15 Creative Ways to Bee-Proof Your Hummingbird Feeders
When hummingbirds and bees come together, you get a big chaotic buzz in your backyard. But bee-live it or not, you can keep both nectar-loving buzzers happy without taking drastic measures like setting up insect traps.
So, stop scratching your head and trying to figure out how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders. We have 15 safe, effective, and low-cost ways that will make your garden harmonious and well-pollinated in no time.
- Maintenance Is Key
- Trick The Bees!
- Modify Your Hummingbird Feeder
Maintenance Is Key
You don’t have to think too advanced on how to keep honey bees away from hummingbird feeder. Sometimes it’s as easy as keeping your current nectar feeders well-maintained.
1. A Clean Nectar Feeder is A Bee-Free Cleaner
Are you looking for a free and effective way on how to keep honey bees away from hummingbird feeders? This is it.
Make sure your hummingbird feeders are nectar-free on the outside. Bees and wasps know where to look for good nectar sources thanks to their sight, memory, smell, and a good sense of direction (1).
As the hummers drink, they can drip nectar on the feeder. If you don’t clean it up, the wasps take that as an open invitation to come on over. Wipe the feeder with a damp cloth at least once a day, and you can keep bees away from hummingbird feeders.
2. Look For Leaks And Patch Them Up
This method uses the same principle as the first one. Constantly dripping hummingbird feeders make it easier for wasps to get to it. Plus, you’re wasting the nectar!
Check your hummingbird feeders every week to stay on top of things. Sometimes, fixing a leak is as easy as tightening a screw. Just don’t tighten too much because plastic hummingbird feeders might crack.
If there’s a crack, clean the hummingbird feeder and let it air dry. Cut a strip of plumbing tape and cover the damage. Make sure nectar doesn’t get in contact with the tape. You don’t want nectar to seep into the tape and get moldy.
Trick The Bees!
Tried the clean-up trick before, and you still couldn’t keep bees and wasps away from the saucer feeders? Don’t worry. We have other ways to keep bees away. As mentioned, bees, wasps, and yellow jackets are creatures of habit. Play against their strength with stealth and strategic positioning.
3. Keep those Hummingbird Feeders Moving
How to keep bees and wasps away from hummingbird feeders?
Throw off the bees’ mental map of your yard by moving the hummingbird feeders every few days. Timing is critical here. You want to move it often enough to keep the bees and wasps guessing. But also not too frequent that you confuse the hummers. Experiment on the frequency of relocation and find what works for you.
Distance also matters. Bees only look a few feet away from where they last visited the food source (1). If they don’t find it, they move along. Hummingbirds are a bit more persistent, so don’t worry about them not seeing it.
4. Under The Trees To Avoid The Bees
Bees and wasps like to forage under direct sunlight. Studies have shown that they use the sun’s position to navigate through new environments (2). That’s pretty darn smart for such a simple insect!
So put your hummingbird feeders amongst trees or in shaded areas. It makes it harder for bees and yellow jackets to find the nectar. Just make sure it’s still accessible to the hummers. Remember, they need space to hover or land on the rests.
5. The Dull Effect of Bright Red
Bees and yellow jackets see colors differently than we humans do. They can only see a specific range of the light spectrum (3).
“Bees, like many insects, see from approximately 300 to 650 nm. That means they can’t see the color red, but they can see in the ultraviolet spectrum (which humans cannot).”
Use this to your advantage by choosing red hummingbird feeders. Taking out the power of bee-attracting colors is a smart way to keep bees away. But hummingbirds will come for it like a bull to a matador’s cape. Those hovering little birds’ eyes have enhanced pigments drawn to anything bright red (4).
6. Yellow Is A No-No
While bees and wasps don’t find anything special about the color red, yellow is a different story. They associate yellow with pollen (3). So naturally, they fly towards it.
It also doesn’t help that the color yellow hummingbird feeder has actual food for the bees. Remember, bees and wasps find and remember food sources by sight and smell. So, unless you want bees to swarm your hummingbird feeders, choose a color other that isn’t bright yellow.
7. Put A Decoy Feeder
“I like having them around my flowers, but the bees are taking over my hummingbird feeder.” That’s a common concern. How do you get the best of both worlds?
Make sugar water for bees visiting your garden. Put it in a regular bee feeder or a shallow bowl with rocks. You can make this set up out of everyday household items, so you don’t spend anything.
Remember to make the bees’ sugar water solution sweeter, just the way they like it. And place it away from your hummingbird feeders. Everybody has their food, and your garden stays pollinated. Triple win!
8. Warning: (Fake) Wasp In The zone
Bees, wasps, and yellow jackets are territorial insects (5). They avoid areas where they know it is not a free for all space.
The sight of a decoy wasp nests is enough to let bees, wasps, and yellow jackets turn around and keep away from your hummingbird feeders. If you’re artsy enough and don’t want to spend a lot, pin a Pinterest post and get DIY-ing. You’ll be surprised with what you can make with just a brown paper bag, glue, scissors, of course, your imaaaagination *jazz hands*.
9. Divert The Bees Attention With A Pollinator Garden
Feeding bees with sugar water is not ideal for long-term use. They need natural nectar to stay healthy and make good honey (6). So your next step is to think of how to keep bees off hummingbird feeders. But still, keep them in your garden all year long.
Planting bee-friendly flowers don’t just keep your bees distracted from the hummingbird feeders. But they also make your garden pretty!
Seeds are relatively inexpensive. And planting fruit trees like apples or cherries is extra beneficial for you!
Modify Your Hummingbird Feeder
If the bees and wasps are too smart for those evasive tactics, you might need to increase the security of your hummingbird feeders. Or, you can get the best bee-proof hummingbird feeder.
10. Easy On The Sweetness
As we said earlier, bees like sweeter sugar. Hummers, on the other hand, can do with lower sweetness. Mutations over the centuries made them the only birds that even detect sweetness in general (7). But they can’t tolerate high sweetness levels as bees can.
Bee sugar water comes in an equal ratio of water and sugar. Some beekeepers use a 2:1 mix. (6). Use a lighter balance of up to 1:5 sugar to water for your hummingbirds.
Keeping the hummingbird nectar more diluted will make bees and wasps lose interest and eventually stay away from hummingbird feeders. Plus, you get to keep more sugar for your morning coffee.
11. Surround The Hummingbird Feeder With Ant Moats
Ants are just about as sugar crazy as bees. Keep your hummingbird feeders safe from invading ants using an ant moat. But don’t go buying one when you can quickly build one.
All you need are soda cans or bottles, a sturdy piece of wire, and hot glue. As for tools, grab a pair of scissors, a hot pan, and a drill (or nail and hammer). When you have all of those, check out how to make it here:
Super easy, right? Plus, the bigger the bottle you use, the longer it takes for the water to dry out!
12. Don’t Cross The Fishing Line
We have another free hack to keep ants out of your hummingbird feeder. No tools are needed here—just a simple fishing line. Tie the end of your hummingbird feeders with the fishing line. Then tie the whole thing to wherever you want to feed the hummingbirds.
Why does this work, you ask? The fishing line acts as a tightrope for the ants. They won’t be able to walk on it properly and will stay away from hummingbird feeders. Don’t worry about the line snapping either. If it can handle a wriggly fish, it can surely make a simple hanging feeder.
13. Build Bee Barriers
Let’s get back to bees-ness. If distracting bees and wasps don’t work and they keep coming, you need a bee-proof hummingbird feeder. You have two options here; you can get pretty, flower-shaped bee guards for hummingbird feeders on Amazon for anywhere between $6-$18. Or you can make your own for free if you have relatively fine plastic mesh laying around.
To DIY, choose one with holes small enough that bees and wasps won’t get through. But it has to be big enough for the hummingbird’s beak to get through. Cut the mesh to wrap around the feeder hole and secure it tightly with either super glue or a rubber band. Ta-da, bee guard!
The best thing about this DIY bee guard is that you can make it fit any feeder.
14. Fortify The Hummingbird Feeding Port With Nectar Guard Tips
If you want a more decorative way to block the bees and wasps from getting into the hummingbird feeder, use nectar guard tips.
These are plain versions of bee guards for hummingbird feeders without a fancy flower design. Picture this—a two-inch plastic drinking straw with a silicon-like material covering one end.
You stick the open end into the hummingbird feeding port. And the hummingbirds get to drink because the silicon is partially cut into quarters from the center. And, it’s not expensive. For less than $10, you’ll get a set of 16.
Don’t worry about attracting bees and wasps. It has a low-key design similar to some yellow flower-shaped bee guards. Plus, the flap only works when the hummers poke their beaks into it. Bees and other small flying insects can’t get through the feeder ports.
We don’t suggest slathering the feeding ports or the feeder with petroleum jelly because it can get on the hummingbirds’ feathers.
15. Don’t Fight Them; Keep Them!
Sometimes the best way to prevent bees on hummingbird feeders is to simply keep them. Just note that it’s best to do this during swarm season (human translation – it’s late spring) when the bee population is at its greatest (8).
The first thing you need is a trap. You can buy a swarm trap for less than $50, or you can try attracting the bees into a box hive. This process takes a while, so it’s best to shop for all the available beehive options.
Honey bees swarm your hummingbird feeder when they don’t have other food sources nearby. Bees prefer nectar over the sugar water inside the hummingbird feeder. But when nectar comes in short supply, bees get desperate and get sweet liquid from any source they can. You usually notice this more before winter, when there are fewer flowers around.
No, hummingbirds are not afraid of bees. The two nectar-loving creatures are competitors for the same food source. But they don’t go as far as attacking each other.
Hummingbirds avoid areas with too many bees because there’s just too much competition. After all, there’s only so much nectar in one flower. The buzzing bird is better off looking for another spot with less buzzing.
No, hummingbirds do not eat wasps and yellow jackets. Although they eat small insects, wasps and yellow jackets are too dangerous for hummingbirds to mess with. Imagine a sting from one of these bad boys. Ouch, right? And you’re way bigger than a hummingbird. So think how much worse it is for them if they messed with a giant stinger and lost. It’s just not worth it for them.
Some scents that keep bees away are cinnamon, garlic, and peppermint (9). Bees don’t like strong, pungent smells. They want sweet-smelling plants and flowers.
Citronella is another plant that most insects don’t care for, including bees. As for flowers, they don’t like marigolds despite their yellow color. The flowers are pretty but not sweet-smelling. You can plant a hedge of them to keep your bees at bay.
- Honeybee. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/honeybee
- Bee Navigation. Retrieved from: https://www.asc.ohio-state.edu/perry.6/p596_au99/Samples/shortmed/fiskemedium/index.html
- What Do Bees See? And How Do We Know? Retrieved from: https://news.ncsu.edu/2011/07/wms-what-bees-see/
- The Science Behind Why Red Matters To Hummingbirds. Retrieved from: https://www.sweet-seed.com/hummingbirds/the-science-behind-why-red-matters-to-hummingbirds/
- Learn More about the Different Kinds of Bees. Retrieved from: http://www.hvbeehabitat.org/bees
- Feeding Honey Bees. Retrieved from: https://pollinators.msu.edu/resources/beekeepers/feeding-honey-bees/
- Most Birds Can’t Taste Sugar – Here’s Why the Hummingbird Can. Retrieved from: https://phys.org/news/2014-09-birds-sugar-hummingbird.html
- What Time of the Year Do Bees Swarm? Retrieved from: https://honestbeekeeper.com/what-time-of-the-year-do-bees-swarm/
- Naturally Repel Bees and Keep Them Away. Retrieved from: https://www.netnewsledger.com/2018/02/16/naturally-repel-bees-keep-away/
Tana grew up around island farms and pine forests. Her love for nature lead to her degree in Biology and mission to lessen her environmental impact. Now she grows food in her backyard and shares what she learns from Eco Peanut with others.