Battling the Bees

Photo Group
Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Photo by: 
Aspect

First and foremost I want to make sure that you understand that I have nothing against bees and wasps. They are very important parts of our ecosystem and many, many plants depend on them for pollination. That being said, they can be a pain in the “bee-hind” when it comes to hummingbird and oriole feeders.

While some may have bees find their feeders early in the season, luckily, it is a problem that doesn’t really get bad until late summer. I say “luckily” because I don’t think there is a solution for jelly feeders but it tends to occur at the same time (late July/early August) that our orioles are pulling out for parts far south of here.

Orioles

Certain nectar feeder are pretty effective at discouraging the bees. Two of our oriole nectar feeders have bee guards that have been successful for many. The Fliteline Jr. from the Birding Company has beads in the port that orioles easily push through to get to the nectar while the bees cannot. Perkey Pets’ oriole feeder features weighted perches that pull the bee guards out of the way when the oriole lands on it.

Hummingbirds

Hummingbird feeders are a whole different story. The struggle with bees can be a rather easy one to solve or really frustrating. Feeders that are gravity fed (the nectar is in a bottle above the ports) are almost impossible to keep bees away from. The nectar is always right at the surface of the port and the short proboscis of the bee can easily reach the sugar water. We much prefer flat feeders like the Hummzingers from Aspects.

By filling a Hummzinger only half full, the sugar water in kept a good distance from the port opening above, making it very hard for a bee or wasp to get its first taste and therefore discouraging them from coming back. Aspects also features Nectar Guard Tips for some of their feeders which add another level of protection from bees. I understand they are working on a version that will fit their oriole feeder.

A trick that I read about once was washing the top of your hummingbird feeder with a strong vinegar water solution and not rinsing it. You let it air dry and it place it back on. Hummingbirds like most birds have a poorly developed since of smell and will continue to use the feeder but bees tend to shy away. The battle with bees and nectar feeders has been raging for years. With a little patience and creativity, it can be won.

By Mark McKellar

SUMMER 2009