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Keeping Unwanted Pests from Hummingbird Feeders

Keeping Unwanted Pests from Hummingbird Feeders


             Many hummingbird enthusiasts desire to keep their feeders available to hummingbirds only. Unwelcome visitors include wasps, bees, and ants. They not only steal the sugary food, but may also keep hummingbirds from visiting.

            Wasps and bees: Fortunately, many newer feeders are designed with bee guards (little plastic screens) and longer tubes which give hummingbirds the advantage. A hummingbird’s tongue can reach much longer than the proboscis of a wasp or bee. If given a choice, avoid purchasing yellow guards, as yellow attracts bees. Other options are moving the feeder to another location, or taking the feeder down completely for a day or two. Bees and wasps will give up looking for the feeder sooner than hummingbirds.

            Ants: Prevent ants from discovering the feeder by purchasing a dripless feeder. Bottle style feeders may drip when placed in the direct sun. Pressure builds and expands in the empty space in the bottle, causing some of the sugar water to leak. One option is apply petroleum jelly to the wire or string holding the hummingbird feeder where ants are gaining access. Be sure this substance doesn’t get on the feeder itself, as it could gum up bird feathers. Another option is a barrier which ants cannot cross. Some feeders are designed with little moats that can be filled with tap water. You can build your own moat by placing hanger wire through a spray can top, then use silicone or hot glue to seal and waterproof the hole.

            Other songbirds: Occasionally other songbirds such as finches or orioles are guests at hummingbird feeders. These heavier birds tip the feeder upon landing, and take a drink of the splashed sugar water. For hummingbird purists who want to keep these birds away, use a hummingbird feeder without a perch. A hummingbird will hover over the opening when feeding, as they do when extracting nectar from a flower.

            For those interested in feeding hummingbirds, you can mix one-fourth cup sugar per cup of water. During colder conditions in early spring or late fall, the amount of sugar can be increased to one-third cup sugar per cup of water. It is  not recommended to use red food color in sugar water. When mixing small quantities of sugar water, boiling is unnecessary. But keeping the feeder clean is critical. Sugar water needs to be changed every three to five days, or even more frequently during hot weather, to prevent mold and deadly fermentation. Use hot water and a bottle brush to clean the feeder (not soap or detergent). A dilute bleach solution can be used occasionally, but rinse bottle thoroughly and allow to air dry completely before refilling.


By Mark Keaton
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Mark Keaton
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
3 East 9th St. Mountain Home AR 72653
(870) 425-2335

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