeders in the future.

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Anonymous
April 27, 20160 found this helpful
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I'm trying aquaphor instead of Vaseline. It's slippery but made of water with nothing such as oil or preservatives, so far, so good. 

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By 1 found this helpful
September 8, 2010

Would anyone know of any homemade solutions or handy tips on how to keep yellow jackets away from hummingbird feeders?

By Beverly from Easley, SC

Answers

September 10, 20102 found this helpful
Best Answer

I use mint extract, purchased from the baking aisle of my local grocery. I dip a Q-tip into the extract, then paint the ports, both top and bottom, with the extract. I also smear it randomly on the feeder as well as where the bottle attaches to the base. The yellow jackets ignore the feeders, until it rains. Then you may have to repeat the process, something I always do when I change the nectar water.

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October 3, 20103 found this helpful
Best Answer

The bees are attracted to the yellow part of the flower. That's all there is to it. I have purchased so many feeders in search of one that is easy to clean. I noticed that the ones with the yellow part in the flower (I have), the bees take it over. The ones that are only red. . .NO BEES! No ants. I put all the feeders with the yellow on one side of the house, and the others on the kitchen side so I can watch while I cook etc.

Oh, and speaking of trying to clean those horrible small holed feeders. Through the years I have been buying so many brushes that I thought would get through the bottle neck. Spent tons of moolah. Guess what I ran into on the net?! Feeders that have the neck large enough for not only a baby bottle brush, but larger! Even the bottom part comes apart in a snap so I can scrub it totally inside and out. The main part that holds the sugar water is clear so you can see how clean it is and the feeding part is completely red! You bet! No bees! I got two of them from the net.

http://www.firstnature.net

Check it out. There are 10 portals. YES. They all do get used at once! The 16oz was 9.99. They have an ant thingy for 3.99. Oriole feeder for 12.99. Need to get me some. Their beaks are too big for the hummingbird feeder and like I said, the bees took theirs over. The Oriole feeder also does not have yellow on it. I have to fix 6 cups of nectar each day to keep up with them cuties. Of course I have not used that red nectar stuff they sell for a pretty price. 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. You can get 25 lbs of sugar from Smart & Final for $12.39. In California anyway. Some states are higher/lower than others.

Happy Humming

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Anonymous
April 26, 20160 found this helpful
Best Answer

You can buy these same feeders on amazon and get free shipping with certain conditions (amazon prime or minimum order). If you live in Texas, HEB has a feeder called the best hummingbird feeder ever. It is inexpensive, the bottle is glass, and I am watching the bees going to the other feeder I have and leaving this one alone for the hummingbirds.

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By 0 found this helpful
May 9, 2009

How do I keep ants from getting into my bird feeders? I have gone to clean them out and had literally thousands of ants come out of them. Also, any suggestions on keeping wasps and other creatures away from the hummingbird feeders?

Hardiness Zone: 8a

By Cricket from Parkton, NC

Answers

May 10, 20090 found this helpful
Best Answer

A good layer of petroleum jelly around the pole or mount keeps ants away pretty well. I've heard they don't like peppermint oil too, you could try dabbing some of that around. I'm not sure about the wasps though!

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Anonymous
March 13, 20160 found this helpful
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I wrap one of those fly-catcher strips around the very top of the hanging wire and the ants will not cross over it. It has never harmed by hummingbirds either! We have those big, black ants, but this stops them!

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June 9, 20160 found this helpful
Best Answer

I put dab of vaseline on the hangers. Works like a charm on the ants. Beekeepers on the feeding ports keeps out the bees too! Hummers are happy! ! !

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July 24, 20161 found this helpful
Best Answer

to keep wasps away from feeder plant mint plants near feeder . Wasps dont like mint. I made a solution of peppermint extract and water and put it in a little spray bottle. I spray the plants near the feeder. The wasps don't like it and fly away.

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By 0 found this helpful
August 25, 2016

I have hummers every year, I can get ants and bees away from the feeders, but I have the black and white bald face hornets, they are really nasty! I have tried smaller holes and moving the feeders, but I just can't get rid of them and the hummers are afraid of them big time, any suggestions?

Answers

August 28, 20161 found this helpful
Best Answer

I use the paper wasp nest that scares them, they are afraid of a huge nest so they stay away, just hang up on a near by spot. also you can blow air into a paper bag and tie the end and hang it, works also.

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