9 Ways To Keep Ants OFF Your Hummingbird Feeders

How do you keep ants off your hummingbird feeders?

ants off hummingbird feeders

I don’t know anyone who wants these insects drinking the nectar that was put out for their hummingbirds.


Mainly since ants can PREVENT hummingbirds, which happens when they arrive by the thousands and swarm over your feeders. Or it’s common for ants to get into the feeding ports and die inside, which can contaminate 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 that 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 one of the easiest) ways 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. 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.

Feeders for Hummingbirds

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:

ant moat that prevents ants

First Nature 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!


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, the 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!

View Price - Amazon


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 using mint, you can either rub the leaves on the pole that hangs your feeders, spread crushed up dried leaves around the base of the pole, or can hang some above your feeders. Just make sure that wherever you place the mint, ants will have to pass!


The biggest negative to this strategy is that you will need to reapply the leaves every time it rains.

mint leaves repel, deter, and keep ants away hummingbird feeders

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 would never dare 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!


Final Thoughts


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?


39 responses to “9 Ways To Keep Ants OFF Your Hummingbird Feeders”

  1. Contrary Mary in the Garden says:

    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.

  2. Brenda says:

    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.

  3. Rhonda White Hunt says:

    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.

  4. Kathy Klein says:

    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

  5. DJ Harrison says:

    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…

  6. Paul H Thompson says:

    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.

  7. Patrick Powers says:

    I use vegetable oil in the moat. It doesn’t evaporate, and ants will not build a body bridge over it.

  8. Lori says:

    I sprinkle cinnamon around . Where I see ants, works for me

  9. irene says:

    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.

  10. Wanda says:

    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

  11. Kay says:

    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.

  12. Good guido says:

    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.

  13. Smartestperson Ontheinternet says:

    I would think some ArmourAll silicone on the fishing line would reduce the coeficient of friction makeing the ants slide off.

  14. Denise D Madison says:

    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.

  15. Bear says:

    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.

  16. Pam Creasy says:

    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.

  17. Chantal Massicotte says:

    Cinnamon oil and glycerine or aloe works. Ants hate cinnamon. I put it under my squirrel baffle.

  18. Gwen says:

    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.

  19. Glen says:

    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

  20. DJ says:

    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…

  21. Virginia says:

    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.

  22. Susan Clawson says:

    I got a designer feeder from zesty! It attaches to copper wire and suction cups. Problem ants climb the window to it.

  23. Debra Blazer says:

    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.

  24. BJ says:

    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.

  25. Karen says:

    Same here

  26. K. Murphy says:

    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!

  27. Wil says:

    meant “Vaseline”

  28. Wil says:

    Vasoline and garage door grease didn’t work…ant moat built with fishing line here I come….

  29. Terry says:

    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

  30. Tamara says:

    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!

  31. TamW says:

    absolutely awesome ideas thank you!!!!!

  32. Arena says:

    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!

  33. Cathy Stafford says:

    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.

  34. Deborah MacAdams says:

    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!

  35. Ruth says:

    Can I spray mint on the bottom of the pole where ants can climb up?

  36. Susan E says:

    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.

  37. Elisa Hirt says:

    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!! 😊

  38. Adzie Hlupic says:

    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.

  39. Adzie Hlupic says:

    Has anybody commented yet?? This article is so, so helpful.Thanks a lot for doing this research for your reader, Scott. Bless! 🙂

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