One of the biggest challenges in keeping hummingbirds happy and well-fed in your yard is dealing with unwanted insects. Ants, in particular, can be very frustrating as they constantly march to and from our feeders, stealing their nectar and keeping our favorite birds away.
To help you manage this problem, and keep an ant-proof hummingbird feeder, I’ve done a little research and come up with 8 effective ways to keep ants away from your hummingbird feeders.
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How To Keep Ants Out Of Hummingbird Feeders
1. Ditch Damaged Feeders
To answer the question of how to keep ants out of hummingbird feeders, we have to look at what attracts ants in the first place. One of the best ways to attract ants to your hummingbird feeders is to let them leak sugar water onto the ground below. Ants will find this delicious food and follow it back to the source.
Of course, we don’t want to attract ants so it’s very important to repair any leaking hummingbird feeders to keep these pesky pets off the scent. When a leaky feeder is finally due for replacement, do yourself a favor and change it out for one with an ant moat.
Once you’ve repaired or replaced a leaky feeder, consider why it started leaking in the first place. A common cause for damage to hummingbird feeders is as a result of too much exposure to damaging sunlight.
To prevent further damage, and the resulting ant infestations, hang your hummingbird feeders in the shade, it will keep the nectar fresher for longer, and give your hummers a cool place to hang out too.
2. Clean Your Feeders Regularly
Ants in hummingbird feeders can be a big problem. As you probably already know, you need to be cleaning your hummingbird feeders regularly. Not only will this keep them free of mold and bacteria build-up, which could be harmful to the hummers, but it will also prevent ants from finding them as easily.
It only takes a few minutes and any leaks will be more easily discovered when your hummingbird feeders are kept squeaky-clean.
3. Defend Your Feeders With Water
Have you ever heard of a moat? You know, those water barriers around castles from the old medieval-themed movies. They kept knights and soldiers out, and we can do the same thing with water to keep ants out of our hummingbird feeders.
There are two ways of setting up an ant moat to protect the nectar in your feeders and keep the hummingbirds coming back for more. You can buy an ant moat and set it up above your hanging hummingbird feeder.
These ant moats are super easy to use, simply hang your feeder from the moat and enjoy the extra hummingbird attraction these clever, flower-shaped devices provide. Alternatively, you can use a hummingbird feeder that comes made with a built-in ant moat.
Another variation on the ant moat theme is to set up an actual moat under your hummingbird feeder. Now, this won’t work so well if you have a window feeder, or hang your feeder from a tree branch, but it’s an option if you use a bird feeder pole.
If you already have a water feature or pond in your backyard, you could simply anchor your pole in a bucket filled with rocks in the middle of the pond. Another option would be to cast a block of concrete around the bottom of your pole to anchor it to the bottom of the pond, but be sure to give your bird feeder pole an extra treatment to prevent rust.
4. Make Your Feeders Hard To Reach
Another way to keep ants out of your hummingbird feeder is to hang it from a fishing line, tied between two points. If you read this article on how to keep squirrels out of bird feeders, this technique probably sounds pretty familiar.
All you need to do is tie a line between two points, branches for example, and hang your feeder on that line. Ants will struggle to negotiate the smooth, slippery line and reach your hummingbird feeder. Hanging your feeder on a short length of fishing line will improve your defense even more.
If you have an ant moat set up above your feeder, even better! Just remember to use a line that is strong enough to support the weight of your feeder and change this line out every now and then. Fishing lines weaken over time when exposed to sunlight.
5. Stick It To ‘Em
Another effective way to keep ants off your hummingbird feeder is to use double-sided tape. Tape up the point just above where your hummingbird hangs, or around the bottom of your bird feeder pole, and ants won’t be able to cross the sticky surface.
Please use this method with caution, the last thing you want is for your hummingbirds to come into contact with the sticky tape. If you’re wondering to yourself, ‘do hummingbirds eat ants?’, there’s no need to worry, the birds don’t like the taste of ants and won’t try to eat them off the tape.
Another way of keeping ants out of hummingbird feeders is to use a slick substance like petroleum jelly to create a boundary the ants can’t cross. The jelly is pretty weatherproof, which means it offers a pretty long-lasting solution, and apparently ants don’t like crossing this sticky and slimy grease.
Some folks find this method effective for keeping squirrels at bay but I somehow don’t like the idea of letting them get their fur covered in grease. You also don’t want to put the jelly anywhere near where the hummingbirds could get it on their beautiful plumage so give this some thought.
An effective place to use the petroleum jelly might be around the bottom of your bird feeder pole, a place where the birds are very unlikely to go.
6. Shift Your Feeders When They’re Discovered
In much the same way you can keep bees away from hummingbird feeders, ants can be confused by simply moving your feeder to a new spot in the yard. Don’t worry, the hummingbirds will quite easily find the feeders again with their great eyesight and natural attraction to the colors and shapes of your birdfeeder.
To improve the chances of this simple method working, be sure to remove any ants from your feeder before moving it. Do this in case they manage to wander back to the nest and tell all their friends about the whereabouts of their new diner.
7. Use Ant Repellants
There are natural ant remedies that we can use in our fight against the ants. Plants like mint and bay leaves, as well as lemon juice and vinegar, are said to be natural ant repellants, and if used smartly, could help to keep these bugs away from your hummingbird feeders.
A more extreme (but probably more effective) way of keeping ants out of hummingbird feeders is to use ant guards. These guards use a repellant called permethrin that kills ants. These ant guards are super easy to use and the chemical repellent is kept inside the guard, and away from contact with hands and wildlife.
If you’re as concerned about using chemicals as I am, this is about the best chemical option out there because it is completely safe around birds, pets, and children.
8. Last Resort – Create An Ant Feeding Station
If you’ve tried everything and you’re still finding ants on your hummingbird feeder, you could try this *untested method and set up a feeding station specifically for the ants. Someplace easy for them to reach so they won’t be so determined to get into your (by now heavily guarded) hummingbird feeders.
Keeping ants out of your hummingbird feeder doesn’t have to be such a headache, with a little time, effort, and the 8 tips on how to keep ants out of hummingbird feeders that I’ve given you today, you can keep your feeders pest-free. All that’s left to do now is to keep your feeders clean, topped up, and enjoy watching the energetic little birds!