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How to keep bees away from Hummingbird Feeders

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You meticulously fill your hummingbird feeder, the bright red color a beacon for those dazzling little jewels. But when you return to admire your feathered friends, it's a swarm of buzzing bees instead! If this scene sounds familiar, you're not alone. Hummingbirds and bees often clash over those sweet nectar feeders, leaving backyard birders frustrated.

Hummingbirds are a source of joy for backyard birders. However, honey bees, yellow jackets, and other insects often invade nectar feeders, competing with the birds. If you're a frustrated backyard birder looking to keep these unwanted insects at bay, this post is for you.

Hummingbirds may be tiny, but they've got a big appetite! These feathered dynamos visit hundreds of flowers a day and need to consume half their body weight in sugar to keep up their high-energy lifestyle. No wonder they're fiercely protective of their food sources, often engaging in aerial battles with bees and other hummingbirds.

A ruby-throated hummingbird perched on a red hummingbird feeder against a blurred green background, designed to keep bees away.

How do I keep bees away from my hummingbird feeder?

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There are several ways to deter bees from hummingbird feeders, including choosing red feeders, using saucer feeders, relocating feeders regularly, and offering bees alternative food sources.

Why are Bees Attracted to Hummingbird Feeders?

  • Sweet Temptation: Hummingbird nectar, whether homemade or store-bought, mimics the sweet, sugary concoction bees seek in flower nectar. This sugary solution is a prime source of energy for their active lifestyles.
  • Easy Access: Hummingbird feeders provide a convenient, concentrated source of food. Bees don't have to expend as much energy foraging for nectar from scattered flowers. It's like a fast-food joint for bees.
  • The Power of Scent: The sugary nectar's smell acts like a beacon, drawing bees in from a distance. Especially if your feeder isn't perfectly clean, the lingering scent can attract bees even after you've taken it down for cleaning.
  • Designed for Similar Tongues: While hummingbirds have those specialized long beaks, bees have long tongues designed for accessing the nectar stores within flowers. The feeding ports on traditional hummingbird feeders often present a similar structure, making it easy for them to take advantage of the sugar inside.
  • Competition is Part of Nature: Bees and hummingbirds naturally occupy similar niches. Hummingbirds even consume insects as part of their diet. Therefore, competition for food sources is a normal part of their ecological relationship.

Tips & Tricks to Keep Bees Away

Choose the Right Feeder:

  • Color: Red is the absolute best way to attract hummingbirds. They're naturally drawn to the color red, associating it with nectar-rich flowers. Bees, on the other hand, don't have this strong association with red and are more likely to favor yellow and other bright colors. Avoid feeders with yellow flowers or accents.
  • Style:  Saucer-shaped feeders present a challenge for bees. Their open, shallow design makes it difficult for the bees to land and access the nectar with their shorter tongues. Hummingbirds, with their specialized long beaks and hovering ability,  have no problem reaching the sweet reward inside.
  • Bee Guards: Many feeders come with built-in ant moats and bee guards – mesh screens or specialized feeding port designs that block access for insects while still allowing those long hummingbird beaks to reach the nectar. If yours doesn't, nectar guard tips can be purchased that serve the same purpose.

Ant Moats: These are small reservoirs filled with water that surround the feeder. Ants and other crawling insects won't cross the water, preventing them from reaching the nectar and turning your feeder into an all-inclusive insect buffet.

Relocate Regularly: Moving your feeder every few days confuses bees and other insects. Hummingbirds have excellent memories and will quickly locate their food source in a new spot. Bees are less adaptable and might give up searching if the feeder isn't readily available in its usual location.

Maintain Cleanliness: Wipe down your feeder each time you refill it to remove any sticky sugar residue on the outside, as this scent can draw bees in. Clean the feeder thoroughly inside and out at least once a week to prevent mold and fermentation that could harm the hummingbirds.

Offer an Alternative: Give the bees their own feeding station! Place a shallow dish with a diluted sugar solution (less sugar than in your hummingbird food) in a different area of your yard. This can draw them away from the hummingbird feeder.

Natural Deterrents:

  • Essential Oils: Diluted peppermint or citrus essential oils placed on cotton balls or fabric hung near the feeder can act as a natural repellent for bees.
  • Petroleum Jelly: A thin coating of petroleum jelly around the feeding ports makes them slippery and less accessible for bees without hindering the hummingbirds.
  • Bee Balm & Mints: Planting bee balm, various mints, and other fragrant herbs in the area around the feeder can create a scent barrier that deters bees.

Additional Strategies:

  • Fake Wasp Nests: Bees are instinctively deterred by the presence of wasps. A decoy wasp nest hung near your feeder can trick bees into thinking the area is already claimed by a competitor.
  • Water Source: Bees need water too! Providing a shallow dish filled with pebbles or a little sand, or even a designated muddy puddle, gives them a safe place to drink and can draw them away from focusing solely on your hummingbird feeder.

The Good News

Bees are a vital part of nature! While they can hinder hummingbirds, here are some options for bee-friendly coexistence:

  • Pollinator Garden: Create a vibrant garden with nectar-rich flowers like cardinal flower, trumpet vine, and colorful annuals.
  • Bee-Friendly Garden: Cultivate a garden that specifically supports bees.
  • Pollinator Garden: Attract bees and other beneficial pollinators like butterflies by planting a garden brimming with nectar-rich flowers! Here's what to consider:
    • Variety is key: Include a wide range of flower shapes and sizes to accommodate different types of bees and pollinators.
    • Focus on native plants: Native flowers are naturally optimized for the local bee populations in your area.
    • Continuous blooms: Choose plants with staggered blooming periods to provide a food source throughout the growing season.
    • Sunny spots: Bees love the warmth, so select a garden area that gets good sun exposure.
    • Examples: Some excellent pollinator favorites are cardinal flower, trumpet vine, bee balm, butterfly bush, lavender, asters, sunflowers, and zinnias
  • Bee-Friendly Garden: Take it a step further and specifically design a garden just for bees. Here's how:
    • Skip the pesticides: Insecticides and herbicides are harmful to bees and other beneficial insects.
    • Embrace a little wildness: Leave patches of undisturbed ground or piles of leaves, as some bees are ground nesters and others overwinter in leaf litter.
    • Bee hotels: Consider building or purchasing a bee hotel, providing nesting sites for solitary bee species.
    • Water source: Don't forget a shallow dish of water with pebbles or twigs for bees to land on safely.

The Added Bonus

By creating a pollinator-friendly garden, you'll not only support your local bees, but you'll also attract a diverse array of fascinating and beautiful creatures, and likely improve the health of your entire garden environment. It's a win-win for everyone (except maybe the feeder-raiding bees)!

Finding the right balance between attracting hummingbirds and accommodating bees is key to a harmonious backyard ecosystem. Implementing a few of these tips can help you achieve this. After all, both hummingbirds and bees play a vital role in our environment. By showing a little consideration for both of these incredible creatures, you'll be rewarded with a backyard buzzing with life and the dazzling sight of hummingbirds enjoying their feeders in peace.

You might also like 32 free Hummingbird Coloring Pages, Printable Hummingbird Nectar Recipe (Best Tips) and Best Hummingbird gift ideas (Unique Gifts).

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