How to Prevent Ants on Hummingbird Feeders
Keep Ants off Hummingbird Feeders
It can be so infuriating putting out a hummingbird feeder only to find it quickly overrun with pesky ants. Not only does it keep the hummingbirds and other nectar feeding birds away, it encourages more ants and that is something nobody wants.
After looking on the internet and being discouraged with the results, I have come up with an easy and virtually free way to keep ants away from my feeders.
In fact, it's so simple you'll likely be able to do this with items you have around your house.
Ways to Keep Ants Away From Hummingbird Feeders
When I looked on the internet for ideas, all I found were ideas for moats or coatings for the hook or chain. I have tried all of these with only limited success. Let's look at their shortcomings.
- Moat: The idea is sound and eco-friendly but for me, this was a complete non-starter. I live in Brazil and we have a problem with mosquitoes. Any standing water is best to be avoided so a moat was out of the question. The other issue I had with it, is evaporation, I don't want to be refilling a small bowl of water several times a day. So whether it was a large or small amount of water, for my situation neither was ideal.
- Coating the hanger or hook: Among the coatings people use are Vaseline or Vicks Vapor Rub. The idea behind this method is the ants don't like to walk across a sticky surface. I have also read that they don't like the smell of Vicks and it will act as a repellent. I tried the Vaseline and it worked for awhile but I had to keep reapplying which was a nuisance. Plus, it turns out the hummingbirds don't like Vicks either. They have a well-developed sense of smell and also stayed away, not quite the solution I was hoping for.
Don't get me wrong, I love having hummingbirds visiting the feeders, but if it is going to cost me a lot of time and/or money, I would need to rethink putting my feeders out.
How to Make Your Hummingbird Feeder Ant Proof
Finally, after a lot of trial and error, I discovered a quick, long-lasting and inexpensive set up which, for where I live, is perfect for preventing ants on the hummingbird feeders.
What I have found works best for me is a simple plastic lid, the type which comes on a carton of ice cream, or margarine container.
What you'll need is:
A plastic lid
A piece of wire: I used a flexible and plastic coated wire but a wire coat hanger would work.
Something to poke a hole such as a pair of scissors or a skewer.
Insect spray or kitchen cleaning spray such as Mr Muscle or 409.
Begin by poking a hole in the center of your plastic lid. Push from the underside towards the top. I use a skewer but you could use a knife, scissors or whatever you need to make a small hole. Make the hole as small as possible but big enough to allow your wire to pass through.
Spray the lid with insect spray, 409, Mr Muscle or another product which will repel ants. If you didn't know that those cleaning products also worked against bugs they do and it is a secret that professional exterminators don't want you to know about.
Although many of us use these cleaning products, I suspect many people don't rinse their surfaces after using them. They, in fact, leave behind a residue which, if it is toxic to insects, which it is, is also toxic to humans. Just another reason, I believe it is best to use natural cleaning products in the kitchen.
(Let me step down from my soapbox).
Leave the plastic lid to dry.
Prevent Ants on Hummingbird Feeder
The next step is to simply make a loop in the wire, this will need to be wrapped around a couple of times. If you can't do it with your fingers, use pliers. This has to support the weight of the feeder. All of my feeders are glass so they are quite weighty when full of the sugar water solution. This loop is the part that will hang from your hook, bracket or whatever type of fitting you currently have for your hummingbird feeder.
Slide the plastic lid, which has been sprayed and left to dry, onto the metal wire. The sprayed side should be on the top or facing up. Now make a bend in the wire leaving about 1.5 inches. This is to support the lid. You can see this in the photo.
I have had great success with this method and left it for weeks without respraying it. I don't know if this is because the spray penetrated the plastic or if the ants, remember that as a potential danger.
The lid will bobble about in the wind but as long as it is supported by the wire, you will have no problem. If you are worried about using this spray near the feeder, don't be. I have never seen many of the hummingbirds or other nectar feeding birds even attempting to land on it. I think this is partly due to its unstable (or wobbly) surface. Plus they are eager to get to the sugar water.
I would also like to add here, that not only do we get the hummingbirds visiting our feeders, we have them nesting in our garden. It is quite fun to see the small eggcup size nest being constructed and then filled with eggs the size of Tic Tacs. Once they hatch normally all we can see are the pointed beaks sticking out of the nest.
Your birds may at first wonder what the heck this new contraption is but once they go in and sample the liquid, they will know there is no danger.
Is it the prettiest thing hanging on your patio or porch? No, but it is effective. When I change the sugar water, I leave the wire and plastic lid in place and only remove the bottle.
Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Garden or Backyard
By selecting certain flowering plants you can encourage hummingbirds to visit your garden. Not only will you get to see these beautiful little birds, you'll have beautiful flowers too!
So let's look at various types of plants which can be grown to get them to visit. Red flowers attract them, in fact they take a great interest in anything red. I have seen a video of one flying to a camera strap which had a red Canon logo on it. They are inquisitive.
Tubular flowers are a bonus for them as this type of flower can hold a lot of nectar.
Here at my home we see them on the bougainvillea, and both the cashew and the mango trees.
Remember they are also eating small spiders and other bugs for protein, not just nectar.
Below is a list of some common flowering plants which attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. Opt for varieties in red for best results.
Plants Which Attract Hummingbirds
Full sun/light Shade
Full sun/light shade
Full sun/light shade
Full sun/light shade
Red Hot Poker
Do you plant trees and bushes known to attract hummingbirds or just rely on feeders?
Interesting Hummingbird Facts
- Proportionally speaking, the hummingbird's brain is larger than ours. At a whopping 4.2% of it's body weight it makes our tiny 2% of grey matter seem minuscule by comparison.
- This acrobatic little bird has the ability not just to fly forward but also backward. Hovering is no problem either as it creates a figure 8 with its wings to keep itself in position. Its wings can beat up to 200 times a second. This is one of the reasons when you see a flying hummingbird the wings are blurred.
- They can burn up to 12,000 calories a day and are constantly in search of flowers. Some estimates say they visit 1,000 flowers a day.
- At night, to conserve energy, they go into a state called torpor which is like a short hibernation.
- They can be aggressive and territorial. We have seen them chase off hawks and kingfishers here at our home in Brazil. I have also seen videos where they will attack and kill another hummingbird.
- In Brazil the hummingbird is called Beija Flor which translates as 'flower kisser'.
- Hummingbirds are only in the western hemisphere and are found from Alaska to Chile. However hummingbird fossils which are believed to be 30 million years old have been found in France.
Questions & Answers
My ant moat does a fine job of keeping out crawling ants, but I find my feeder plagued with flying ants. How do I deter them?
Flying ants and wasps are a problem. I have found that by moving my feeders, it will keep them away. Of course, when they find the new location, I move it again. I have two places that the hummingbirds know to look. It isn't a permanent solution, but it's workable.Helpful 17
I've been using vegetable oil in the moat above the hummingbird feeder for the last four years to prevent ants - so far so good. Is this working for anyone else?
That is a great idea, thanks for sharing that. I can see the benefits to that as it won't evaporate like water or be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. My only concern is it may go rancid if not changed regularly.Helpful 7
I have tried two different hummingbird feeders, and they both leak. Do you have any ideas?
Firstly are they leaking because the wind is strong causing them to spill? If the unit is leaking, can you return it to the place you purchased it from?
I have glass bottles, and they have never leaked. Previously I had some plastic ones, and in our sunlight, they eventually became brittle and cracked.
You don't want to be dripping sugar water, as that will attract the ants.
I'd try and return that and buy a glass one.
Good luck, I hope it works out for you.Helpful 6
Our hummingbird feeder has a dome, and yet the ants still get to the nectar. After reading your ideas, I came up with one of my own. I used red electrical tape. First, one rotation, sticky side down, as usual, followed by a half twist, then wrapped with a wire hanger, sticky side out. The ants don't like it, it cheap, no harmful effects to the ecosystem. How do you like my idea?
I think that is a great idea.
My only concern is that you will need to keep using more tape, as the sticky part gets coated in dust from the air. Other than that, it sounds brilliant. Thanks for the idea.Helpful 4
© 2016 Mary Wickison