How do you keep bees away from your hummingbird feeders?
Almost everyone who feeds hummingbirds has had to deal with bees competing for the delicious nectar. Yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets are especially frustrating because these insects are likely to bother or sting you!
Not to mention that a feeder full of wasps will prevent hummingbirds.
But don’t worry, many hummingbird enthusiasts have gone to war with bees before and won. During these battles, many proven tips and techniques have been discovered that prevent them from taking over nectar feeders.
Today, you are going to learn 7 tips you can use immediately!
I hope you find the information below valuable. Let’s bee-gin! 🙂
*I want to mention that when I refer to bees in this article, I am specifically talking about yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets. These insects tend to be the most aggressive and obnoxious. I have no problem with bees that pollinate flowers, and I actively try to attract these species to my yard.*
Tip #1: Choose a hummingbird feeder wasps can’t use.
So there are two standard designs when it comes to a hummingbird feeder. Every feeder is either a DISH (sometimes called saucer) or BOTTLE design. Take a look at the picture below, and you should be able to see the most significant difference (HINT – Look at where the nectar is located in relation to the feeding ports).
In a dish feeder, the nectar sits BELOW the ports, whereas in a bottle feeder the nectar drains down from above as the hummingbirds eat.
Every hummingbird enthusiast has their own opinion on which style is best, but when it comes to preventing bees, there is one clear winner.
Dish feeders are the best for keeping bees away!
In a dish feeder, the nectar sits well below the feeding ports, and this distance becomes greater as more and more sugar water is consumed. Hummingbirds have no problem reaching the food because they have a long tongue they use to drink.
Wasps and hornets, on the other hand, do not have a tongue they can use to slurp up nectar. They have to eat directly from their mandibles. So with a dish feeder, there is no way for them to access the nectar. All they can do is sit on top of the feeding ports looking down, dreaming about what it would be like to drink the sugar water!
The problem with bottle-style feeders is in the way they are designed. There is no gap between the feeding ports and the nectar, so the bees can sit there and consume sugar water. Bottle feeders also tend to leak more than dish feeders, so excess sugar is typically available for bees (and ants) to eat.
The dish feeder that I use in my backyard and recommend is the Aspects HummZinger.
Tip #2: Add nectar guards to existing feeders.
If you already own a hummingbird feeder, and the bees won’t leave it alone, then you can try adding nectar guards.
A nectar guard is a small piece of flexible plastic that attaches to a feeding port. The center of each plastic tip is always closed, which prevents bees from getting to the nectar. But when hummingbirds stick their beaks inside, the nectar guards open so the birds can gain access to the sugar water.
To find nectar guards that fit your specific hummingbird feeder, you will need to contact the manufacturer or search the internet. For easy reference, I have included a few options below.
- A. Aspects Nectar Guard Tips:
- Fits the following feeder models – HummZinger Ultra 12 ounce, Little Fancy 8 ounce, HummZinger Fancy 12 ounce, HighView Mini 8 ounce, HighView 12 ounce, HighView Excel 16 ounce, HummBlossom-Rose, & HummBlossom-Plum.
- B. Droll Yankees Nectar Guard Tips:
- These should fit all Droll Yankee hummingbird feeders.
Lastly, you can also buy a hummingbird feeder with built-in bee guards! Check out the model below made by Perky-Pet. You can see the yellow bee guard placed on top of the feeding port. Hummingbirds can stick their bill and tongue through, but bees can’t get close enough to the nectar!
Tip #3: Try moving your feeders.
Sometimes all it takes to stop bees is to move your feeding station!
I know this seems too simple, but it’s worth trying. Some enthusiasts swear by this technique and are continually moving feeders around their yard to confuse the bees.
As you are trying to find a place in your yard, search for a slightly shaded area. Bees are cold-blooded and prefer to be in the sun to stay warm. If you move your feeders to the shade, it may help to keep some of the bees away as they look for flowers that are out in the sunshine.
Keeping your feeders in the shade also helps make the nectar last longer between refilling. The sun speeds the fermentation process, which eventually spoils the sugar water.
Tip #4: Avoid yellow.
Have you ever noticed that most hummingbird feeders are the color red? The reason for this is that hummers are naturally attracted to red objects.
Well, bees are naturally attracted to the color yellow!
So if your feeder has yellow feeding ports or a pretty yellow flower on the side for decoration, you are inviting bees to come to investigate. And once they realize there is free and easy sugar water available, they are going to keep coming back.
Tip #5: Distract bees with another food source.
To keep bees away, try offering them food in another area of your backyard.
There are TWO different ways you can accomplish this:
A. Plant a garden full of flowers that bees can’t resist.
Not only will bees love this natural food source, but the flowers will also attract many butterfly species! And if you plan your flower garden just right, you can also include many flowers that serve as nectar sources for hummingbirds!
B. Set out a small dish of nectar.
Many people use small birdbaths in their gardens. Instead of filling it with water, put a little bit of sugar water inside, which should attract bees immediately. If possible, try to find one that is bright yellow!
Tip #6: Trap yellow jackets, hornets, and wasps.
When people say they don’t want “bees on their hummingbird feeder,” I have found that what they actually mean is that they don’t want yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets. Most hobbyists don’t have any problems with honey bees, bumblebees, and many other beneficial species. In fact, many people try to attract and encourage these types of bees to their yards.
But yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets can be aggressive towards other creatures, including humans. If you have a large number of these insects in your yard, then I recommend putting out a trap that catches them!
Usually, I don’t recommend getting rid of insects, since they all play a role in the food chain. But once a few of them sting your 3-year old daughter while sitting peacefully outside, it becomes a bit easier to install these traps.
Check out the following video of a homemade yellow jacket trap!
After you have cut a plastic soda bottle in half, you take the top portion and stick it upside down back into the bottom half. From there, put some bait, like chicken, soda, or something else sugary at the bottom. The yellow jackets are attracted to the smell and fly inside to investigate, but they are not able to navigate back up the small opening.
I love this trap for a few reasons! First, it’s incredibly simple to make since all you need is a plastic pop bottle. Second, you don’t have to use ANY insecticides, which makes this trap a natural solution.
Tip #7: Clean your feeders often.
Every time that you take your hummingbird feeders inside to refill, make sure to clean the outside of them too.
Specifically, you are trying to get off any excess sugar build-up around the feeding ports. All of this sugar on the outside attracts bees!
Avoid these TWO bee prevention strategies!
Before we end today, I want to warn you about a few techniques that I want you to avoid. While these strategies may be effective, they can cause unintended harm.
A. Don’t spray insecticides and pesticides.
I know it’s tempting to have your house and backyard sprayed with chemicals to kill all the bees. The problem with this method is that insecticides kill all bugs! They don’t discriminate, and not only will you not have bees, but you will be missing ALL invertebrates.
And guess what hummingbirds eat in addition to nectar?
You probably guessed it – insects and arthropods!
If you do decide to massacre all the bugs, then the hummingbirds are probably going to start visiting your neighbors’ yards, along with all the other birds and wildlife that depend upon invertebrates to eat.
B. Don’t use sticky stuff on the feeder ports.
A piece of advice that is commonly given to keep bees away is to use put something sticky or slippery on and around the feeding ports. Some materials commonly used are petroleum jelly, cooking oil or spray, or grease.
The reason this works is bees have to land on the feeding ports to access the nectar. If oil or petroleum jelly is surrounding the area, then they are unable to get close enough to eat. It is said that hummingbirds aren’t affected because they can stick their beak and tongue inside the ports without getting anything on them.
While this strategy probably works 99% of the time without harming hummingbirds, I think it’s just too high a risk. Hummingbirds are so tiny that it only takes a little bit of a slippery or slimy solution on them to create problems.
I think by using and combining the other tips on this list, you can prevent bees without using either of the above two methods!
I hope you got a few ideas today that will help you keep the bees off the hummingbird feeders in your backyard.
If you know of another useful strategy that keeps bees away, please let me know in the comments.