Aug 16, 2017 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, August 2017

Deterring Ants and Bees at Nectar Feeders

A hummingbird approaches a feeder guarded by a bee.
Share:
An ant moat protects nectar feeders from ant invasions.

Ants are a common problem at nectar feeders, but a problem with an easy solution: An ant moat! Ants can't swim, so by hanging an ant moat above your nectar feeder, you block their travel route. Ant moats are specially designed cups with a hook above for hanging, and a hook below to hang the feeder on. Keep the moat filled with water and unless they fly, jump, or fall, ants will no longer be able to reach your nectar.

While the ant problem is easily resolved, bees at the nectar feeder present a more difficult challenge. There is some evidence to suggest that bees are attracted to yellow and to contrasting colors, but they cannot see red. Yellow bee guards on a nectar feeder might be more attractive to bees than a feeder with no yellow parts at all. Bees are also attracted to contrasting colors, so a red nectar feeder with yellow bee guards could be a welcome mat for flying, stinging insects. Feeders in which the nectar flows into the port make it easy for bees to reach the sweet stuff, while nectar feeders with a saucer design and the ports above make it difficult for bees to reach the nectar. Hummingbirds, with their long bills and tongues, have no difficulty.

Another trick to deter bees is to relocate the nectar feeder every few days. Hummingbirds are good at finding "new" (or relocated) food sources, while it takes bees, hornets, and wasps a while to adapt.



What do you think? Tell us!

comments powered by Disqus

New On This Site

The Latest Comments

  • I have experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • 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