Hummingbird feeders are an effective way to attract these small charming birds to your home. Hummingbirds like to feed on the nectar from flowers, but commercial hummingbird feeders are typically filled with sugar water. This sweet substance often attracts ants, which can be very detrimental to your bird feeding efforts. Learn about the hazards of ants around hummingbird feeders and what you can do to promote ant control around this outdoor feature.
Image via Flickr by It’sGreg
Hummingbirds do not like ants. Though they may eat some other insects, ants are not among their food sources. Once hummingbirds discover ants around their feeders, they will start avoiding them. Relocating your hummingbird feeder will likely be key to taking care of your ant problem. In a new location, the hummingbirds are more likely to return.
However, if you don’t take additional steps to prevent ants from following the feeder, you may simply run into the same problem again. It’s important to both select a new location and take preventive measures to keep ants from getting into your hummingbird feeder again.
A moat is one of the most popular solutions for a hummingbird feeder that’s plagued with ants. The moat is simply a cup that hangs above the feeder. When ants crawl down from the hook to get to the feeder, they first reach the moat. They will fall into the reservoir, where they’ll be trapped.
There are many commercial moats available that you can simply hang over your feeder. You can also make your own moat by taking a lid or similar vessel that has a circular reservoir you can fill with water. Drill a hole in the center and insert a hook and chain. Use wax to seal any space around the hole so water doesn’t seep through. The moat should hook to the post that your hummingbird feeder hangs from. The chain running through the center connects to your hummingbird feeder, suspended below.
If you choose to use a moat, make sure you’re keeping up with its maintenance. You need to regularly empty the moat of dead ants and debris, which can make a bridge for ants to cross on top of the water. Keep the moat filled with fresh water so mosquitoes can’t breed in the stagnant water.
If you live in a dry climate, you may find that evaporation makes a moat an unsuitable choice. If you can’t keep the moat filled, it’s best to try another method of prevention.
If you don’t have a moat, the lid of the hummingbird feeder is the first thing that ants will come into contact with. You can tackle the problem at this point of contact by coating the top of the hummingbird feeder with an insect spray. This works best when you place a secondary lid over the hummingbird feeder rather than using the primary lid that’s already in place. You want to make sure that the insecticide can’t get inside your feeder.
Take a plastic lid from a food container or other sort of container and poke a small hole in the center. Thread a wire through the hole. You will use this wire to secure the lid to the chain or hook that supports the hummingbird feeder. Spray the lid with an ant repellent. You can use a commercial product or make your own ant repellent with essential oils, lemon juice, or other substances that ants don’t like.
Some people keep ants from crawling up hummingbird feeders by coating the hanger with a slippery substance like grease, oil, or petroleum jelly. Avoid grease, as it can actually attract some species of ants. If you want to use a slippery repellent, petroleum jelly is the best of these options.
These solutions also need to be reapplied often to be effective. This is only an option if your hummingbird feeder is designed in such a way that the substance cannot drip down to the part of the feeder that the birds use. These substances should not be placed anywhere that they might get on the birds’ feathers.
A sticky tape with the gum facing outward can keep ants from climbing up a vertical pole. However, you need to be very careful about where and how this is placed. Again, this deterrent should not come into contact with the birds, as it may harm them.
An alternative solution is to hang your hummingbird feeder from a fishing line. This is often too thin for ants to get a good grip on. If you can find a feeder light enough to hang with just fishing line, this may keep ants from crawling down to it.
One of the best ways to keep ants out of hummingbird feeders is to avoid attracting them to the feeders in the first place. Make sure your feeder doesn’t leak. Glass feeders are usually more durable than plastic ones. If the sugary hummingbird food is dripping or leaking out of the feeder, this will attract ants. Place your feeder in partial shade to keep it from cracking or getting damaged. Hot areas in direct sunlight are harder on feeders, particularly if they are made of plastic.
Clean the hummingbird feeder regularly so no buildup accumulates on the outside of it. Even feeders that don’t leak may get sticky over time. Cleaning the feeder and changing the water frequently will help with this, simultaneously discouraging ants and providing a better experience for your hummingbirds.
Ants dislike bay leaves and mint leaves, so planting or hanging these near the feeder can act as a natural deterrent for the ants. With plants like these around, the ants may never forage far enough to discover the sugar water in the hummingbird feeder.
With the right precautions, you can maintain a safe hummingbird feeder that’s ant-free for your feathered friends