Want to learn how to keep bees away from your hummingbird feeders?
Nectar-loving insects such as bees, wasp, and yellow jackets can become unintended visitors to your hummingbird feeders.
The problem is that these bees are a real nuisance. Hundreds of bees in a hive are a lot of competition for the hummingbirds.
That means your hummingbirds are wasting precious energy fighting off the bees. Or avoiding your feeders at risk of being stung.
Even worse? Bees (and other insects) can contaminate the sugar water with bacteria and yeast. That’s causes the nectar to taste weird and may keep the hummingbirds away.
It may be tempting to charge in with some insecticide.
An insecticide is extremely dangerous for hummingbirds. The chemicals can even be fatal for their tiny bodies.
The great news? There are plenty of safe and effective ways you can get rid of bees at your hummingbird feeder.
This guide is going to show you 12 safe ways to keep bees away from your hummingbird feeder.
This advice is for bees you’ll find it also helps to keep wasps and yellow jackets from your feeder too.
Sound good? Then let’s get started.
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How To Keep Bees Away From Hummingbird Feeders
1. Get The Right Design
The best way to keep bees at bay from your hummingbird feeder is to buy a design that deters them.
The two main types of hummingbird feeders are:
- Inverted hummingbird feeders
- Saucer hummingbird feeders
A saucers style feeder (also known as tray feeders) is much better at keeping bees away.
The design of the saucer-style feeder makes sit so the hummingbirds have to suck the nectar through a long feeding port. Hummingbirds have long tongues that make it easy to do that.
As the nectar isn’t so available at the surface the bees can’t get to the nectar.
Hummingbirds love red and bees love yellow.
So to deter bees from your hummingbird feeder opt for an all-red saucer hummingbird feeder (like this one).
2. Keep it on the Move
Keep bees away by regularly moving your hummingbird feeder around your yard.
Well once a bee finds a good food source it will alert other bees to that exact location.
If you move the feeder regularly any bees that have been invited will find nothing there.
The good news? Bees like convenience so they won’t search around your yard for the feeder. They’ll simply move on and forget about it.
Your feeder should be bee-free until another bee stumbles upon it.
This is why you need to move your hummingbird feeder regularly.
Try moving your feeder even a few feet along, at night when no bees are around.
Now you may worry that your regular hummingbirds won’t be able to find the feeder once it’s moved.
Well, that’s the best part!
Hummingbirds are smart. Once they know a feeder is there, they will look around for other feeders.
Your hummingbirds won’t have an issue with you moving your nectar feeders around your yard.
Moving your feeders regularly will keep the hummingbirds coming back and keep the bees away.
It’s a no-brainer really.
3. Location, Location, Location
Now I understand that you may not be able to move your feeder around your yard easily. Especially if you don’t have a lot of space to move your feeder to.
In that case, you should try and maximize the location you can place your hummingbird feeder.
Consider what you have near your feeder.
Anything that is yellow has to go. That includes flowers, ornaments, or decorations.
The yellow attracts the bee and will help them to locate your feeder easily.
Having your lawn well weeded near your hummingbird feeder can help keep the bees away from that area of your yard.
If you have a shaded area in your yard, this is a great place to hang your hummingbird feeder.
Bees prefer to feed in direct sunlight, so a shaded corner can help to deter them from exploring your feeder.
4. Use a Guard
The problem with some hummingbird feeders is that they come with no or suitable bee guards.
Even if a feeder has a bee guard in place it isn’t always great for keeping the bees away.
Or some of your bee guards may have broken off due to weather exposure. That’s really a nightmare as it leaves a wide porthole for the bees to easily access the nectar.
Using a bee guard will create that deep tunnel on the feeder holes to the nectar that the bees can get to.
A lot of bee guards are yellow, which kind of defeats the purpose of keeping the bees away.
So my top tip would be to opt for a red, clear, or white bee guard (like these ones) and avoid the yellow.
5. Regular Maintenance
Keeping your feeder as clean as possible will help to keep bees away.
Hummingbirds can be messy eaters. Plus wind or squabbling over feeders can cause the feeder to sway and spill nectar from the ports.
Warm weather can also cause the nectar to expand and overflow.
Every drop of nectar that spills on the surface is a prime target for bees.
Regular cleaning will help to mop up any drips or spills that are attracting the bees.
Whilst you clean your feeders, keep an eye out for any damage or cracks that cause leaking. You’ll need to replace a leaking hummingbird feeder.
If one of your feeder ports breaks off replace it with a bee guard. Or cover it with a strong piece of duct tape to keep the bees out.
6. Give a better offer
Directing the bees to a more attractive offering is a great way to keep them away from your hummingbird feeders.
One of my favorite way to do this is by filling a shallow yellow bowl with sugar water.
The sugar-water solution I use for bees is much sweeter (and more attractive) to the bees. Here are my usual ratios:
- In Summer 1 part sugar to 1 part water
- In Fall 2 parts sugar to 1 part water.
The bowl is then placed on the ground to keep the bees down low and away from the hummingbird feeders up higher.
Always place a good medium size rock or pebble in the middle of the bowl. Make sure an area sticks out the top of the water. This provides the bees with a little island to rest on and lap up the sugar water.
Related: How to Keep Ants Off Your Hummingbird Feeders
7. Lower Fill levels
If you are using a saucer-style feeder then consider your fill levels.
If you’re filling the tray up quite full, this makes it easier for bees to reach the sugar water, or for it to spill.
Try filling your tray slightly lower than you normally would. Around about halfway full is a good level.
This way you create another barrier for the bees getting to the nectar inside.
The lower level won’t affect your hummingbird visitors. They’ll be able to easily reach inside with their tongue.
The only drawback of this method is you may need to fill up your hummingbird feeder more regularly. On the plus side, this keeps your nectar fresh for the hummingbirds.
8. Go all red
One of my biggest pet peeves about most commercial hummingbird feeders is that they have lots of yellow feeding ports or decorations.
If you’ve been paying attention you’ll know by now that anything yellow will attract the bees.
It doesn’t make much sense as the hummingbird are more attracted to red.
Perhaps it’s to make the feeder appear more flower-like? If you know the answer please share it with me in the comments below.
But don’t be put off buying a good hummingbird feeder because of yellow parts.
You can do a little DIY to fix this issue.
I’d recommend painting the yellow parts. You can use several coats of red nail lacquer or non-toxic acrylic paint. This Folk Art Outdoor paint is my go-to.
Make sure any part you paint are thoroughly dry before you place the feeder out to your hummingbirds.
9. Dilute the Nectar
You can try to make the sugar water less attractive to bees by diluting it down.
This will work well if you use a very sweet nectar recipe for your hummingbird feeders.
The most recommended sugar dilution to deter bees is a 5 part water to 1 part sugar.
This is not sweet enough to attract bees and they’ll look for a sweeter food source.
The only issue I have with this is that it’s a short-term solution.
Well if you’re diluting the sugar water for the bees then it affects the hummingbird too. That means they’ll have to work a bit harder to keep their energy levels up.
Plus it’s not totally foolproof, as some bees may use the diluted nectar for hydration instead.
10. Fake wasp nest
You may be able to deter some bee species, wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets from your hummingbird feeders using a decoy wasp nest.
These decoys play on insects’ instinct to stay away from wasp colonies.
They are cheap, simple to use, and you can place them near your hummingbird feeder to keep bees and wasps away.
Nest decoys won’t deter your hummingbirds, they should continue to feed as normal.
11. Use Almond Extract
Some backyard bird watchers swear by using almond extract on their hummingbird feeders.
Bee’s don’t like the smell of almonds and will actively move away from it. The hummingbirds are not affected by the almond smell.
You can do this using a cotton bud to swab the feeder ports with the extract.
Don’t add the almond extract directly to your sugar water. Any additives in the extract can be harmful to your hummingbirds.
If you try this idea use a non-alcoholic almond extract, like this brand. Extract with alcohol can kill the hummingbirds.
Also, you need to be aware to use almond extract and not almond oil.
You should avoid using any type of oil around your feeder ports as it can cause damage to the hummingbird’s feathers.
If you don’t have almond extract then tea tree extract is a good alternative to deter the bees.
12. Plant bee flowers
A natural way to keep them away from your feeder is to plant lots of bee-friendly flowers in your yard.
A rich nectar source from flowers will be sure to distract bees from your hummingbird feeders.
Purple and blue perennial flowers are usually a hit with bees. So try:
But don’t let this restrict you. There are so many lovely flowers that attract bees.
This method is best used with other methods such as moving the feeders around and using bee guards.
The bees will have an alternative source of nectar in your yard. And the hummingbirds enjoy their nectar feeders in peace.
13. Wait it out
Bees are usually an issue at your feeders at the end of summer and early fall.
That’s because they are working hard to build up a huge food supply to help the hive survive the winter.
In the fall months, the nectar from flowers becomes harder to find. Your hummingbird feeder is a prime source of nectar.
Activity amongst bees in the winter is low. They’ve either migrated, hibernating, or cluster together for warmth.
In spring and early summer, you’ll see the bees more. Yet, they don’t seem to bother hummingbird feeders. Thats’ because they have a rich supply of nectar from the flowers in bloom.
The bees will seem to disappear once the outdoor temperatures drop below 50°F (10°C).
Depending on your state the bees will naturally go away by November or December.
14. Go large
If all else fails you might want to resign yourself to the thought of ‘if you can’t beat em, join em’.
What I mean by that is if you can’t stop the bees coming to your feeders, try to at least make it easier for the hummingbirds to feed.
You can do this by:
- Adding more hummingbird feeders to your yard
- Using a large hummingbird feeder with more ports
You can buy a large hummingbird feeder with up to 10-12 ports (this is a great example).
That way the hummingbirds can feed on a few ports and the bees on the other. And they don’t have to compete over a few ports.
So how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders?
You now know 14 different methods to keep bees off your hummingbird feeders.
You may have success using just one method. But, I recommend you combine a few of these methods to get the best results.
Let me know in the comments below your favorite method for preventing bees, wasps, or yellow jackets from taking over your hummingbird feeder.