How to Keep Bees Away From Hummingbird Feeders (Naturally)

Published July 11, 2022
hummingbird and bee at hummingbird feeder

If you're looking to attract hummingbirds to your yard, it's a great idea to put out a hummingbird feeder and fill it with a mixture of sugar (1 part) and water (3 or 4 parts). Hummingbirds are sure to find their way to the feeder, where they will lap up the sweet nectar. Unfortunately, bees also love sugar water. If you don't take some precautions, bees may find their way to your hummingbird feeder in large numbers. Discover how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders using different techniques.

Keep Bees Away With a Saucer-Style Hummingbird Feeder

Choose a saucer-style hummingbird feeder rather than a bottle-type device. Bees can easily access hummingbird food from bottle-style feeders, but they can't get to the sweetened water you are using to attract hummingbirds when it's in a saucer-style feeder. When filling your saucer-based feeder, stop at or before the halfway point. That way, bees won't be able to reach the nectar easily, but hummingbirds will.

Choose a Red Hummingbird Feeder

When selecting your hummingbird feeder, opt for one that is red. The color red is particularly appealing to hummingbirds, so it will attract them. It's better to choose a feeder that's most attractive to the wildlife you want rather than one that deters other critters. Of course, red doesn't repel bees, so this isn't a foolproof solution. Whatever you do, don't use a yellow feeder, as that's the color that tends to be the most attractive to bees.

Don't Put Anything Yellow Near Your Feeder

Since bees find yellow to be particularly appealing, make sure there is nothing of that color in the vicinity of your hummingbird feeder. If you want the feeder on your patio but you have a yellow patio umbrella or chaise lounge, you should either choose another spot for the feeder or get new patio accessories. If you're going to plant flowers near your feeder, go with options that are not yellow.

Add Bee Guards to Your Feeder

Whatever kind of feeder you have, it's important to make sure the access holes are not so large that bees can fly in. Some feeders come with bee guards, so if you are purchasing a new feeder, it's best to get one that has this functionality built-in. If you already have a feeder, you can add commercially available bee guards to it. These add-ons will fill in the openings so that they're too small for bees to get in while leaving plenty of room for hummingbirds to drink.

Apply Hardware Cloth Over Drinking Holes

Rather than purchasing bee guards or a new feeder, get creative and use something you or someone you know probably already has. For example, you could use small strips of hardware cloth to reduce the size of the openings on your hummingbird feeder. Simply cut strips of hardware cloth with openings too small for bees to get through. Make sure they're large enough to cover the access points on your bird feeder, then attach with heavy-duty glue (like Gorilla Glue or Superglue), or use duct tape.

Fix Leaks in Your Hummingbird Feeder

When you fill your hummingbird feeder, watch it for a while to see if the nectar is leaking out of the container. If it is, you can be sure that the sugary sweet smell is like a beacon to the local bees, urging them to come to a sugar water buffet. If there are any leaking areas, you will want to seal them so that no sugar water is escaping from the feeder. Depending on how the feeder is leaking, you can fix it with duct tape, plumbers tape, or a little plastic cup.

Put the Hummingbird Feeder in a Shady Area

Since bees usually seek out sun-loving plants when they are looking for nectar, they aren't in the habit of foraging for nourishment in shady areas. If you hang your hummingbird feeder in a shady area, it might stay off their radar, at least for a while. Hummingbirds will find it just as easily in a shady spot as a sunny one. Of course, proper maintenance and feeder selection are important. If it is leaking, has spilled sugar water on it, or is yellow, it will be fairly easy for bees to find.

Periodically Clean Your Hummingbird Feeder

Spilled sugar water on the outside of a hummingbird feeder can help bees find it, so it's a good idea to wipe off the outside of the feeder regularly. You're supposed to change out the water in hummingbird feeders every two or three days anyway, so get into the habit of spraying or wiping the outside of the feeder with water whenever you swap out the nectar. Beyond that, periodically take the feeder down, disassemble it, and give it a good overall cleaning inside and out.

Strategically Plant Bee-Friendly Flowers

Plant a nice selection of bee-friendly flowers in a part of your yard that is away from your hummingbird feeder. Use flowers that bloom during the time hummingbirds are most active in your area. Make sure that at least some of the flowers you plant are yellow since bees are particularly attracted to that color. They love squash and cucumber flowers, as well as ornamentals like cosmos, marigolds, and coreopsis. You don't have to plant only yellow flowers; just include enough to get the bees' attention.

Set up a Separate Feeder for Bees

If you set up an alternate feeder with sugar water that is even sweeter than hummingbird nectar, bees will choose it over the one that you are using to attract hummingbirds. Make your own with a canning jar, bowl, and some gravel (see video) or purchase a bottle-style feeder. Fill it with a mixture of at least six parts of sugar to one part of water. Hummingbirds won't like that, but bees will love it. Set it up in a sunny location where congregating bees won't be in anyone's way.

Learn How to Keep Bees Away From Hummingbird Feeders

Now that you know how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders, you'll be able to make sure that your yard is a welcoming oasis for hummingbirds looking to sip some nectar. You should, however, keep in mind that following these tips does not necessarily mean that bees will never find their way to your hummingbird feeder. You'll have the best luck reducing the presence of bees at your hummingbird feeder if you implement multiple suggestions from this list. You may also want to consider adding some garden plants that attract hummingbirds. They won't keep bees away, but they just may draw in more of the hummingbirds you're hoping to attract.

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