Madison County Extension Intern
Do you have a bee or ant problems at your hummingbird feeder? Bees and butterflies enjoy nectar just as much as hummingbirds, however they are typically attracted to different kinds of flowers, and these different flowers have different nectar content.
You can use this to your advantage by mixing a ratio of sugar and water to something that doesn’t attract bees. When mixing your sugar solution for your feeder, make sure that it is at least four parts water to one part sugar. Do not make the mix any more saturated (stronger).
Bees typically like solutions that are over 40 percent nectar content, while hummingbirds prefer it to be a lot less. If you are already experiencing bee problems one trick would be to switch to a 5:1 water to sugar solution. This mix will still attract the birds but the bees will be less interested in this solution.
Another problem that develops with some of the upright feeders is a tendency to leak. If there are leaks around the feeder entrances make sure to clean them off daily to reduce excess solution available to the bees.
Another recommendation is that when purchasing feeders with the bee guards look for the ones that are red, instead of the bee guards with yellow as they are less visible to bees. This can also lower your bee numbers.
One last thing to consider when purchasing your hummingbird feeder is which style to use. Many have found that when it comes to leaks that the oval, “soup bowl” style feeders can be more effective at keeping the bees away.
If you are noticing that ants are becoming a problem at your feeder then follow this simple solution. Apply either shortening or a “Sticky” polybutene repellent to the pole or wire that is suspending the feeder. Then once you notice ants accumulating on the treated areas, vacuum them off.
When working to eliminate insect problems with hummingbird feeders, it is important to understand that the use of insecticides will not only kill the insects, it can harm the birds as well.
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