It’s a warm summer’s day and you’ve got your nectar feeders out in all the right places around the yard and filled with fresh sugar water to feed your favorite hummingbirds. But there’s a problem, somethings visiting the feeders and it’s not your feathered friends. The bees have arrived.
The bees themselves will be just fine drinking sugar water, in fact, commercial beekeepers often feed this to their colonies on a large scale. But you put your time and money into attracting hummingbirds and not bees.
There isn’t much bad to say about bees really. As a hobbyist beekeeper (only a beginner), I must admit to loving the little ladies, but that’s me and not everyone feels that way.
For some, bees can be just a minor nuisance. For others, especially those who are allergic to stings, having bees around can be downright terrifying. Let’s take a look at how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders.
7 Ways To Keep Bees Away From Hummingbird Feeders
1. Use A Red Colored Hummingbird Feeder
Here’s an interesting fact, honeybees can’t see the color red at all. Bees do still visit and pollinate red flowers, but this is because they see the world a little differently and they can see colors and patterns on flowers that we can’t.
A red bird feeder will show up as black to a passing honeybee, and not attract these buzzing bugs. Yellow, white, blue, or purple feeders, will be like bee magnets.
Even red feeders with yellow parts could catch the eyes of foraging bees so choose an all-red and clear feeder if you can.
2. Move Your Feeders
Have you ever heard of dancing bees? This absolutely fascinates me, but bees really do dance.
You can read more about it here, but basically, when a foraging honeybee goes out and finds a good source of nectar or pollen, she will go back to the hive and use a very special dance to communicate to the rest of the colony where to find that food source.
If that food source happens to be your hummingbird feeder, she’s going to be sending a bunch of her fellow foragers over soon. This is going to mean more buzzing and less humming, but don’t despair just yet.
Luckily, there is a simple technique you can use to throw them off the trail – move your feeders! This is where a good free-standing bird feeder pole will really come in handy. Otherwise, choose a variety of branches to hang your feeders on and move them around as necessary when the bees find them.
3. Hang Your Feeders In The Shade
Bees usually prefer to feed and forage out in the sunlight, a fact that can definitely help you keep bees away from your hummingbird feeders. I suggest you set up your nectar feeders in the shade anyway, and there are a few good reasons for this:
- Over time exposure to sunshine damages feeders, making plastics turn brittle and causing colors to fade. Hanging your feeders in the shade could definitely improve their lifespans.
- The nectar or sugar water in your feeders will stay fresh for longer in the shade, keeping it fresh for our feathered friends and saving you time and money in cleaning and replacing costs.
- Hummingbirds love a cool, shady spot where they can feed out of the hot sun.
4. Use Bee Proof Hummingbird Feeders
Fortunately for us, the clever folks who design hummingbird feeders have thought about the hummingbird-bee problem for us already.
Remember though, not all hummingbird feeders are designed to be bee-proof, and some designs are better than others.
The best bee-proof hummingbird feeders have bee guards over nectar ports or have holes that are just big enough for the hummingbird’s beak to fit through, but not big enough for bees to crawl in.
Of course, I don’t have to tell you that the best-designed bee-proof hummingbird feeder won’t do much good at keeping bees away if it leaks or you accidentally spill nectar on it.
If you do have a leaking feeder or spill some nectar in your yard, be sure to clean it up before ants, wasps, and bees arrive.
5. Try An Essential Oil
There are some natural substances that are reported to repel bees. Peppermint and tea tree oils for example are said to do the trick if wiped onto your feeders with a cloth.
I haven’t tried this technique personally but it sounds like it could have potential. There are some things to consider though.
I wouldn’t advise you to go drenching your feeders in oil because an oil-covered hummingbird will not be a happy hummingbird. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of published scientific evidence on this, so as an experiment, you could apply a thin layer of peppermint or tea tree oil to a nectar-feeding port and then watch and see if anything comes buzzing in to that spot.
6. Plant The Right Plants
There are two schools of thought here. You could plant only flowers that hummingbirds like and that bees don’t like. Or you could plant bee-friendly flowers that will have them ignoring your hummingbird feeders and flying straight to the blossoms.
The choice is yours but I’m going to help you out by giving you a list of plants for hummingbirds, and plants for bees
- Red cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
- Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera semperivens)
- Hummingbird Trumpet (Epilobium canum)
- Columbia Lily (Lilium columbianum)
The best plants for hummingbirds are red and tube-shaped. These flowers won’t chase bees away, but having a yard full of red flowers will definitely not attract bees like the plants I’m going to list next.
Flowers That Bees Like
Bees are particularly attracted to flowers that are white, blue, purple, or yellow. Plant these flowers to provide an alternative food source for bees, or avoid planting them if you don’t want bees in your yard at all.
- Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
- Cranesbill (Geranium spp.)
- Black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata)
Flowers That Bees Don’t like
Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of plants that will deter bees from your yard, but you can try:
- Wormwood (Artemisia spp.)
- Marigolds (Tagetes spp.)
- Peppermint (Mentha x. piperita)
7. Don’t Use Pesticides
I like to think of my yard as its own little ecosystem, where almost all creatures are welcome. If you look at it that way, you’ll see that your yard is part of the ecosystem of your neighborhood, town, and the whole planet really.
While bees at your hummingbird feeder may be a problem, please don’t take the route of using any poisons or pesticides as these might harm more than just the bugs. Other creatures that come into contact with pesticides or eat poisoned bugs may also be affected.
Bees are really important pollinators in the environment and they also happen to be an important part of the diet of another beautiful bird that might visit your yard, the Summer tanager.
Hopefully, these 7 ways to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders will help you enjoy attracting more high-speed hovering hummingbirds to your yard.
Remember that both bees and hummingbirds are important pollinators and both have a place in our environment, so please avoid poisons, mother nature will thank you for it.
Use these 7 tips to keep bees away from your hummingbird feeders and enjoy watching these energetic little birds in your yard. Happy birdwatching!