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Are Bees Swarming Your Hummingbird Feeder?
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. A hummingbird feeder can be a part of a bee friendly garden. So what can we do about this? Here are some tips to help you learn how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeder.
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 Summer.
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 Bees
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. Both may be seen drinking from nectar sources at the same time. However, a blooming bush has many feeder stations – a feeder does not.
Bee Problems at Hummingbird Feeders are Seasonal
Normally, bees at hummingbird feeders are not a big problem for the whole season.
In most regions, hummingbirds are not present all year – they arrive in late Spring. Many people purposely plant hummingbird gardens with flowers the birds enjoy. 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 bees and wasps 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.
Beekeepers Often Blamed for Bee Problems
Bees causing trouble at bird 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.
Beekeepers can help to minimize the problem though. By feeding hungry colonies in times of need, the bees will be less desperate for food.
Are Hummingbirds Afraid of Bees?
No, hummingbirds are not afraid of bees. In the field during normal feeding, both birds and bees have plenty of room to gather food.
Honey bees gather nectar to make honey for Winter. And, they will get it any where they can find it.
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.
While hummingbirds are not afraid of bees, 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, hundreds of bees can drain a full hummingbird feeder quickly.
Best Ways to Get Rid of Bees at Humming Bird Feeders
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.
- 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 bees love for food sources
Choose Feeders With Insect Guards
When buying hummingbird feeders, chose a style that has bees or insect guards. The birds will be able to reach deep down to access the syrup – the bees will not.
If the bees 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.
While they will still access a feeder in the shade, insects have a different preference. 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.
Create an Bee Feeding Station During Droughts
Real nectar is the best food for bees, birds and other pollinators. However, if all else fails and you have a bee problem at the feeder, 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 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.
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 the plants if necessary 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 are 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 bees mean no harm – they are 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 bees will leave your hummingbird feeders to the birds.