Hummingbirds and bees play compatible roles in nature.
Hummingbirds have longer tongues than bees so they can drink nectar from deeper flowers. This enables hummingbirds to pollinate flowers that can’t be reached by bees.
Scientists have found that hummingbirds can see colors that bees cannot, so the birds visit a greater variety of flowers.
Hummingbirds can recognize flowers that offer nectar even if their color is a little “off.” Bees, researchers have discovered, cannot.
Bees tend to buzz to flowers of the same type again and again while hummingbirds seek variety. But both hummingbirds and bees enjoy the sweet treats you put in the hummingbird feeder.
Bees are great to have around. You just don’t want them crowding out the hummingbirds you want to watch at the hummingbird feeder.
In this article, we’ll share a dozen ways you can keep bees out of your hummingbird feeder without driving them out of your garden. We’ll start with the easiest.
Feed your bees in a different part of your garden
There’s no need to try to banish bees from your landscape. After all, hummingbirds can’t pollinate all of your flowers by themselves.
Draw bees away from the hummingbird by placing a bowl of sugar water (1 part sugar to 2 parts water) near the hummingbird feeder.
As bees start buzzing to their own bowl, move your “bee feeder” to a different, sunny part of your yard.
Use red saucer feeders
Red attracts hummingbirds. Yellow attracts bees. Red saucer feeders are more readily visible to hummingbirds than to bees.
Saucer feeders keep nectar at a distance from the feeding port too deep for bees to reach, but within easy reach of hummingbirds with their long tongues.
There are also red saucer feeders with ant moats to keep out ants,
Use Bee guards
Some hummingbird feeders come with bee guards. If your feeder doesn’t, you can easily add a bee guard to it.
Bee guards are solid wood or plastic drilled with tiny holes. These holes are too small for a bee to fly through to reach the nectar. Bees have to fly up close to the feeder because their short tongues are covered by their beaks.
Hummingbirds can’t fly directly to their feeder, either, but their tongues are long enough to reach through the holes of the bee guard to reach the nectar within.
Relocate your feeder regularly
Remember what we were saying about how bees tend to buzz to flowers of the same type again and again while hummingbirds seek variety? The same principle applies to hummingbird feeders.
Hummingbirds remember the general locations where they find nectar. They will come to their hummingbird feeder, but they also visit flowers around it.
Bees know a good thing when they find it, so they will keep buzzing to the same location until the nectar runs out.
If you move your hummingbird feeder to a different part of your yard, the hummingbirds will find it as they forage on a variety of plants.
Bees will come back to the same location and be disappointed and then fly away, especially if you move the feeder to a shaded location (we’ll have more to say about that in a moment).
It’s always possible that moving a hummingbird feeder can result in a swarm of disappointed, hungry bees.
But this is a rare occurrence. To avoid any possible exposure to a swarm, don’t visit your yard for four hours after you move your hummingbird feeder.
Station your hummingbird feeder in a shady location
You should never hang a hummingbird feeder in a location that doesn’t get any sun at all — the hummingbirds won’t be able to find it — but dappled shade or at least afternoon shade is helpful for keeping bees out of your hummingbird feeder.
Bees feed on pollen as well as nectar. Most flowering plants bloom during daylight hours, so they favor locations in full sun.
Hummingbirds, on the other hand, aren’t limited to sunny locations.
They visit flowers in full sun, partial sun, and dappled shade. Placing your feeder where it receives less sunlight, as long as it receives some sunlight, favors hummingbirds over bees.
Put our multiple feeders
Bees like more sugar in their feeding water than hummingbirds.
Hummingbirds can be happy with a mixture of as little as 1 part of the sugar in five parts of water, or sometimes even less. Bees like half as much sugar as water.
Put out one feeder with a weak sugar solution (1 part sugar to 5 parts water or even thinner) for hummingbirds.
Put out another feeder with a strong sugar solution (1 part sugar to 2 parts of water) for bees. Let your bee and bird visitors sort out who feeds where.
It helps to put the bee feeder out in a very obvious, sunny location. Hummingbirds will invest more effort to find the other feeder in a shady place. It also helps to use a yellow feeder for attracting bees.
Stop any leaks
A constant drip, drip, drip of sugar water will attract bees to your hummingbird feeder even if you put up a bee guard, and even if you use hummingbird feeder plates.
Dripping nectar will also attract ants, which may figure out ways to climb up to the feeder to get more.
A drop or two leaking from your feeder now and then, for example, when it rocks in the wind, isn’t a problem, but persistent leaks have to be plugged in to keep bees out of the feeder.
For punctures in the plates, replace the feeder or at least be sure to use non-toxic materials to plug the leak, like Flex Seal or plastic glue sticks.
When the problem is leakage from the seals, place the plumber’s tape over the threads where the feeder is screwed together.
Make sure the tape doesn’t come in contact with nectar to prevent contamination.
And on a related note:
Clean your hummingbird feeder every day
Hummingbird feeders can begin to drip if you fill them too full. High pressure inside the feeder forces nectar out. And hummingbirds will inevitably drop minute amounts of nectar from their beaks as they feed.
Every time you fill your hummingbird feeder, take time to clean the outside of the feeder thoroughly from top to bottom. Clean around the feeding ports at the bottom of the feeder every day.
Anywhere you leave spilled nectar exposed you will attract bees and wasps. Insects can smell sticky spilled nectar and make the proverbial beeline for it.
Cleaning your hummingbird feeder only takes about 30 seconds a day.
The graceful shape of your hummingbird feeder makes it easy to handle, and the daily cleaning ritual keeps you in constant contact with your hummingbird visitors.
Set out your red hummingbird feeder where you have planted yellow and blue flowers.
Hummingbirds are attracted to red. Bees are attracted to yellow and blue. Place the feeder in the middle of flowers that will catch the attention of passing bees, leaving the feeder to the hummingbirds.
Plant a pollinator garden
There are some domesticated flowering plants that bees just can’t resist.
These include asters, bee balm, black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, cosmos, goldenrod, Joe-Pye weed, liatris, milkweed, pansies, penstemons, peony, phlox, salvia, and sage.
Both bees and hummingbirds are attracted to petunias and zinnias.
Stagger planting times so you will always have some bee-attractant and hummingbird-attractant flowers in bloom during your growing season.
Native plants require a little more effort in the selection phase and a lot less maintenance once you get them up and growing.
Do a little online research, or better, inquire at your local garden center which varieties of wildflowers, especially milkweeds (Asclepias) are native to your area.
Nurseries that specialize in native plants are sure to be able to steer you in the right direction.
Choose native flowering plants that will never need to be sprayed with insecticides, pesticides, or nicotine compounds.
Try to find plants that won’t need supplemental watering to survive the occasional drought, and that come back year and year even after unusually harsh winters.
Plan your pollinator garden for blooms through as much of the year as possible, not just summer.
You can get bees in the habit of visiting early- and late-blooming blue and yellow flowers in the early spring through the late fall, and reserve other parts of your plantings for hummingbirds.
Put out fake wasp nests
When you have an issue with bees that visit your hummingbird feeder, you usually also have an issue with wasps that visit your hummingbird feeder. Hanging fake wasp nests will help you with your wasp problem.
Wasps are highly territorial. They will attack other stinging insects that trespass on their territory. Other wasps, bees, hornets, and yellow jackets will avoid any area that has a large, visible wasp nest.
Your fake wasp nest needs to be at least 8 inches (20 cm) by 11 inches ( 28 cm) big, about the size of a standard sheet of printer paper.
Make sure other insects can see it. Hanging a fake wasp nest won’t drive an existing colony of stinging insects out of your garden, but it will usually motivate insects searching for a nesting site to go somewhere else.
There’s one method of keeping bees out of your hummingbird feeder we don’t recommend: Insect traps. Commercially available insect traps look something like a spider’s web. They lead insects into a central collection area, so you can remove them from your garden.
Insect traps are non-toxic.
This makes them less harmful than insecticides and pesticides, but they are still not a good idea for anything other than a severe insect problem.
Hummingbirds eat insects, too, and you need some insect traffic to do the work of pollinating your garden the hummingbirds can’t do by themselves.
Other articles you may also like:
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- 14 Ways to Get Rid of Pigeons (that work)
- 13 Effective Ways to Get Rid of Bats
- How to Keep Ants Out of Hummingbird Feeder
- How Long Does Hummingbird Nectar Last?
- Why Have Hummingbirds Stopped Coming to the Feeder?
- How Do Hummingbirds Find Feeders?
- 12 Ways to Keep Squirrels Away from Bird Feeders
- How to Keep Rats Out of Your Bird Feeder?
- 12 Ways to Keep Racoons Away From Hummingbird Feeders
- What Do Hummingbirds Eat?