Many gardeners have problems keeping bees away from hummingbird feeders. Does this sound like you ? Do you find yourself feeding the hummingbirds and every other winged creature in the region? It can be frustrating. So what can we do about this? Here are some tips to help you learn how to keep bees away and enjoy feeding the birds.
Are Bees Swarming Your Hummingbird Feeder?
They say misery loves company. Well, I don’t know about that. But, if you are having problems with other insects visiting your hummingbird feeders, you are not alone. This is a common problem expressed by bird-loving homeowners each Summer.
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A hummingbird feeder can still be part of a bee friendly garden you just need a plan. What should you not do?
Don’t resort to harsh chemicals. Using any type of repellent product on the feeder – can harm you and the birds too! Honestly, they are not very effective at keeping the bees away either.
Why do Hummingbird Feeders Attract Bees?
Even though hummers are very tiny, they require a high energy food. This is where sweet nectar comes into play.
The birds fly around the garden consuming nectar from many blooming plants and flowers. Of course, they are not the only ones who crave sweet nectar.
Many people purposely plant hummingbird gardens with flowers the birds enjoy. Both may be seen drinking from nectar sources at the same time. However, a blooming bush has many feeding stations – a feeder does not.
Bees at Hummingbird Feeders- Seasonal Problem
Normally, having a few bees visit your hummingbird feeder is not a big problem. And, the issue is not usually a problem for the whole season.
Hummingbirds are not present all year – they arrive in late Spring. And the bees and birds can share companionably.
The bee-bird conflict is more of an issue in mid to later Summer. Why? Because the amount of natural nectar available in flowers varies with plant bloom time and rainfall.
If weather conditions cause a lack of nectar, this is called a dearth. Starving insects are desperate and more likely to visit any types of sugary food source.
As sure as, July will bring hot humid weather in the south, it will also bring complaints from homeowners who are experiencing bees swarming at their hummingbird feeder.
Can Beekeepers Keep Bees Away from Your Feeder?
Unfortunately, beekeepers can not keep bees away from your hummingbird feeder. We can’t even keep them away from our own feeders.
This can be especially frustrating if you live in a neighborhood with hummer lover neighbors and beekeepers living close together.
As much we would wish we could, beekeepers can not keep bees from flying wherever they want.
But sometimes, beekeepers can help to minimize the problem. By feeding hungry colonies in times of need, the colonies will be less desperate for food.
Are Hummingbirds Afraid of Bees?
No, hummingbirds are not afraid of bees. But, they find it to frustrating to fight thousands of bees to reach the sweet food.
Bee congestion can get so bad that the birds stay away. In addition to being a nuisance, all of these thirsty insects can drain a full hummingbird feeder quickly.
Prevent Bees from Taking Over Hummingbird Feeders
- choose a hummingbird feeder with bee guards
- look for all red feeders – no yellow
- move feeder to a sunny location
- create a bee feeding station (well away from your house) during times of drought
- plant more blooming flowers that pollinators love for food sources
This may sound too simplistic but it is the truth. The best way to keep bees from taking over your hummingbird feeder is to stop it before it starts.
It is much easier to prevent the problem-than fix it. Once bees get tuned into a food location, it can be difficult to stop the behavior.
Bee Proof Feeders With Insect Guards
When buying hummingbird feeders, chose a style that has insect guards. The birds will be able to reach deep down to access the syrup – the bees will not.
If the insects can not reach the food, there is no reason to swarm the feeder. In addition, You may be able to purchase bee guards for your existing feeders.
Avoid Feeders with Yellow Inserts
Red attracts hummingbirds – yellow attracts insects. Common hummingbird feeders are red and yellow because that is a bright cherry combination. It looks attractive to the homeowner.
Bees are attracted to yellow so try to find a feeder that doesn’t have the bright yellow centers. There are many elegant hummingbird feeder styles to choose from. If you already have a feeder with yellow feed ports, paint them red using non-toxic paint.
Hang Your Hummingbird Feeder in the Shade
Don’t worry about the birds finding your feeder. Hummingbirds will seek out the food source as the forage naturally in the yard.
Honey bees prefer food sources that are in a sunny location. If you have several good spots to choose from, hang your hummingbird feeder in the shade.
You can even enjoy feeding hummingbirds while on vacation in your RV or camper. Everyone loves a picnic!
Create an Bee Feeding Station
Plant nectar is the best food for our winged pollinators. However, if all else fails, consider trying a bee feeding station (this one is for water but it would work as a feeder).
Use a mixture of sugar water – (2 cups white cane sugar dissolved in 1 cup water) in a shallow dish or pan filled with marbles, gravel or stones (so no one will drown). The bees should move to the new food source as they prefer a sweeter solution.
Every day move the honey bee feeder a little farther away – in time this should get them focused on something different than your bird feeder.
Plant More Nectar Rich Flowers
Choose landscape plants bloom during the hot dry Summer. Drought tolerant flowers that bees love will help lure them to this natural food source.
Consider watering your flowering plants during the hot summer, to encourage even more nectar production.
Choose many different types of flowers for bees that bloom at different times. Staggering the bloom throughout the warm months. And don’t forget the Fall Blooming Flowers that begin in late Summer.
Final Thoughts for Keeping Bees Off Hummingbird Feeders
Even in locations where bees are not normally a problem at hummingbird feeders, there will be that occasional year when there is a problem
Any location in the grips of a drought may experience a time of nectar dearth. In this case, the problem may be temporary with bees returning to flowers after some rain occurs.
While we all want to enjoy watching the birds drink the food provided – please remember that the honey bee means no harm – she is just trying to survive too!
If things are already out of hand, you may need to relocate your feeders temporarily. Hopefully conditions will improve and the only visitors at your hummingbird feeders will be birds.