Can You Keep Honey Bees Away from Hummingbird Feeders
Do you find yourself feeding the hummingbirds and every other winged creature in the region? It can be frustrating. Many gardeners enjoy both birds and bees. A hummingbird feeder can be a part of bee friendly gardening. So what can we do about this? Try these ideas to help keep bees away from hummingbird feeders.
If you are having problems with bees visiting your hummingbird feeders, you are not alone. This is a common problem expressed by bird-loving homeowners each year.
It is possible to be a bird lover and a bee lover. You don’t have to choose one or the other. Both can exist in harmony in your garden.
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 Hummingbird Feeders Attract Insects
Hummingbirds are very active and they require a high energy food. This is where sweet nectar comes into play.
The birds consume nectar from many blooming plants and flowers. Of course they are not the only ones who crave nectar.
Honey bees and other pollinators collect plant nectar. It is easy to see how the birds and bees will cross paths in the field.
For the hummingbirds, sharing nectar with bees and wasps is normal. It is common to them share. But, too many bees at the feeder can be a problem.
Bees May Not Swarm to Feeders All Summer
For most home owners, bees at the feeders are not a big problem for the whole season.
It is a more of a problem during certain times of the Summer. Why? Because the amount of natural nectar available varies with plant bloom time and rainfall.
Starving bees and wasps are desperate and more likely to visit any types of sugary food source.
Beekeepers Do Not Have Total Control
Problems with bees at hummingbird feeders are a special problem for those of us who are beekeepers.
This is especially true if you live in a neighborhood with hummer lover neighbors close by.
As much we would wish we could, beekeepers can not keep bees from flying wherever they want.
The beekeeper with multiple colonies can however make sure that their bees are not starving by providing food when needed.
Heading Off Hummingbird Feeder Problems
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.
If things are already out of hand, you may need to relocate your feeders temporarily.
The Hummers Arrive
Their flight skills include the ability to hover and even fly backwards. They move so fast you may miss them if you blink.
Its a good thing they can move quickly. Some species of hummingbirds migrate 3,000 miles in one direction.
Humming birds seek out sweet nectar. If you hang out a feeder, they will find it. Unfortunately, they are not the only ones searching for nectar.
Bee Lives Matter Too
Like hummingbirds, bees have a lot of fan too. The Bumble Bee and the Honey Bee are the most popular members of the bee family.
Today, people have a better understanding of the importance of honey bees and other pollinators. Bees need nectar to survive.
And they will get it any where they can find it. For honey bees (who do not migrate), they must work extra hard to store food for winter.
Dry, Hot Summers at the Feeder
In many regions, the difficulties start when the time of heavy bloom fades. Nectar sources are often limited during the hot dry summer.
As sure as, July will bring hot humid weather in the south, it will also bring complaints from homeowners who are trying to feed hummingbirds.
Once a honey bee finds a nectar source, she goes back to the hive to tell her sisters. Her thousands of sisters – who are ready and willing to go back to the food source with her.
Bee congestion can get so bad that the birds stay away. In addition to being a nuisance, hundreds of bees can drain a full hummingbird feeder quickly.
These foraging workers are not aggressive. They will not attack you – but will defend themselves if threatened.
What You Can Do When Bees & Hummingbirds Clash at the Feeder:
- choose a hummingbird feeder with bee guards
- look for all red feeders – no yellow
- move feeder to a sunny location
- create a bee feeder during times of drought
- plant more blooming flowers for food sources
Choose a hummingbird feeder that has insect resistant feeding holes.
Feeders of this type will deter insects. *You may be able to purchase bee guards for your existing feeders.
Look for feeders that are all red (without the yellow inserts).
Red attracts hummingbirds – yellow attracts insects. Bees are attracted to yellow so try to find a feeder that doesnt 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.
Move the hummingbird feeder to a shady location.
Hummers will seek out your feeder even if they are in the shade. Insects such as bees prefer food sources that are in a sunny location.
Create an Insect feeding station
Real nectar is the best food for bees. However, feeding them when the bees may be suffering from lack of flower nectar is not unreasonable.
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 the no one will drown).
The bees should move to the new food source as they prefer a sweeter solution.
Every day move the honeybee feeder a little farther away – in time this should get them focused on something different than your bird feeder.
Create a nectar rich garden
Choose landscape plants that pollinators like. Keep them watered during the hot summer, if possible to encourage, nectar production.
Choose many different types of flowers for bees that bloom at different times. Staggering the bloom throughout the warm months.
On my bee farm, I have only had to keep honey bees away from hummingbird feeders during one summer. During that year, upstate South Carolina was suffering a severe drought.
After a few weeks, we were lucky to receive some rain showers. This additional moisture resulted in new blooms with nectar for all pollinators. There were no extra visitor to my bird feeders.
Good luck & thank you for caring about all of the pollinators in your neighborhood.