Bees love hummingbird nectar, it’s no secret. If they start showing up in swarms it can become a problem quickly. Luckily you have some options here to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders. In this article I am going to go over several of these options in detail as well as answer some other common questions you may have.
Do hummingbird feeders attract bees?
The short answer is yes. Bees are attracted to the nectar that we put out for our hummingbirds. However, there are things you can do to deter the bees from the feeders such as as providing them with better options.
We encourage you to try out several of these tips and tricks and see what works best for you. Having said that, there are a few things that you should definitely not do as it could be harmful to the hummingbirds.
You should never:
- use any type of cooking oil or petroleum gel around the feeder – it can damage their feathers
- do not use any pesticides – it can make your hummers sick or kill them
What kind of bees are attracted to hummingbird feeders?
Several types of bees and flying insects can be attracted to the sweet nectar that we prepare for these micro birds that we like to feed so much. A few of them are:
- yellow jackets
Do hummingbirds eat bees?
Hummingbirds will eat some insects as part of their diet. They commonly eat flies, beetles, gnats, and mosquitoes to name a few. Some other insects they may feed on are found deep within the flowers or they might use their acute vision to locate small bugs on tree bark.
Bees are not normally in the diet of a hummingbird. There may be instances where this has happened but generally bees are a larger insect than a hummingbird is comfortable eating.
Tips to keep bees away from your hummingbird feeders
1. Eliminate nests
- Look for holes in the wood of your deck (carpenter bees)
- look for wasp nests and spray them using long distance wasp and hornet spray
- regular honey bees might build a hive in a hollow tree, the walls of an old building, or even in the ground. If you discover one on your property it is best to leave it to an expert and call a beekeeper or a pest control expert.
2. Give the bees other food sources
Most bees will leave the hummingbird feeders alone as long as they have another, more accessible food source. Here are a few options to consider:
- a bowl with sugar water in it and a small rock in the middle for the bees to climb on
- plant flowers that will attract the bees away from the hummingbird feeders such as lilacs, lavender, sunflowers, goldenrod, crocus, roses, and snapdragons to name a few.
3. Get a bee proof hummingbird feeder
Hummingbird feeders are generally pretty inexpensive on Amazon and you will find many options to choose from for bee proof hummingbird feeders. Some feeders will have little yellow flowers on them where the bees are supposed to not be able to pass through. Why yellow I’m not sure, sure bees are attracted to yellow but why attract them to the feeders at all?
Anyways, here are a few bee proof hummingbird feeder options for you to look at that can be found on Amazon right now.
- First Nature Hummingbird Feeders – The nectar level in the bottom saucer is low enough so bees can’t feed from it. Just keep it clean and drip free.
- Juegoal 12 oz hanging hummingbird feeder – This feeder is all red with no attractive yellow colors for bees, even if they land on it they will find they are unable to reach the nectar because of its design.
- Aspects 367 Hummzinger Ultra Hummingbird Feeder – Many people have had success with this feeder in keeping bees away. It’s also drip and leak proof and can be taken apart easily for a quick cleaning.
- Perky-Pet 203CPBR Pinchwaist Hummingbird Feeder – A pretty popular glass hummingbird feeder on Amazon. It has yellow bee guards in the flowers like the picture above.
4. Make sure your feeder doesn’t drip nectar
Make sure your feeder does not drip nectar so you don’t give these unwanted pests more of an invitation to come feast. Any good feeder should be drip proof, however some are better than others. These from First Nature are excellent, inexpensive hummingbird feeders and do not leak.
5. Periodically move the feeders
This can be a useful tactic in confusing the bees. If you are just moving it a few feet then they are going to find it again quickly. However if you move it from one side of the house to the other for a few days, then again in a few days you may confuse the bees.
The drawback here is you could confuse the hummingbirds as well. In the end if you are just moving it around in your yard, anything that is looking for it will find the nectar. Unless you have an unusually large yard!
This is just a tactic that might prove a bit confusing to bees. In my opinion it is a lot of work to constantly be moving and rehanging feeders, especially if you aren’t getting good results. Try it out if you have exhausted other options and see, it can’t hurt.
6. Always choose red feeders, bees are attracted to yellow
I guess due to the color of flowers and other food sources where bees find pollen and nectar, they are naturally attracted to the color yellow. Take that into consideration before you decide to buy a hummingbird feeder that is yellow or has yellow on it.
Most hummingbird feeders are red so normally this isn’t a problem, however many people report that the bee-guards themselves on the feeders are yellow. I’m not sure what the reasoning behind this is, but you may want to look into painting this bee-guard red using a non-toxic paint. Many people have reported successful results using this method.
7. Keep your feeders in the shade
Both hummingbirds and bees will feed from your feeders wherever they are located as long as they are accessible. However bees are used to foraging for pollen and nectar in the sun because that’s where most flowers bloom.
It is also important to keep your feeders in the shade to prevent the nectar from spoiling too quickly. So while this isn’t a surefire way to prevent bees from swarming your hummingbird feeders, you should still keep your feeders in the shade.
8. Put out bee repellents and other alternative methods
- people have been successful rubbing peppermint extract around the feeding ports
- Herbal Bee Repellents: combination of lemongrass, peppermint oil, and citronella or tea tree oil and Benzaldehyde
- Natural bee Repellents: Citrus, Mint and Eucalyptus oils.
9. Keep your hummingbird feeder clean!
How to know if your feeder needs to be cleaned
Generally if the nectar looks dirty or cloudy it needs to be dumped and refilled with fresh nectar. Also look for dead bugs/floating insects, this is an indication that it needs to be refreshed. Check out our article on how often to clean hummingbird feeders.
How do I clean my hummingbird feeder?
In a nutshell, these are the steps you need to take in order to clean out your feeder before refilling it with fresh nectar.
- dump out old nectar
- disassemble your feeder
- scrub each piece using dish soap, then a water and bleach or vinegar solution…you can find out more here
- be sure to clean out feeding ports with a pipe cleaner if you have one
- soak and rinse completely with hot or warm water to remove any chemicals you may have used
- allow the pieces to dry completely
- reassemble your feeder and refill with fresh nectar
How do I clean my bee guards on my hummingbird feeder?
This is done the same way as I mentioned above when cleaning the whole feeder. Most bee guards can just be removed when you are disassembling the whole feeder. Clean them individually with a scrub brush or pipe cleaner to get into the little holes. Soak them in your cleaning solution whether it be just dish soap or a mixture of water and vinegar or bleach.
Rinse them off and allow them to dry with the rest of the pieces. Reassemble your feeder and you are ready to refill it!
If they get too filthy or damaged I know some feeders like the Perky Pet I linked to above sells replacement bee guards.