9 Ways To Keep Ants OFF Your Hummingbird Feeders (2023)
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.
Aspects HummZinger | Aspects Window Feeder
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?
I tried spraying a little Pam or the equivalent that a person uses in a frying pan on the bottom 6 inches of the pole. I didn’t have another ant and it lasted real well.
I have ant moats on all my hummingbird feeders, and they are 100% effective AS LONG AS I keep them filled with water, which is easy to do but you have to remember to fill them every day in hot and dry weather. As soon as one dries out, the ants are again all over the feeder.
But my problem is yellow jackets. Lately I cannot even get near the feeders because the yellow jackets are swarming all over them. Even when the feeders are empty. I don’t know how to deal with this problem.
Re your statements about the safety of permethrin, specifically including safety for pets: permethrin is HIGHLY TOXIC to cats, so use with care. Please google this. I’m not saying cats are going to come into contact with a hummingbird feeder, but people should be aware that it’s dangerous to use even the sprays designed for clothing if there’s a chance a cat will come into contact with the garment. It’s not safe to use a product with permethrin on your dog if you also have a cat. Could you perhaps edit that section of your article? Thanks, and thanks for the many good ideas!
I have been using a cotton ball with axle grease rubbed in it and slide on my shepherd’s hook and also on a small wire that I have another feeder on. No ants 🐜 for the past 3 years. I put on a new one every spring. Have not seen any birds or anything else near them. Works Great
With 3 hummingbird feeders my homemade ant moats work like a charm. Cut off the top three inches of a Real Lemon plastic bottle, drill a small hole for the wire to pass through, and seal with bathroom silicone caulk. Hook on both ends, hang in a fruit tree (ours are apple trees), so we get some pollination in exchange for the favour. The bees are more interested in the fruit and flower blossoms nearby, but wasps are another thing.
I use a moat, but instead of water, I smear some STP (Found in the automotive section of a store) in the bottom of the moat. It does not dry out and can be cleaned out with a tissue – a little goes a long way. I live in Texas and the water dried up or needed to be filled daily because of the wind.
Diatomaceous earth. Kills ants. Get food grade so it doesn’t hurt dogs. It also kills fleas and parasites
I change the liquid and clean feeder at least once or twice a week depending on the weather. I fill the moat each time and I think a clean feeder and the moat keep ants away. Love my humming birds.
I use spray craft glue on the pole then put a little cayenne pepper in my hand and run my hand over the glue to leave some of the pepper. I do this to all my poles to keep squirrels and raccoons out of the seeds. They come and eat what’s on the ground but don’t clean out the feeders. No ants in the hummingbird feeders and no animals cleaning out my seeds. Last year I did it one time in the spring and have only done it one time this year. Doesn’t seem to wash away in the rain or with sprinklers in the yard. I do like the idea of mint though. May try that next year.
DE works just fine when wet.
The bottom of the hanger pole is a good place to put used mint tea bags or used mint tea this will also deter vermin from the area. Yeah Mint !!!
Here in northeast NE, the ants actually swim in the ant moats. Fishing line? The ants were back swimming in the moats the next morning. Will try the herbs next. Catnip grows beautifully here without being invasive. Will try it too.
Diatomaceous earth-kind of expensive for something that is ineffective when wet. And it kills insects VERY SLOWLY by cutting their exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate.
What height was the pole that you used? I saw some flag holders that you stick in the ground but I think those are more for decorative flags and wouldn’t be tall off of the ground for the hummingbirds to be safe from other critters such as cats.
Hey, any help out there. I have flying ants. Now anyone please tell me what to do here. They get in my jelly for orioles. Massive amounts. Orioles left me after only 2 weeks. Some in hummingbird feeders too. This to me is impossible to stop. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thx
I finally did the same thing – put the hummingbird feeder up on a pole,and put Vaseline on about a 2-inch section the very bottom of the pole near where it goes into the ground, and haven;t seen an any in 2 years – and TONS of hummingbirds – especially A LOT of repeat visitors… Best solution by far…
I had so many ants, so I thought, put something on the poles above the hooks so the ants won’t go there. I just coated the hooks above the feeders with vick’s vaporub, and no ants go there anymore. The smell also drives away the hornets and wasps.
I use vegetable oil in the moat. It doesn’t evaporate, and ants will not build a body bridge over it.
I sprinkle cinnamon around . Where I see ants, works for me
I bought this ant moat on eBay, I can’t believe it works, but it does! I can’t attach a photo for some reason, but it looks like a piece of copper tubing with hooks. Instead of water, you swirl cooking oil inside.
It is amazing.
We use an Ant Guard and it’s worked well since we started it 3 years ago. We have no hornets that bother the hummingbird feeder and the Ant guard works like a champ. NH
I make my own essential oil ant spray. I began using it around my patio area several years ago, but now I use it for my feeder as well. It works great, although you will need to spray again every month or so, and also after a rain. I use peppermint, lemon or orange, cinammon, and eucalyptus oils in water and watch the ants as they head in the other direction after spraying. They will even stay away from the cat food bowls. Other oils: Clove oil is supposed to interfere with their scent trail and kill them. Cedarwood oil works also, and is supposed to prevent re-infestation. Although I haven’t tried it, I do use cedarwood oil in a spray for linens sometimes. Many people also add tea tree oil as well. The most important oils to prevent ants are peppermint and orange/lemon/grapefruil oils. Just mix a few drops of the oils with water in a small spray bottle, and say goodbye to the ants around your home and feeders. Vinegar helps too, although it doesn’t last very long.
Until a hummingbird loses a wing. Darting around with another to get sugar water. Or slightly gets cut and infection sets in because of the grease you used. Please use common sense.
I would think some ArmourAll silicone on the fishing line would reduce the coeficient of friction makeing the ants slide off.
may 16, 2021
I just tried the Vaseline it didn’t work, Never had a problem with ants on my hummingbird feeder till this spring.
We have so many ants here, they have made a colony inside the bathroom in our trailer! Not only do they go after both of my hummingbird feeders on the porch, but The pet food of our service animals inside as well.
It would be messy to attempt water moats inside but I do take cinnamon sticks, put into water and boil until the water turns brown and smells strongly of cinnamon. I wonder if that would work inside and outside to get them away from areas they aren’t wanted.
That’s what I just did and quite suddenly, no ants! Actually I put drops of peppermint oil on the stick that holds the feeder.
Cinnamon oil and glycerine or aloe works. Ants hate cinnamon. I put it under my squirrel baffle.
Thanks for all the ideas and replies from users. We have used the moat and added a bit of natural dish soap. It is under an overhang so is fairly protected from rain.
I use a piece of #14 or #16 electrical wire to hang the feeder from a cup hook. when I first hang the feeder in the spring , I get a small amount of wheel bearing grease and rub it on the wire, Ants will not walk in the grease. if you want to try it, put something sweet on a small piece of wood then put some grease all the way around in a circle away from the sweets and put it near an Ant bed,the Ants won’t cross the grease to get the sweets
Thought the fishing line idea was an awesome one – until I tried it… Got the thinnest I could find (i.e. like 8-12 lb line) and was feeling brilliant until I went out the next morning and saw all of the ants floating in the feeder… I actually watched them walk up and down the line… Have seen this suggestion in a couple of places, and I can assure you that at least North Carolina ants can walk up and down thin fishing line with no problem… Back to the drawing board…
Mint great idea! Since planting mint and spearmint near my front door we have not had any big ugly water bugs come in the house.
I got a designer feeder from zesty! It attaches to copper wire and suction cups. Problem ants climb the window to it.
My husband came up with the ideal to get the Shepard’s hook, concrete them in buckets then fill partially with water. So far so good. No ants except when I left the handle of the bucket leaning against the hook and the ants found it. But so far all the ants can’t get to the feeders. Gonna let my grandkids paint designs on the buckets.
I put white dirtier n any moat at the top. Has a long name I can’t spell. Bought at Lowe’s. It kills ants and other bugs but safe for birds. Usually bugs won’t cross it. HAve to replace it after a rain.
Sticky paper endangers beneficial birds, bats, snakes and all the other little critters that get stuck on it. A very cruel and slow death. Please don’t use it!
Vasoline and garage door grease didn’t work…ant moat built with fishing line here I come….
I tried Vaseline but had some baby bum creme left, isles paste. It’s super thick and sticky and I put it on the pole, The ants can’t even make it to the moat. I just put it on a section so I don’t have to touch it every time I wash out the feeder and put in fresh nectar
The ant moats do not work especially when you have thousands of chipmunks! I can’t feed the Orioles oranges because the chipmunks steal the oranges and spill the water out of the ant moat.
I am currently trying bay leaves around the bottom of the feeder and will add mint tomorrow. I also changed the location. If that fails, I will try fishing line but don’t think that will stop the chipmunks!
absolutely awesome ideas thank you!!!!!
I don’t know how you all can have ants. I’m pretty sure they are ALL at my house on the feeders. HA HA!
Sticky fly paper wrapped around the base of the pole for about 6 or 7 inches. A messy job if not done slow and carefully. Only drawback is lawn mowing. The grass clippings stick and the ants just parade on up. You have to peel some of the paper back.
All of my feeders have moats…no ant issues. But wind and heat are problematic so I fill my moats 2x/day just to be sure they’re always full. Going to try mint….thanks for the tip!
Can I spray mint on the bottom of the pole where ants can climb up?
Great ideas except for the vaseline. I’ve read many comments from rehabers who say birds can get the Vaseline on their feathers which can kill them. Please research before doing this.
Very helpful!! Thank you!! I’m going to try mint or bay leaves… here’s hoping it works because I seem to have super ants in my yard!! 😊
Fishing line! T H A T’s C L E V E R. I will try that today. I’m sure it will do the trick.
Has anybody commented yet?? This article is so, so helpful.Thanks a lot for doing this research for your reader, Scott. Bless! 🙂