How do you keep ants off your hummingbird feeders?
I don’t know anyone who wants these insects drinking their hummingbird nectar since ants can PREVENT hummingbirds! This happens when ants arrive by the thousands and swarm over your nectar feeders. It’s also common for ants to get into the feeding ports and die inside, which contaminates your nectar!
And even though hummingbirds eat insects, they don’t eat ants. So please don’t think that having ants on your feeders is giving them an additional food choice.
Luckily, I think with a little preparation, keeping ants off your hummingbird feeders is easy.
Today, I’m giving you 9 proven tips that stop ants!
I’m confident that you will be able to find a strategy that works for you. And please know that it’s common to combine a few of the techniques below to have the greatest impact.
Tip #1: Use an ant moat.
Utilizing an ant moat is probably the most popular and easiest way to stop ants!
So what exactly is an ant moat?
An ant moat is simply a water barrier that prevents these insects from reaching your nectar. They work similarly to medieval castles that used moats for protection.
Most hummingbird feeders are hung from above, so the moat is located above the nectar. Since ants can’t fly, the only way to reach the delicious sugar water is by walking. The hope is that once they reach the moat, they are unable to cross the water, and therefore they can’t get to the food source.
There are THREE different types of ant moats.
The one you choose depends on your specific situation!
A. Ant moat built into your feeder.
The good news is that most hummingbird feeders have an ant moat already built-in. They are inconspicuous, and if you already own a feeder, then check to see if you just need to add water to the existing moat.
For example, here are two of my hummingbird feeders, both of which have ant moats as part of their design.
All I need to do is fill the small depressions with water, and I have an ant moat!
B. Buy an ant moat.
Built-in ant moats seem to be more common on dish-style feeders. If your hummingbird feeder looks more like a bottle with the nectar above the feeding ports, it’s less likely that you have a moat, and you will need to look at buying one separately.
Here is an ant moat that I use and recommend:
AMAURAS Red Glass Ant Moat Check Today's Price
C. Make a DIY ant moat!
Buying an ant moat is inexpensive, but for those of you that love homemade crafts, it’s easy to make your own!
Here is an idea that I found:
I like that this video has simple, clear, and easy instructions. The only materials needed are the top of a soda bottle, wire hook made from a coat hanger, and hot glue.
Many items can be used in the construction of a DIY ant moat, including various types of lids and small cups. Anything that holds a small amount of water that you can insert a hook through will work. Just don’t forget to seal with hot glue! A quick search on Pinterest reveals many more DIY ant moat projects!
There are TWO common problems with ant moats:
Ant moats work well, but they are not 100% effective. Here are the two main issues that people experience.
Problem #1: The water in the ant moat evaporates.
This issue has more to do with the user than the actual moat itself. Make sure you are checking the water levels in your ant moats every few days, especially when the weather turns hot. Evaporating water becomes more prevalent as the moat gets shallower.
Problem #2: Ants build bridges across the moat.
Some types of ants look at your moat and laugh. They just get their ant friends together and build a bridge across the water with their bodies. I can’t make this stuff up! If your ants have figured out this trick, then keep reading for more ideas. 🙂
Tip #2: Install an ant guard.
There are times when an ant moat does not work. Believe it or not, some types of ants are so desperate to reach your nectar, they will make a bridge with their bodies to cross the water!
If you have some of these super ants at your house, you are going to need something different than an ant moat.
My recommendation is to purchase something called an ANT GUARD.
An ant guard is installed above your hummingbird feeder, similar to an ant moat. Inside of the ant guard is a light insecticide called Permethrin that repels ants.
Perky-Pet Antguard View Today's Price
Usually, I’m not a fan of using insecticides or pesticides in your backyard for fear of killing beneficial bugs. But using Permethrin inside of an ant guard is nothing to worry about. It is safe around birds, people, and pets.
Humans actually use medications with Permethrin to treat scabies and lice. It is applied to the skin as a cream or lotion. The stuff is even sprayed on clothing to kill mosquitoes.
Lastly, Permethrin doesn’t kill the ants that try to get to your hummingbird feeders but discourages them from crossing.
Tip #3: Hang feeders from a fishing line.
A super simple way to stop ants is to hang your hummingbird feeders from a fishing line.
The fishing line is so thin and slippery that many species of ants are not able to climb down!
Tip #4: Spread something slippery on the pole.
This tip is probably the easiest to implement.
Try spreading something onto whatever you use to hang your hummingbird feeders that ants can’t cross!
Petroleum jelly works well, and most people already have an old bottle lying around their house somewhere. On a side note, does anyone ever actually finish a jar of Vaseline?
There are a few negatives to using petroleum jelly, such as you have to reapply continually. It can also be messy on your hands. Lastly, during periods of intense heat, petroleum jelly gets slimy and oozy!
If you decide to use petroleum jelly, please use it VERY sparingly.
You don’t want your hummingbirds to get it on themselves accidentally! Make sure to just apply a tiny bit and spread it thinly on whatever hangs your feeders down. DO NOT PUT ANY ON THE ACTUAL HUMMINGBIRD FEEDER OR NEAR THE FEEDING PORTS!
Tip #5: Move your feeder location to stop ants.
Sometimes stopping ants is as easy as just moving your hummingbird feeder to a new location.
You never know, you may have placed your current pole right next to a giant ant colony!
I know some people that swear by this technique and are continually moving their feeders. They say that ants will eventually always find your nectar, so they keep them guessing by changing the locations.
Tip #6: Make sure your feeders don’t leak.
Always remember that the reason ants try to get to your hummingbird feeder is because of the sugar water! ANTS LOVE SUGAR.
If your feeder has a leak and is dripping nectar, it’s similar to pouring gas on a fire. Before you know it, there could be hundreds of ants trying to get to the sweet nectar.
Stopping a leak is sometimes as simple as just tightening a loose part. Other times, there is a crack, or you own a cheap hummingbird feeder, and you will need to buy a replacement.
Keep in mind that heat makes nectar expand. In this case, you may see sugar water coming out of a feeder port. If you live somewhere with extreme heat and this issue becomes a problem, then you need to try and find a spot to place your feeders that is slightly shaded.
Tip #7: Keep ants off your feeders by cleaning them.
Over time, it’s common for the residue of sugar to accumulate on the outside of your feeders. Unfortunately, this sugar build-up attracts ants.
To stop this from happening, do a quick cleaning every time that you refill nectar. You may need a soft brush to scrub off any excess sugar.
Tip #8: Rub bay or mint leaves on the pole.
Using bay or mint leaves is an excellent, natural strategy that helps prevent ants from reaching your nectar feeders. Incredibly, both of these plants serve as minor insect repellants!
To stop ants, try either rubbing the leaves on the pole that hangs your feeders or spreading crushed-up dried leaves around the base of the pole,. Just make sure that wherever you place the plants, ants will have to pass!
The biggest negative to this strategy is that you will need to reapply the leaves every time it rains.
Another strategy is to grow mint plants around the posts or poles that hang your hummingbird feeders. It may take a year or two, but soon there is so much mint that ants may hesitate to cross to access the nectar. Just keep in mind that mint is an incredible grower and can easily take an area over if you don’t cut back.
Tip #9: Hang your feeder in a fountain.
Do you have super ants? Have you tried all the other tips listed above, and your nectar feeders are still swarmed by ants every single day?
If so, you may need to go to extremes to stop these persistent insects.
If you want a 100% guaranteed solution to stop ants, then you need to hang your hummingbird feeders from the center of a large fountain.
There is no way that ants can cross a large body of water. The distance is too large for them to create a bridge with their bodies, which ants sometimes do to cross a small moat.
Unfortunately, this strategy doesn’t prevent bees and wasps. They are another problem!
Before we end today, I want to provide two things you should NOT do to prevent ants.
DON’T spray insecticide or pesticides around the base of whatever hangs your feeders.
- These heavy-duty chemicals rarely discriminate between insects. Not only will you be killing ants, but also any other bug that comes in contact. Our planet is already experiencing an incredible loss of insects, so we shouldn’t help contribute.
DON’T place commercial ant traps around your yard.
- Ants play an essential role in the food chain. It would be silly to try and kill all the ants around your house just because a few of them are trying to get to your nectar. I’m confident that some combination of the tips above will work for you.
Ok, now it’s your turn.
What strategies have you used to stop ants?