7 Ways to Keep Bees Off Hummingbird Feeders (2023)
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!
Perky-Pet Pinch-Waist Glass Hummingbird Feeder View Price - Amazon
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.
Heath Outdoor Products Hanging Birdbath | Regal Art Birdbath Stake
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.
If you don’t want to make your own, you can also buy Yellow Jacket traps on Amazon.
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.
Hi Scott ~ We’ve enjoyed your informative blog for some time, now. As Senior Citizens, wild songbird rehabbers, gardeners, and dog lovers, your advice & “pointing your readers in the right direction” is refreshing plus much needed! In a time when money is at a premium, a sack of C&H sugar + filtered/pure water, and a hummingbird feeder (one can be made from glass & additions ’round the house) the good and the pleasure from feeding ALL wild birds, especially hummingbirds, is immense!! Thank you for filling a valuable part of our environment!! Happy HummBirding!!
You’re welcome! Thanks for the kind comment!
The main problem is once in a while the H-Bird will stab a bee with the beak and then they can’t get it back off and will soon drop to the ground and die a long death……I saw one happen and picked up the H-Birds and used small scissors to carefully cut the bee of its beak and then it slowly came back to life and I had it sitting in my hand and finally it started moving its wings and away he flew……and most likely back to my feeders and I have 14 of the big feeders and have them all year and Anna’s can handle 20 degrees…..some how…..and I feed them all winter.
I have around 100 every spring and about 25 in the winter and they get about 200lbs of sugar every year here. ( I also have many youtube videos) bees bother them but they sort of just back off and right back on the feeders and when there is more than a couple I get rid of the evil bees.
What state do you live in?
No, there is no way to avoid this. It’s their natural instinct. Hummingbirds are incredibly competitive for food and fight each other viciously. All you can do is try to have multiple feeders spaced out so that there is enough to go around. Even then, you’ll get some fighting. I have six feeders on my deck and the hummingbirds fight over them all day long.
is there a solution to a hummingbird that attacks another one that is feeding off the feeder I have 3 feeders and yet the one that attacks does not go the feeder that the other hummingbird feeds from
is there a solution to hummingbirds that attack another one on the feeder I have 3 feeders and there is one small one that goes to a feeder and then another one comes and attacks it yet the one that attacks does not go that feeder
Make a second trap for mosquitos. Add 1 tsp. active yeast to the sugar water. The fermentation makes CO2 that attracts mosquitoes. Wrap the bottle in dark paper or spray the bottle a dark color to make the trap more attractive.
Scott — I’m doing good with my hummingbird feeder, but I have a Perky-Pet® Oriole Jelly Wild Bird Feeder and have been thrilled to have Baltimore orioles in the spring and all summer. The last few weeks the jam is disappearing pretty fast and I have a ton of honey bees. The orioles land and eat and some bees leave, then come back. Thankfully the honey bees are friendly. When the stirrer needs to be turned there are even bees in the openings for the jam. They are ok with me squishing them out along with the jam. Any ideas? I swear they’re eating more than the orioles!
We have a window mounted dish feeder and just noticed the first wasp hanging around yesterday. I think I may have spilled some sugar water on the outside causing the problem. I changed it out making sure to wipe it down with a paper towel. Haven’t seen any today so far.
I don’t usually kill anything, but the yellow jackets are an exception. Early in the year put our a tablespoon of raw meat, hamburger works well, put 5 or 6 drops of Fipronil on it. The worker wasps take it back to the nest and it will kill the queen and everything in the nest. Does double duty on the Baldfaced hornets as they will eat the yellow jackets and it kills them also.
Please send a picture! I’ve tried everything.
Please do not use Vaseline or any kind of any kind of a sticky substance because if it gets on the hummingbird feeder on the hummingbirds feathers it could kill them
I have tried most suggestions even applied Peppermint oil directly on the feeder bottom and sides of ports didn’t work
The bee guard by Perky Pet doesn’t work for me, and we have loads of flowers but that doesn’t dissuade them from favouring the feeders. We’re learning to co-exist and the hummingbirds LOVE the nasturtiums near the feeders.
Give them to your disliked neighbor
Could you share a pic of this homemade guard?
I have slim waist perky pet feeders with yellow bee guards. I also raise honey bees. These bees feeders do not keep out the bees. I made a second bee guard from metal screening. Folded it to make a square tube, and forced it over the yellow bees guards. Perfect! Bees can no longer reach the sugar water. But my hummers can. Works so well, that that the bees quit trying for the sugar water. Third year in use, and still a success.
Do honey bees chase the hummingbirds away? Are hummers afraid to go to a feeder with bees all over it? I have had this experience of dealing with bees all over my feeders and clearly the hummers see the bees and leave. But do the bees actually ever chase the birds away or sting them? I”m asking about honey bees and not wasps or yellow jackets which can be very aggressive. Just curious. Thank you for your email news letter.
The shade does not eork. My feeders are all dish feeders and red. 5 out of 8 are in the shade. I do not know what to do
Think twice about leaving a dish of sugar water for the bees. Supposedly they will go to the open easy source instead of the feeders. I did this and ran an errand and when I came back there were hundreds of bees all over every feeder (I have about 10) and all over the dish and flying througout my yard. I love bees but this was not okay!
Great tip! Definitely something to be careful with and monitor if it’s actually brining in more wasps and yellow jackets.
I am just starting bee keeping and I am finding this Article to be very misleading. You are trying to keep insects mostly wasps and Yellowjackets but use bees as the header. We want to encourage bees 🐝 not give misconceptions of them being a nuisance
Hello Ursula. Thanks for your concern. In the article it says clearly the problem are yellowjackets and wasps. 🙂 Also, none of the tips would do any harm to native bees. Specifically, I talk about never using pesticides. Trust me, I love bees, and if you look I have a few articles about how to encourage bees in your yard.
I use peppermint essential oil 30 drops with two tablespoons of water and spray just the bottom of the feeders and some on a cotton swab around the flowers, the hummers don’t mind the peppermint and the bees and wasps avoid it, now for BATS, where I live Bats drink up all their nectar at night. For that If you simply want to keep the nectar for your hummingbirds and still leave your feeders out, in place. I just cut the tips of cotton swabs off, enough to poke into the feeding holes and not too deep to go into the nectar. The bats cannot stick their tongues in there.
Inverted pop bottle trap is a great idea. The big delima is what do you do to dispose a bottle full of angry, trapped yellow jackets??
Thanks for the tip to get a dish feeder in order to avoid having bees and ants show up. I would like to get a feeder for some of the hummingbirds that I’ve seen in my backyard. I’ll look into getting dish one so that I don’t have a bee or ant infestation.
Why oh why do hummingbird feeder manufacturers make yellow bee guards if bees and wasps are attracted to the color yellow? Also why do they make feeders that have holes large enough for bees to feed? the Birds do not need such large holes for their long thin tongues. It’s baffling to me.
Could anyone recommend where to place the bottle? My hummingbird feeder is hung off my deck, roughly 4’ out, and about 12’ above the ground. How close should it be to the feeder? Should it be placed on my deck? Thanks for any advice! Please email me at email@example.com. Thanks again!
Me too! They came out of know where at the end of August (I live in MA) and there has to be at least 15 swarming one of the two feeders I have off my deck. They haven’t been an issue all summer. This is my first time I’ve had feeders, had one but two hummingbirds scared off two others, so bought another one. They are glass bottles, multi colored with the red flowers to feed out of. The yellow jackets haven’t went near the one that has more yellow in the glass bottle and I thought they were attracted to yellow. I’m going to try the soda bottle method to trap those nasty yellow jackets. They are so aggressive. Any other suggestions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
Thank you for your suggestions. Gonna try the soda bottle trap. Fingers crossed🤞🏻
I’ve had 2 hummingbird feeders on my deck for 12 years and this is the first year I’ve had issues with the yellow jackets trying to take over! They are driving the hummingbirds away. They gotta go!!
Great info, I just put out the pop bottle with the inverted top. Hope is works. Thanks
Really appreciate your simple suggestions. First time we’ve had this problem. Good to know its fairly common and can be avoided.
Thank-you! Very very helpful!!
Great suggestions been trying for years to get hummingbirds