How To Keep Ants Out of Hummingbird Feeders: 7 Helpful Tips

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If you want to have a wildlife-friendly garden, one great thing to do is place hummingbird feeders. However, hummingbirds are not the only ones attracted to the sweet nectar they contain. One issue often encountered by those trying to feed hummingbirds is ants on hummingbird feeders. So, how to keep ants out of hummingbird feeders?

There are eco-friendly and sustainable solutions to keep these clever insects at bay that do not involve using harmful pesticides on your plot.

Do ants bother hummingbirds?

If you have ants on your hummingbird feeder, the first question that you might have is whether or not this is actually an issue.

Often, in an organic garden, we take a live-and-let-live approach. We often tolerate pest species in our space because they are not just pests but are crucial parts of the ecological systems around us.

Ants, per se, are not always an issue in gardens. However, when they get into inconvenient places or their populations surge to unmanageable numbers, then their colonies can, of course, become an issue. It can be a problem when they swarm onto bird feeders, supping on the sugar water you have made for hummingbirds.

If you only have a few ants, you might be confused about why this is an issue. But where there are a few ants, there can often soon be many, many more.

Some types of ants are actually a food source for birds who need insects as well as nectar as part of their diet. Many ants, however, are not appealing to hummingbirds – they don’t like the taste.

Ants are, unfortunately, a potential disease vector and can contaminate the food source of hummingbirds when they die in the sugar water. Hummingbirds seem to know this, and if ants take over a nectar feeder, hummingbirds tend to steer clear.

Will hummingbirds still feed if there are ants on the feeder?

If there are only a few ants, this will not always prevent hummingbirds from using a feeder. Typically, however, if the feeder is infested with ants, hummingbirds will no longer use your feeder and will find another food source.

If you have ever dealt with ants on your property before, you know that once ‘scout’ ants find a food source, they will go and tell all of their friends, and before you know it, the place turns into a buffet for ants.

So, you need to take steps to make sure that the feeder is clean and clear and stays that way to help your feathered friends.

How do I keep ants off my hummingbird feeder?

how to keep ants out of hummingbird feeders

To keep ants off your hummingbird feeder, you need to place your feeder in the right spot. Also, keep it clean and free from leaks. You may then need to take steps to ensure that hummingbirds can access the sugar within while ants cannot.

Below, we’ll take a look at some simple and sustainable, eco-friendly strategies to try that should help you solve this problem.

Choose the Right Feeder Up Front

If you haven’t yet chosen a hummingbird feeder, and are worried about ants and other pests, the right feeder can make a big difference. After all, preventing an issue is always better than trying to solve it.

Many feeders can be purchased that already have built-in ant-moats and anti-bee measures affixed.

It is also a good idea to think about the material from which your entire feeder is made. Plastic feeders can be cheap and break easily. So think about choosing a more durable store-bought or DIY option. 

Position the Feeder Correctly

If you want to make sure your feeder remains ant-free, consider where you place your feeder.

It is best to place a feeder in partial or light shade. Avoid the center of your garden in full sun. Just make sure that you don’t place hummingbird feeders in too shady a spot.

Keep it Clean and Leak-Free

Ants are more likely to be enticed to hummingbird feeders leaking their sweet contents or if there are any spills. So another way to cut off this issue before it occurs is to keep your feeder in good order.

Exposure to the hot sun and the elements means that a cheap hummingbird feeder can easily become cracked or damaged. So it is important to review the container regularly to stay on top of any potential issues and keep your hummingbird feeder clean.

Change Things Up

If ants have already discovered a hummingbird feeder, keeping them out might simply be a question of moving it to a new location within your garden. If ants are a persistent problem, changing up the location of your feeder each year can mean that they are less likely to invade, while hummingbirds still have access when they arrive.

Hanging feeders from the wood structure of a porch or pergola, or support hanging from a rough wall, or a tree, may make them less accessible to ants.

Hang a Hummingbird Feeder With Fishing Line

If you use a thin and slippery fishing line to hang hummingbird feeders, ants will have to walk the tightrope to reach it. This is one simple method you can use to deter ants by making it far more challenging to reach the ‘prize.’

Use an Ant Moat

The most effective method for most situations is to use a traditional ant moat to keep ants out of hummingbird feeders. An ant moat is a simple reservoir of water that ants cannot cross to reach the reward. An ant moat will be effective in most locations as long as you keep it filled with water.

If your feeder does not have an ant moat, you can easily make your own. This type of ant guard is a cheap and easy-to-install ant repellent. 

Occasionally, ants may not be deterred. They may pile across the water and create a ‘bridge’ of ant bodies. And sometimes, in warmer climates, the water may evaporate too quickly and be challenging to maintain. But for most, this measure is enough (along with the above) to solve the issue.

Hang a Feeder Over Water

If you have particularly persistent ants where you live and ants moats have not worked well or been too difficult to maintain, another surefire method is to hang hummingbird feeders in the center of a large body of water. A wildlife pond, fountain, or other water feature can be an effective deterrent for ants.

The ants won’t cross that much water to scale the feeder pole and reach a feeder over fresh water, and the hummingbirds will like having the place to cool down and bathe close by.

Will Vaseline keep ants off the hummingbird feeder?

While all of the above methods are recommended in organic gardens, there are some ‘solutions’ that you should absolutely avoid.

Adding vaseline, Vix, vegetable oil, or any other greasy, sticky or slippery substance to hooks, chains or poles should definitely be avoided. While these options will deter ants, they can pose a serious threat to the hummingbirds themselves. If the birds get any of these substances on their feathers, it can impair their flight. 

You should avoid adding anything but water to ant moats. Getting rid of hummingbird feeder ants may be essential – but should not be accomplished at the expense of the hummingbirds themselves, or other precious wildlife in your space.

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Elizabeth Waddington

Elizabeth Waddington is a conservation, rewilding, organic gardening and sustainability specialist who loves everything nature-related. She loves helping others around the world connect with the wildlife and wonders around them. When not creating wildlife-wise, eco-friendly designs, or writing about the topics that inspire her, she loves spending time watching the birds on and around her own rural property, or heading out on camping or hiking adventures to spot birds and other wildlife in a range of habitats.