Aug 15, 2018 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, August 2018

Dear Birdsquatch: Bees at the Hummingbird Feeder. What to Do?

A hummingbird approaches a feeder guarded by a bee.
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Dear Birdsquatch:

In the summer every year, my hummingbird feeder is overtaken by honeybees or yellow jackets. The hummingbirds can't get a sip. Is it okay to kill the pests with insecticide spray?

—Scott P., Enid, Oklahoma

Dear Steve,

No, it's NOT OK to spray any kind of insecticide near your hummer feeders, unless you want to harm your hummingbirds. Place a shallow saucer or jar lid with a small amount of nectar in it a short distance away to lure the bees and other sugar-loving insects away from your feeders. Move it farther away each day until the insects no longer visit the feeders. Our pollinators are having a hard enough time finding food these days without us making things worse. If you just can't stand it, or if my suggestion doesn't work, stop feeding the nectar for a few days and then start up again in a new location. But please, don't use toxic sprays. Better living through chemistry isn't a universal truth.



About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.

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  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018
  • I had a pair nesting for the first time this year at our farmstead in South Dakota. Boxes put out for Bluebirds which didn't come, but these were a very pleasant consolation.
    by fluffypeanutcat, Tue, 25 Sep 2018
  • This is a good point. While cleaning mine, I kinda got the impression the cheep cheeps were waiting on me since they started chirping as soon as I brought it outside again. I swear they are so smart. Within five minutes of filling the feeder up, they are there to feast.cheers Cheep cheeps!
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 20 Jul 2018