About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

What’s the best bee-proof hummingbird feeder?

Hello, I've been having a problem with honeybees taking over my hummingbird feeders over the past week. Fortunately, none of my feeders are leaking. Do you have any tips you can share that would allow me to convince the bees to move on to the flowers in my garden, and to help my hummingbirds gain access to their feeders again?

The only sure defense against bees and wasps is to deny them any access to the nectar. Before I switched all my hummingbird feeders to the bee free Wild Birds Unlimited  saucer style feeders I occasionally had a bee problem too.

Originally all my hummingbird feeders were beautiful blown glass feeders. They looked wonderful in the garden but mainly fed the bees. After we opened the Wild Birds Unlimited stores I did a little more research.

I discovered bees don't like the smell of cherries. If you swab the ports with real almond or cherry extract (purchased at any grocery store baking isle), the bees will avoid the feeder. This really works but it wears off fast and you have to reapply the extract every day.

I gave up eventually and replaced all my hummingbird feeders with the problem free Wild Birds Unlimited saucer style feeders. I’ve talked about them before. They have a built in ant moat and bees don't like it because the nectar is down low. There are also optional bee guards you can attach to allow only hummers and no bugs access. Click HERE to read that article.

If you choose not to try a new feeder or swab the ports with real cherry extract, there are a couple other tricks to try.
  1. The Wild Birds Unlimited store in North Carolina recommends: “Use a super-concentrated sugar water mix (two parts water, one part sugar), and pour it into a shallow plate, preferably a big yellow one (bees seem to be attracted to that color). Put the plate on a ladder or stool near the hummingbird feeder the bees are using and they will probably move over to the plate. Each day, move the plate a foot or two further away from the hummingbird feeder and eventually the bees should stop using the feeder.”

  2. Hummingbirds.net recommends: “If you choose not to try a new feeder and wasps persist, first try moving the feeder, even just a few feet; insects are not very smart, and will assume the food source is gone forever. They may never find it in its new location, while the hummers will barely notice that it was moved. If that doesn't work, take the feeder down for a day or until you stop seeing wasps looking for it. You'll see hummers looking for it, too, but they won't give up nearly as soon as the wasps. Also, reducing the sugar concentration to 1 part sugar in 5 parts water will make it less attractive to insects, but probably won't make the hummingbirds lose interest.”
I hope that helps.

Hi Sarah, Wow, thank you for that valuable information-and for the speedy reply. I put one of my feeders back up this morning, after 48 hours of being inside. Hopefully the bees will have forgotten all about them. If not, I'll be looking for cherry extract on my next trip to the grocery store.

My next feeder purchase will surely be your saucer feeder! Have a great weekend!

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