Protecting Your Hummingbird Feeders From Bees and Other Insects

Pet Care

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November 26, 2021
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Hummingbirds are highly sought after when it comes to trying to bring birds into your backyard. Their small figure, unique appearance, and general beauty makes them one of the most popular birds.

With that being said, bees are also attracted to the same foods that you would put out to try and bring hummingbirds into your yard, causing a bit of competition. If you want to make sure that your hummingbird feeder is not overtaken by bees, there are a couple different ways you can look at how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders.

Understanding the Problem

To make sure that you can keep your hummingbird feeder free of bees, wasps, and other troublesome insects, you will want to fully understand where the conflict is. The main problem is that hummingbirds and bees share the same diet, so when nectar is placed in the hummingbird feeder, it ends up attracting bees as well.

When you plan on feeding hummingbirds in your yard, you need to keep in mind that bees will always try to take some of that nectar if you do not properly protect the hummingbird feeder. Thankfully, there are several different ways that you can either remove the bees from the property, redirect them elsewhere, and generally prevent the bees from competing with the hummingbirds.

Choosing the Right Feeder

One way that you can prevent bees from trying to eat all of the nectar or sugar water is to purchase hummingbird feeders that are inconvenient for bees. The saucer model of hummingbird feeders are often the best for this situation. Only hummingbirds, with their long tongues, can drink from saucer feeders, leaving bees needing to look elsewhere for their nectar.

Another consideration to make is the color of the feeder. Hummingbirds are attracted to bright red colors as these are similar to the color of the flowers they would typically drink from. On the other hand, bees tend to be more attracted to yellows for the same reason. This means that choosing a red feeder is going to help you focus on the hummingbirds, rather than the bees.

Choosing the Right Feeder Accessories

In addition to paying attention to the type and color feeder you get, you will want to consider certain accessories that can help keep the bees away. One such accessory is known as a bee guard and it does exactly what the name would suggest.

When bees are unable to reach the source of food that they are after, they will move on to the next area. Many feeders come with bee guards, but they can also be purchased and installed separately.

On a similar note, you may want to consider ant moats as well. Ant moats are small, only one or two inches deep at most, and are hung above water feeders. While these are predominantly made for ants, they can work to deter bees as well.

Choosing the Right Feeder Location

The placement of the feeder matters quite a bit. This is because hummingbirds and insects have different habits when it comes to finding a food source. Hummingbirds will visit discovered food sources frequently and will usually look around for more food. Bees often prefer convenience, and if a feeder is relocated, then they will not be as inclined to go searching for it again.

What this means for you and your birds is that relocating the hummingbird feeder, even just a little bit, can help drive insects away as they may not be inclined to search for the feeder again, while hummingbirds will eagerly return even if the feeder isn’t in the same place as it once was.

Altering the Nectar

While bees and hummingbirds both enjoy sweet water, bees tend to prefer even more sugar than hummingbirds do. If there are sweeter flowers that your bees can feed themselves on, then they will be more likely to turn to those flowers than insufficiently sweet sugar water.

You should aim for your hummingbird feeder to have a water to sugar ratio of 5:1 to keep it appealing to the birds and not the bees, rather than the standard recommendation of a 4:1 water to sugar ratio. If you are aiming to make a feeder specifically for bees and wasps, you will want to use a 3:1 ratio.

Keeping the Feeder Clean

No matter if you install bee guards and ant moats, if there is nectar or sugar water dripping down the side of the feeder, the bees are going to find a way to swarm that and consume it. It is inevitable that there will be some amount of spillage due to the way that hummingbirds drink. You should aim to clean the feeder every time you refill it and when you see bees starting to swarm around it.

When you are cleaning and refilling the feeder, you will want to make sure that your feeder is free of any natural leaks. Of course, feeders deteriorate over time so it will eventually happen to your feeder. Using a leaky feeder is what will attract more bees, so it is important to check regularly and remedy any leaks that are found.

Consider Setting up a Decoy

Whether you want to use this as a way to further detract bees from the hummingbird feeder or you want to have bees come into your yard to pollinate but you also need them to leave the hummingbird feeder alone, there are ways that you can still allow for bees to visit while keeping the hummingbird feeder safe.

One of the best ways to do this is with a decoy feeder. Using features that are more appealing to bees such as being in full sunlight, having yellow colors, and a sweeter sugar-water solution will help make your decoy feeder stand out to the bees. The decoy should be placed approximately five to six feet away from the hummingbird feeder.

Altering the Rest of Your Yard

There is more that you can do to your yard to leave the bees more interested in flowers rather than feeders. For one, you could make sure that your yard has a fully-grown pollinator garden. As bees naturally pollinate flowers, they will be more drawn to the flowers rather than the hummingbird feeder you have.

You may also want to consider investing in a fake wasp nest as a deterrent. If the bees believe that your yard has been claimed by another wasp family, they will not want to encroach on their territory. Your fake wasp nest should be designed to look as real as possible for the best results.

Keep in mind that with as aggressive as yellowjackets are, a fake wasp nest will not be an adequate deterrent for this species. This method will be better used on bees and less territorial wasps.

The Takeaway

When it comes to making sure that your hummingbird feeder is only benefitting the hummingbirds that come into your yard, there are two main routes that you can go.

Firstly,you can choose to make your hummingbird feeder as inconvenient as possible for bees, causing them to return to flowers;in other way,you can also choose to make alternative feeding areas for the bees so that they will leave the hummingbird feeder alone, as there are more preferable options in the yard. More often than not, a combination of both methods will benefit you the most.

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