While an enjoyable past time, feeding hummingbirds often attracts a variety of insects that also enjoy the nectar in the feeders. Among these are bees, yellow jackets, and other stinging insects. If those feeders are close to your home, there is a possibility that they will bother or sting you.
Which leads us to beg the question, how do you keep bees away from your hummingbird feeders? The good news is that there many ways for you to enjoy observing hummingbirds and reduce the risk of attracting uninvited guests. In this blog we will discuss 7 methods specifically.
1. Choose a feeder that is difficult for bees to use or access. All hummingbird feeders fall into one of two categories; dish or bottle. The difference is related to where the nectar is stored compared to the feeding ports. In a bottle feeder, the nectar is kept in a bottle and is gravity fed to feeding ports which keeps the nectar close to the ports. On the other hand, dish or pan feeders keep the nectar in a saucer below the ports. With this style, as the nectar is consumed the surface gets further from the feeding ports. Using the dish feeders is ideal for dealing with bees and other insects because they are not equipped to reach the nectar as it gets lower. Hummingbirds however, have longer tongues that allow them to slurp up the nectar even when it gets lower in the saucer.
2. Add nectar guards to existing feeders. The guards are small pieces of plastic that attaches to hummingbird feeding ports. The tips are designed so that the center is always closed which prevents bees from easily accessing the nectar. Hummingbirds are able to use their beaks to open the tips and access the nectar in the feeder. It is necessary to do proper research when purchasing nectar guards in order to purchase the appropriate ones for your feeder. Some feeders are designed with bee guards built in for your convenience!
3. Try moving your feeder around. While this is a very simple solution, many people agree that this technique works by confusing bees. Also, when picking locations for your feeders, try to select areas that have consistent shade as bees are cold blooded. They like warmer, sunnier locations when looking for food. This is also a good tip for making the nectar last longer as exposure will speed up the sugars fermentation process.
4. Avoid yellow. Bees are naturally attracted to the color. If your feeder has yellow flowers or yellow decorations, it is more likely to attract bees. This same principle is the same reason why many hummingbird feeders are colored red as it is a naturally attractive color for them.
5. Use a different food source as a distraction. Planting a variety of flowers in your garden will be a great distraction for bees as they love the natural food source. This will have an added benefit of attracting a variety of butterfly species.
Another option would be to set out a small dish of nectar just for the bees. This could be anything from a shallow bowl to a small birdbath. If possible, select a yellow one and fill it with a little nectar. Bees will love it!
6. Traps.Now it is time to clear the air. Most instances when referring to bees, is really directed at the more aggressive cousins such as yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets. Many enthusiasts do not mind honey bees, bumblebees and the like as they are beneficial species for pollination and are not very aggressive as long as they are left to their own devices.
With that said, very few people like worrying about yellow jackets, hornets, and the like and you can make simple traps by recycling a plastic bottle! While the obvious benefit recycling is great, this also comes with side benefits of being free and you can use natural bait which makes this option all natural! Simply cut the plastic bottle in half. You can use any size from the typical 20 fl. oz. up to that large two liter that is always on standby. Next, place your bait of choice in the bottom of the bottle. Typically sweeter options like fruit will yield better results. Last, take the top of the bottle and place it upside down into the bottom of the bottle. The yellow jackets and hornets will be attracted to the bait and will fly in to investigate but are rarely able to navigate their way back out the small opening.
7. Keep your feeders clean. Over time, no matter what kind of feeder you use, sugar will build up on the exterior of the feeding ports and will attract bees. So each time you refill the feeder, it is good practice to give it a good clean with warm water to dissolve and clean away the sugar build up.
We hope these ideas bring you some peace of mind while you are enjoying those hummingbirds!
Image sourced from: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Annas_Hummingbird/id