Aug 16, 2017 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, August 2017

Deterring Ants and Bees at Nectar Feeders

A hummingbird approaches a feeder guarded by a bee.
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An ant moat protects nectar feeders from ant invasions.

Ants are a common problem at nectar feeders, but a problem with an easy solution: An ant moat! Ants can't swim, so by hanging an ant moat above your nectar feeder, you block their travel route. Ant moats are specially designed cups with a hook above for hanging, and a hook below to hang the feeder on. Keep the moat filled with water and unless they fly, jump, or fall, ants will no longer be able to reach your nectar.

While the ant problem is easily resolved, bees at the nectar feeder present a more difficult challenge. There is some evidence to suggest that bees are attracted to yellow and to contrasting colors, but they cannot see red. Yellow bee guards on a nectar feeder might be more attractive to bees than a feeder with no yellow parts at all. Bees are also attracted to contrasting colors, so a red nectar feeder with yellow bee guards could be a welcome mat for flying, stinging insects. Feeders in which the nectar flows into the port make it easy for bees to reach the sweet stuff, while nectar feeders with a saucer design and the ports above make it difficult for bees to reach the nectar. Hummingbirds, with their long bills and tongues, have no difficulty.

Another trick to deter bees is to relocate the nectar feeder every few days. Hummingbirds are good at finding "new" (or relocated) food sources, while it takes bees, hornets, and wasps a while to adapt.



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