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How to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders

Learn how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders without ever harming these important pollinators

A red hummingbird feeder with bees on it
(Image credit: Judy Fleming / Getty)

If you need to know how to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders, we hear you. As much as we love bees and understand their crucial importance to our world, seeing them swarm around your hummingbird feeder can be a bit annoying, if not quite dangerous. After all, your reason for installing a hummingbird feeder in the first place was to watch hummingbirds not bees. What's to be done?

The best news is that getting bees out of your yard and away from hummingbird feeders doesn't have to interfere with your plans to create a bee-friendly garden. All of the expert-led tips in this article are kind to bees and don't involve harming them in any way. In fact, some of the tips are designed to make your yard or garden even more bee-friendly than before. 

Zackary DeAngelis

Zack DeAngelis is the creator of Pest Pointers. He grew up in an area of Upstate, NY where dealing with wildlife pests is a common occurrence. When he's not out roaming around 50+ acres of pastures, woods, and a freshwater bass pond, he's at my computer writing on Pest Pointers.

Zack has been featured in a wide variety of outlets listed below and primarily specializes in natural pest control methods for your home and garden.

How to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders

Who is better positioned to give tips for keeping bees away from hummingbird feeders than a natural pest control expert? Zack DeAngelis is the creator of Pest Pointers (opens in new tab) and has many years of experience dealing with bees in hummingbird feeders. Here are his top tips for keeping them away. 

A hummingbird feeder with hummingbird

(Image credit: Joe Regan / Getty)

1. Use a feeder that has built-in bee guards

De Angelis names this as his 'favorite tip to keep bees out of hummingbird feeders' because it's so simple and effective. Bee guard hummingbird feeders can be bought on Amazon for $15-20 (opens in new tab) and really work. De Angelis explains how: 'The guards protrude outwards so that only the hummingbird can easily access the nectar. The trick to actually making these types of feeders successful at keeping bees away is by constantly cleaning feeders for any nectar that may spill out while hummingbirds are feeding. 

'I really like the Perky Pet feeder (opens in new tab) and it's what we have my grandmother use. The only downside is that it has yellow feeding tips but that can be mitigated by keeping the feeder clean.' 

2. Try putting an onion bag over the feeder

Mesh onion bags (opens in new tab) are accidentally one of the best solutions for keeping bees away from hummingbird feeders. Firstly, they happen to be exactly the right shape to cover a feeder. Secondly, their color will help keep bees away. De Angelis advises that 'bees are attracted to the color yellow, where most hummingbird feeders are red with yellow feeding tips that resemble flowers (we wonder why bees are attracted to these!) 

'A quick solution to this is to place part of an old meshed onion bag over the top of the feeder. This will help deter bees, and still make sure that hummingbirds can get their beak on the inside. Try to aim for a dark-colored onion bag to avoid resembling bright, floral colors that bees like.'

3. Dilute the nectar

'Look to dilute your hummingbird nectar by 25%-50% of its current concentration. Make sure to monitor that hummingbirds are still enjoying the feeder, but this will help make the mixture a bit less attractive to bees. I don't like moving the feeder as it won't be in your preferred spot. Rather, keep the feeder clean, use a bee-proof designed feeder, and dilute the concentration by up to 50%. Simple as that!'

4. Add a bee moat

You can also try the bee moat metod instead of buying a bee-guard (opens in new tab) hummingbird feeder. Charles van Rees, Conservation Scientist and blogger at Gulo in Nature (opens in new tab), explains that 'adding a bee-moat, a tray of water that adds some distance between the nectar source and any airborne suitors may also prove effective since bees can't swim. I use one of these for my feeder; I have to fill it up again every couple of days but it seems to work well.'

5. Keep feeders clean

This is an essential step toward keeping bees away from your hummingbird feeder. 'Not only does this protect the health of your hummingbirds, but it will prevent sugar from building up on the surfaces of the feeder, which will attract bees in the first place.' 

Avoid excess sugar collecting on the outside of the feeder during filling, 'and check carefully for leaks', van Rees says. 'Using too much sugar in your hummingbird food can also cause extra sugar to collect outside of the feeder.'

A DIY hummingbird feeder with hummingbird

(Image credit: Rebecca Harding / Getty)

6. Provide alternative food sources for bees

Adding bee-friendly garden plants to your yard will go a long way toward deterring them from your hummingbird feeders. Van Rees recommends planting 'bee-magnet flowers like various mints, lavender, coneflower, sunflowers, and catnip', as well as providing water sources for the bees such as 'muddy puddles or birdbaths (opens in new tab) and placing those features strategically in your garden.'

Plus, the likes of mint, lavender and catnip are natural mosquito deterrent plants also.

7. Try moving your hummingbird feeder around

Van Rees only recommends this method 'as a last resort' since it's a lot of work, but you can try moving your hummingbird feeder around your yard frequently. The reason this works is that 'bees take time to re-orient to new nectar sources, and they have to show their hive-mates where they are. This makes them slower at taking advantage when the feeder moves, while the hummingbirds should find it quickly.'

This method is more effective in larger yards, as ideally, you should move the hummingbird at least 10 feet away from its previous location each time. 

What is the most effective way to deter bees from hummingbird feeders?

It's the bee-guard hummingbird feeder (opens in new tab). Van Rees explains that this method essentially mimics what flowers do in nature in order to attract the right kind of pollinator: 'In Central, South, and North America, where you can find hummingbirds,
there are flowers that feed hummingbird pollinators and have to exclude
bees. They typically do this by making the openings to access the nectar
too slender for fatter bees.' This is exactly what bee guards on feeders do. Simple, cheap, and effective.

Will bees leave my yard if I deter them from hummingbird feeders?

They won't if you provide plenty of other sources of food for them. This is best done by enhancing your planting scheme. You can start with wildflower seeds or perennials like lavender to make your yard more attractive to bees without them needing to go for the hummingbird feeder. 

Anna is Content Editor at Real Homes. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. At Real Homes, she covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design. 

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