Insects On Hummer Feeders: What To Do For Hummingbird Pests

hummer feeder with snake e1537456107419
hummer feeder with snake e1537456107419
(Image credit: Gardening Know How, via Nikki Tilley)

Hummingbirds are a gardener’s delight, as these brightly colored, tiny birds zip across the backyard in search of the nectar they require to keep moving. Many aid the little birds by hanging out feeders filled with sugar-water. But insects on hummer feeders can compete with the beautiful birds for this treat, and there are predators out there that see the hummers as lunch. For information about keeping pests out of hummingbird feeders, read on.

About Hummingbird Feeder Pests

Many gardeners view hummingbirds as very desirable guests in the backyard. Their bright colors are beautiful and it is a pleasure to watch the little creatures darting from flower to flower. One way of encouraging hummers to visit the garden is to hang out hummingbird feeders. Experts recommend that you use clear feeders with multiple feeding stations. Hummingbirds are partial to red flowers, so pick a feeder with red trim. But don’t use red dye in the sugar/water mix. Just use a 1:4 ratio, or 1:3 in winter. This sugary substance provides quick energy for hummingbirds but it may also lead to insects on hummer feeders. Hummers are not the only backyard creatures that are hungry and like sugar. Ants, wasps, bees and other insects can fall within that category too, so don’t be surprised if insects become hummingbird feeder pests. Insects on hummer feeders usually do not harm the tiny birds, but they can interfere with the hummingbird’s use of the feeder openings. You may want to start keeping pests out of hummingbird feeders. But what to do for hummingbird pests? Do not use pesticides to combat insects on hummer feeders. It may be tempting if you see a line of ants, for example, “sharing” the sugar water with the birds, but birds also get protein from eating insects. Instead, put petroleum jelly around the openings and on the wire suspending the feeder. If bees become hummingbird feeder pests, you can find "bee guards" at garden stores. They are perforated plastic caps that fit over the feeding tubes and act like grates. The hummers’ beaks can get into the grate but bee parts are too short.

Protecting Hummingbirds from Predators

Some reptiles, animals and even large insects view hummingbirds as prey, and you should do your best to protect them. Outdoor cats can be the worst offenders. To protect against cats, position the feeders where the birds can land without danger. Don’t attach it to a tree limb or the eves of a house. Belling cats can help too. Snakes can and do view hummingbirds as meals. So do praying mantis. Watch for them and shoo them off the feeder when you see them. And remember, positioning the feeder can be critical. Hummers are fast-moving and can recognize danger if you place the feeder where an approaching bird has a clear view.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.