How to Keep Bees Away From Hummingbird Feeder

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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.

picture of humming bird drinking from 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.

image of hummingbird feeders with bees, keep bees away

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.

image of honey bees drinking from 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.

  1. choose a hummingbird feeder with bee guards
  2. look for all red feeders – no yellow
  3. move feeder to a sunny location
  4. create a bee feeding station (well away from your house) during times of drought
  5. 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.

picture of honey bees on hummingbird feeder with yellow inserts

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.

Beekeeper Charlotte

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12 Comments

  1. Katrina Butler8 says:

    If honey bees are gathering syrup at abundant hummingbird feeders in the neighborhood, then bringing it home to the hive in our yard, how will this affect the honey. We have a friend you said that if they put sugar syrup into the supers that we cannot sell it as “Pure Honey” and that if someone with a cane sugar allergy eats the “tainted” honey they could have a serious allergic reaction. Is this true? If so, what can we do with the nearly 200 pounds of honey we’ve gathered, and partially bottled. Must we have a disclaimer? “May contain traces of can sugar.” What? I’m a little freaked.

  2. Yes, if a beekeeper is feeding their bees while honey collection supers are on (and you never should), the “honey” that the bees make will not be real honey. It will lack the enzymes found in plant nectar and have a different PH. Now as to the question of hummingbird feeders, I truly doubt it would make any difference. I mean if you have 100 hummingbird feeders and no wild nectar – you might have an issue. However, as long as you didnt feed your bees during the harvest, I would not worry. Even if a tiny amount was in there – its no different than bees that will inspect soft drink cans. I see no need for a disclaimer because you dont know there is a problem. Anytime, you sell or give away a food product – you have liability. If they cut their lip on the jar, or have a reaction to pollen in the honey but that very rarely happens with honey.

  3. Mary Hill Gary says:

    Would hurricane Florence have affected the honey bees in my neighborhood? Lots of beekeepers in my area. Honeybees are swarming my humming bird feeders. Never happened at this level before.

  4. Absolutely, if the wind blew all the nectar producing blooms off the trees, weeds or bushes.

  5. Karol Holloway says:

    I read that marbles can burn bees and hummingbirds. The source recommended using pinecones as a non reflective idea. My desire to keep wasps and bees away from my hummingbird feeders is a purely selfish reason, I must carry an Epinephrine pin with me at all times. I try not tonaggravate the bees whenever I can. We depend on our pollinators!

  6. I supposed that might be a problem in a very hot region in direct sun..but I’ve never heard of anyone having the problem. Yes, honeybees are pretty harmless as long as you stay away from the hive and dont threaten them.

  7. Hello Ms. Bee Keeper,

    Thank you for this article! Just this week I noticed honey bees on my hummie feeders. Many of our hummies have left, but I still have one who depends on my feeders. Yesterday the bees began to swarm around the feeders, and the hummie could not find a place to feed that did not have bees.

    I put a pan of very sugary water with sticks in it (for the bees to climb on) on a yellow overturned pot about five yards from the feeders. The bees discovered it today; the pan was covered with literally hundreds of bees all day! Eventually most of the honey bees left the hummie feeders and joined their buddies on the sticks in the pan. My hummie had his feeder again.

    So here is the problem. This evening I checked the pan and all the sugar-water is gone. Now I am wondering if the bees will start depending on my sugar-water pan for nectar. I want to keep them happy during our next few days of sunshine, but I want to do the right thing for them also. Only a few flowers are still blooming in my garden — coral vine and a few roses — so the poor little bees seem desperate. I live in a very rural, forested area. Should I continue to feed the bees? Is this ethical and good for them? I want to make sure I am doing the right thing or if it would be better not to refill the pan. I will relocate my hummingbird feeders for now. Am I doing the right thing for the bees?

    Thanks again for this article — timely and interesting! I use honey from local bee keepers every day and support pollinators with many different flowers in my garden. However, after this experience I think I need to plant more flowers that bloom through the fall. I had no idea our bees are so desperate this time of year!

    Best,
    A Concerned Bee Lover

  8. Oh, what a wonderful experience. Bees arent lazy, when natural nectar is available they will choose that first. As long as you can place the feeding station far enough away to not be problem, it does no harm. Pure cane sugar with water in a 1:1 ratio works well. Thank you for helping the bees 🙂

  9. Jon Bayer says:

    Great article and helps a lot. I have hummingbird feeders and a natural hive that adopted a 55 gal barrel that I had drilled holes in for composting. I have schools close by so I don’t brag about my hive. Your statement that says bees are hard workers and won’t use sugar water when natural nectars are available makes me feel better. I also read that too much sugar is bad for the hive. I only have 25 bees or so at one time at my hummingbird feeders so the hummingbird can still eat. You gave 2 different recipes for bee water 2:1 and 1:1. Is the 2:1 to attract them away from the hummingbird feeder and is ok to leave sugar out for the bees in the middle of summer.

  10. Because 2:1 is sweeter… the bees are probably at your feeder because they are not finding anything better. Giving them an option somewhere near but not ON your feeder might help lure them away. Also, if weather allows another natural source may become available in a few weeks and they will go to that.

  11. Ann Ibler says:

    I am in Minnesota, and have had hummingbird feeders for years. In the last week, hundreds of honeybees have taken over the feeders! This has never happened before. My yard is very bee friendly, and is jam packed full of flowers. We have had a very wet summer here, so the bees have lots of sources of natural nectar. Today, I tried your suggestion of 2:1. The bees loved it, and went a little crazy. I had to put up several to get all the bees away from the feeders, and had to refill them after a few hours. A few questions. Can I pick stones up off the ground and put them in the bee feeders so the bees don’t drown, or do I need to wash the stones first? Silly question, but I don’t want to make the bees sick! Should I try to use a 1:1 solution tomorrow, since they have found their own feeders? If this feeding frenzy continues for days or weeks, and I have to keep feeding the bees to keep them off the hummingbird feeders, will it hurt the bees? Thanks so much for your article and help! My neighborhood hummingbirds thank you also!

  12. That fine you dont have to be to concerned. My bees sometimes drink out of mud puddles near the barn.

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