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I was visiting a friend one day who loves hummingbirds just as much as I do and I noticed her hummingbird feeders being overcrowded with bees instead of hummingbirds. I saw the bees chasing the hummingbirds away and taking over their nectar source.
It was discouraging to witness, so I decided to find some facts to help my friend with her bee concerns without harming the hummingbirds.
How do you prevent bees from visiting your hummingbird feeder?
- Purchase only all red feeders
- Purchase saucer-shaped feeders
- Use nectar guard tips
- Reduce water:sugar ratio
- Remove leaky feeders
- Clean feeders of residue regularly
- Position feeders in the shade
- Rearrange feeders
- Hang disposable Yellow Jacket Traps
Here are the top 9 tips to prevent bees from visiting your hummingbird feeder in more detail:
1.) Provide Feeders with Red Bases
Hummingbirds are more drawn to the color red. Bees do not see red however they see yellow. When bees view the color red, their brains interpret the color as black. Therefore, choosing hummingbird feeders with yellow flowers instead of all red will attract the wrong type of guest such as bees.
Hummingbird feeders with red bases and red flowers attract and entice hummingbirds to visit and feed more frequently.
All is not lost if you have already purchased a feeder with attached yellow flowers. The recommendation is to change the appearance by painting the flowers with a non-toxic red paint.
2.) Use Saucer Shaped Hummingbird Feeders
Saucer shaped hummingbird feeders are designed to allow the long-billed hummingbird beak to access the nectar, but positions the nectar too deeply in the saucer shaped feeders for the bee’s tongue to reach.
The saucer feeder is also called a “dish” feeder and can hold 16 oz of fluid nectar. The saucer feeder design makes it easier to clean and fill while providing its own built-in ant moat at the center of the base of the hanging rod.
Having multiple smaller feeding stations promotes more hummingbirds to visit and reduces competition.
3.) Supply Nectar Guard Tips
Nectar guard tips are made of a clear, open, and adaptable material for a barrier that only hummingbird beaks can penetrate. The membrane closes when they are finished and prohibits the loss of any nectar. It eliminates bees or other insects from entering and gaining access to the nectar.
These nectar guard tips are attached individually underneath the polycarbonate saucer shaped feeders and is positioned below each flower.
The point of this device is to make it easy for hummingbirds to drink nectar while creating a barrier for all other insects.
4.) Reduce Your Homemade Sugar to Water Ratio
Sometimes if we make our homemade nectar too sweet, such as 1 part sugar to 2 parts water instead of the recommended 1 cup of sugar dissolved in 4 cups of water, this can attract bees and other uninvited guests.
If you find your sugar to water ratio is still too sweet try using 1 part sugar to 5 parts water to dilute the nectar enough to keep the bees away but still strong enough to attract the hummingbirds.
5.) Remove Sticky Leaky Feeders
If you have ever noticed your hummingbird feeders attracting more bees and wasps then usual, check to see if your feeder is leaking. Insects are attracted to warm sugary nectar.
Bees are looking for sugar and water and these two ingredients are especially important on a hot summer day.
Any nectar residue that stays on the feeder creates the perfect feeding ground to entice these unwanted guests.
The cause of a leaky feeder can be due to the overuse of a plastic feeder being in constant direct sunlight. Overtime this can cause the plastic to become brittle which leads to the feeder breaking or leaking. Other possibilities include a glass feeder not having a secure seal and causing leaking of the sweet nectar.
Clean your feeders regularly, make new nectar, or replace your feeder if you believe your feeders are leaking.
6.) Keep Feeders Clean and Fermentation Free
Hummingbird feeders require frequent maintenance. Clean the feeders at least once a week or more during the hot summer months. This will reduce the chances of hummingbirds getting sick or spreading common diseases such as Candidiasis (fungal tongue infection) and Avian poxvirus (tumor growths on beaks).
Regularly cleaned and decongested feeders will decrease the chances of contamination.
Place your nectar feeders in the shade to reduce the fermentation process.
By reducing the bacterial growth you will promote happier and healthier hummingbirds.
7.) Position Feeders in the Shade
Keeping your hummingbird nectar in the shade will not only control the quantity of insects feeding at your feeders but will also reduce fermentation caused by constant sun exposure.
Placing your feeder in the shade will prevent the nectar from spoiling or transferring diseases.
Bees and other insects like to feed in full sun and favor warm sticky sugary substances. The more insects that visit the feeder the more likely contamination will occur.
Hummingbird feeders that are located out of the sun and bacteria free not only attract hummingbirds but reduce insect visitors.
Not cleaning this warm, sticky, bacteria-laden mess is why, during the summer, you will tend to see a large number of bees and wasps craving that residue on a hummingbird feeder.
8.) Rearrange Feeders
Changing the locations of the feeders can deter insects from easily finding the nectar. The relocation of feeders will catch the bees off guard and make them confused.
Their instinctive path to and from their desired location will be disassembled and they will have to find a different pattern or direction to find their food source.
9.) Hang Disposable Yellow Jacket Traps
If worst comes to worst and you are burdened with a massive population of yellow jackets around the feeders, your last resort is to buy and hang the disposable yellow jacket traps.
They are easy to use and very effective. You will be surprised at the volume of yellow jackets or wasps you can catch in a short period of time.
If you feel adventurous you can make your own yellow jacket traps in three easy steps:
- The materials you will need will be 1 large two-liter bottle, 1/4 cup of white sugar, 1 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 banana peel, 4 cups of water and a sharp razor knife.
- Pour ½ cup of water and ¼ cup of sugar into the two-liter bottle and shake until the sugar dissolves. Mix the apple cider vinegar to the bottle then add the banana peel. Fill the bottle until it reaches halfway full with water.
- At the top of the bottle cut a hole ¾ inch hole and hang the homemade trap.
This answer might not please all the environmentalist out there and they may think it’s inhumane, however, the hummingbirds do not share this opinion!
Hopefully this alternate method will only have to be used during the summer months.
Try these different methods to encourage insects and bugs to leave the feeders and find another food source so the hummingbirds can enjoy feeding without being disturbed in their natural habitat.
Happy Hummingbird Watching!
When will honey bees be likely to visit a hummingbird feeder?
Honey bees are likely to visit a hummingbird feeder on hot days or during a Dearth.
On hot days, the bees are looking for the water to cool the hive.
During a Dearth, bees will be looking for sugar water to replace the unavailable flower nectar.
How do I keep ants out of my hummingbird feeder?
Ants can be kept out of a hummingbird feeder by blocking their pathway to the feeder.
Blocking an ant’s pathway is best done through adding an oil (or water) bath between the ant and feeder.
Anything that bridges this gap, the ants will use as a new pathway.
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