How to Keep Bees Away From Hummingbird Feeders Without Harming Them

To keep from spoiling the entertainment of hummingbirds hovering as they soak up nectar, learn how to effectively steer bees away from your feeders.

By Lori Lovely | Published Feb 22, 2022 5:53 PM

 how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders

Photo: istockphoto.com

There’s an abundance of information available about how to attract hummingbirds to your yard and feeders, but information about how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders tends to be scarce.

The dozen or so species of hummingbirds found in North America gravitate to a variety of colorful garden flowers, such as lantana, bee balm, foxglove, salvias, lupine, flowering tobacco, petunias, and zinnias, as well as the high-calorie sugary nectar in hummingbird feeders. Unfortunately, these also attract bees and other insects.

While bees are pollinators like hummingbirds, bees are unwanted guests at hummingbird feeders. So, too, are wasps and ants. Too many unwelcome guests at the feeder can contaminate the sugar water, which deters hummingbirds from returning. A swarm of bees on a hummingbird feeder can lead to overcrowding, leaving little room for those hummingbirds still interested in the nectar.

1. Opt for a Saucer-Style Feeder

how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether you make your own or buy a commercial nectar, the same food source that attracts hummingbirds also attracts bees and wasps. The hummingbirds may feed next to a few bees, but large numbers of bees can be detrimental to the hummingbirds—and wasps can become aggressive, chasing off the tiny birds who leave in search of another food source. 

If bees and other insects are rampant in your yard, choose a feeder that is less “insect-friendly,” such as this highly rated saucer-style feeder available at Amazon, which is conducive to long hummingbird tongues but harder for insects to access. Bonus: saucer-type feeders drip less than the typical inverted hummingbird feeder, making less mess and attracting fewer ants.

RELATED: 10 Types of Bees All Homeowners Should Know

2. Add bee guards to your hummingbird feeder.

how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders

Photo: istockphoto.com

There are approximately 4,000 varieties of bees in North America, many of which like nectar and are attracted to hummingbird feeders. To discourage them from drinking up all the sweet nectar in your hummingbird feeder, add bee guards to your hummingbird feeders.

Just as the saucer lets only the long-tongued hummingbird drink, a bee guard such as this inexpensive option available at Amazon features an air space that keeps bees from reaching the “juice,” while still allowing the hummingbirds to drink at will. Many of these guards can be added to an existing feeder and are easily replaceable.

3. Red is best for feeders, but not for nectar.

how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you want a wasp-proof hummingbird feeder, make sure it’s red. Red is the color that most attracts hummingbirds. Wasps (and bees) aren’t as attracted to red as hummingbirds, preferring yellow instead.

However, there is no need to color the sugar water red. Red dye is not a necessity in hummingbird diets, so there’s no reason to add it.

4. Move the feeder to a new location.

how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders

Photo: istockphoto.com

Moving the feeder around can confuse bees, who might struggle to find it in its new spot. Insects prefer convenience and are less likely to search out the new location.

Alternatively, you can simply take the feeder down for a couple days in the hopes that the bees will forget about it. Keep in mind, however, that if you move the feeder too frequently, you might also confuse the hummingbirds.

RELATED: 4 Tips for Attracting Hummingbirds

5. Look for leaks.

how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders

Photo: istockphoto.com

Leaks and drips invite bees, ants, and other insects to flock to hummingbird feeders. Make sure that the seal between the reservoir and feeding ports is properly aligned and tight to prevent leaks. And don’t overfill a hummingbird feeder to the point of leakage.

6. Divert their attention.

Plant a pollinator garden to attract bees. If they have a smorgasbord of floral selections, they are more likely to stay away from the hummingbird feeder. For season-long feeding, plant a mixture of perennials and annuals with staggered bloom times.

7. Dial down the sweetness.

how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders

Photo: etsy.com

Bees love sugar and will choose the sweetest flowers and nectar available. Reducing the sweetness of the nectar in your hummingbird feeder might encourage them to find sweeter options.

Bees and wasps prefer a water-to-sugar ratio of 3:1 or 4:1. Changing the ratio to 5:1 in the hummingbird feeder will still attract the little birds, but it might send bees and wasps in search of other sweet sources.

8. Deploy decoy feeders.

how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you can’t add lots of flowering plants, add a bee-specific feeder—or just a shallow bowl—with a higher water-to-sugar ratio to lure bees and wasps away from the hummingbird feeder. Remember to make the sugary solution stronger than the 5:1 ratio satisfactory to hummingbirds.

Start by placing it near the hummingbird feeder, gradually moving it 5 to 6 feet away. Place it in full sun, which bees prefer more than hummingbirds do, and make it easily accessible for added convenience.

9. Clean hummingbird feeders frequently.

how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders

Photo: etsy.com

Regular cleaning of hummingbird feeders minimizes spilled nectar that attracts bees, wasps, ants, and other insects, and it reduces the chance of spoiled food that could ultimately harm the hummingbirds. 

To help keep nectar from spoiling quickly, move the feeder to a partially shaded area. A shady spot will slow fermentation and leaks. It will also make the feeder less alluring to bees, who prefer to feed in sunlight.

RELATED: Solved! How to Keep Ants Out of Hummingbird Feeders

10. Remember what not to do.

how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders

Photo: etsy.com

Keeping in mind the delicate nature of hummingbirds and the fact that bees are also important pollinators that really shouldn’t be killed, it’s best to avoid the use of pesticides near hummingbird feeders.

Similarly, don’t use any kind of oil, spray, or petroleum jelly on the feeder, hanging wire, or mounting pole to deter insects. If the substance sticks to the hummingbirds, they could have difficulty flying. If a gummy substance gets stuck on a hummingbird’s beak, the little bird may not be able to open its mouth.

Whatever you do, don’t use any kind of tape on a feeder, as a hummingbird could get stuck to the adhesive and not be able to fly away.