Hummingbirds and bees do not get along well, but they do have similar dietary needs, so it’s no surprise when the sweet nectar in your feeders start attracting bees as well as hummingbirds, sometimes even on a daily basis. The problem is that a feeder taken over by bees and wasps become unattractive to hummers, and they eventually stop coming altogether.
Natural Ways to Keep Bees and Wasps Off Hummingbird Feeders
Having ‘bees’ at one’s feeders can often just mean that there are swarms of wasps, bumblebees, yellow jackets, and hornets, and if there are enough of them, they can even scare the hummingbirds away.
Honey bees are more likely to come if you have bee-keeping neighbors, and then you cannot use any kind of chemicals to drive the bees away or kill them. In any case, it won’t be a good idea to drive them away completely as your garden needs them too, so we are not going to discuss any chemical warfare here. Following are some natural ways that might help keep bees and wasps out of hummingbird feeders. You may still spot a few flying around, but that should be manageable.
1. Keeping Everything Clean
- Look for any wasp, hornet, and bee nests around your house, and yard like under your deck or in any holes and cracks, and get rid of those. Call a professional exterminator.
- Cleaning the feeders regularly, and keeping them dry and leak-proof goes a long way in preventing bees and similar insects, but it might not work as well if they have already targeted your feeders. You will first have to get them off the trail.
- Maintaining your yard, trimming the bushes, mowing the lawn, and keeping your trash cans tightly lidded may keep them away.
2. Giving Bees and Wasps their Own Feeding Station
- Move the feeders and replace them in a shady location as insects like bees, wasps, and yellow jackets prefer to feed in the sun. At the same time, you can also try placing another feeder for the insects around the place where the original was previously kept. This might keep them from going to the birdfeeder in the shadow. You may be sure that the birds will find the feeder in its new location.
- If moving the feeder isn’t an option, you can make the nectar for the second feeder sweeter than that of the first, and the bees and hornet will hopefully move to the sweeter nectar.
- Another common idea is that bees are attracted to the color yellow, so if you have a red feeder, bees won’t see it. But, the truth is, any color feeder can attract all sorts of insects. If the separate feeder you put for bees is yellow, and your hummingbird feeder is red, then it could work.
3. Using Decoys and Repellants
- Another measure many people claim to work is hanging up a fake wasp nest somewhere near the feeder. As these insects are quite territorial, they might move away thinking your yard is already ‘taken’ (here is a DIY fake wasp nest).
- Putting a few drops of peppermint essential oil, or mint extract may also control the problem if there are only a few bees. It will not drive all of them away though.
Commercial insect sprays and traps are never recommended as they may harm the hummingbirds.
About Using Vegetable Oils to Keep Bees From Taking Over the Feeders
Applying cooking oil on the outer surfaces of feeders works in deterring insects but be careful that no oil gets mixed with the nectar. Birds produce their own oil for pruning, and if hummingbirds get extra oil in their system, it might cause their feathers to become too matted, which can interfere with their ability to fly.
4. Using Bee Guards for Hummingbird Feeders
Bee proofing the feeders means making the feeding holes smaller so no bees and wasps can get into it, though the hummingbirds can still access it. There are commercial guard tips available that works, and here are a few:
|Aspects 384 Nectar Guard Tips
Cheaper than most other similar products, there are 12 tips per pack.
|Perky-Pet 205Y Replacement Bee Guards
Mesh-style guards fit most feeders and work well, though they might be a bit costly.
|Droll Yankees NGT Nectar Guard Tips
Available as 12- and 24-piece packs, the delicate tips need to be replaced once every year.
You can also bee-proof your feeders yourself – here is a YouTube video for the DIY.
5. Getting Bee-Proof Saucer Hummingbird Feeders
Though most feeders are promoted as being bee-proof, they don’t always succeed in keeping the bees out. But, the shape of the feeder might have a role to play, as saucer-shaped or disk feeders have been seen to attract fewer bees than top-mount bottle feeders. The nectar remains below the cover in a disk feeder, which probably keeps the insects away.
Our Recommendations for Saucer Hummingbird Feeders
|Juegoal 16 oz Hanging Hummingbird Feeder
A 16oz feeder with 8 ports and built-in moat guards, this one is also supposed to keep ants out.
|Droll Yankees Hummingbird Outdoor Feeder
This 10oz feeder has 4 feeding ports, and though it is slightly more expensive, it does come with a cleaning blush and ant moats.
|Aspects HummZinger HighView Hummingbird Feeder
A rather large feeder with elevated perches and 4 feeding stations, it is made of unbreakable material.
In the end, you have to accept that you cannot control the course of nature, and bees are a natural competitor of hummingbirds for food sources. All you can do is stop bees from dominating the feeders so the hummers get a chance to feed peacefully.