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We often have a love-hate relationship with bees. We can’t overemphasize their significance as pollinators. Of course, there’s also that delicious honey. However, it’s you’re allergic to them, it’s a different story. It may surprise you to learn that bees and other stinging insects account for nearly 30% of animal-related deaths.1
That’s an issue if you also have hummingbird feeders in your yard. Sweets and these birds go together. Unfortunately, that also applies to bees. Nevertheless, there are several things you can do to keep the hummingbirds fed and the bees at bay. Many of our tips involve the birds’ and bees’ instincts to take the guesswork out of whether they’ll prove effective.
Hummingbirds seek out orange and red-colored flowers, such as Columbine, Cardinal Flower, and Jewel Weed, for their sweet nectar. It only makes sense that if you’re trying to attract them to your yard that you plant these types of blooms. The same principle applies to your feeder. On the other hand, bees are on the lookout for yellow, so avoid that color.
You can take a cue from Nature and make your hummingbird feeder less appealing to bees by snapping on some insect guards. They deter these insects by making it harder—if at all—to get to the sweet nectar. Flowers have evolved similar strategies to attract the pollinators that are best-suited to them. Remember that bees are smart. They won’t waste any effort on something that makes it difficult.
Another effective method is to set up a decoy feeder away from the one that the hummingbirds use, preferably far from your house. Bees will stick with a reliable food source. The best thing about it is that other bees will learn from their behavior and visit that one instead of the one for the birds. It’s another excellent way to learn what Nature can teach you.
We mentioned in the beginning that bees are necessary pollinators. Another thing you can do is give them a job—away from the hummingbird feeder. Bees prefer bright colors, such as yellow. A garden filled with blooms of these hues will attract them to that site, instead.
It’s essential to keep your hummingbird feeder clean. It’s vital for the birds’ health but also to avoid attracting bees and other unwanted visitors. It’s easy to see how a sticky container will act as a magnet for dust and other debris. It can also clog the feeding ports, making it more difficult for the hummingbirds to feed.
Many stinging insects are territorial. If they pick up on the signs of an occupied area, they’ll move on. Luckily, it’s not a challenging task as long as you put up a fake wasp nest. The best thing about this method is that it’s totally hands-off, other than replacing the decoy if it gets damaged.
Bees have an unmatchable sweet tooth. That’s one reason why they make a beeline for the largest blooms that have the most sugar and caffeine. And you thought it was only people who got a buzz on caffeine. On the other hand, hummingbirds are less fussy. You can reduce the water-to-sugar ratio to 4:1 or even 5:1 and still attract them to the feeder.
Bees prefer bright, sunny days. After all, it makes sense when you think about it. The flowers open up and make easy access to the good stuff. Again, hummingbirds aren’t as picky, which works out in your favor. Instead of placing the feeder in the sunniest place in the yard, put it in an area with partial to full shade. Bear in mind many of their preferred flowers like Columbine also grow in these spots.
Bees and hummingbirds have different strategies when it comes to feeding. The insects go for the biggest bang for their buck. If you move the feeder someplace else, they aren’t necessarily going to call out the posse to look for it. The birds will search for reliable food sources if just for the speed advantage they have that makes it possible.
We’ve talked about the color of hummingbird feeders. Red is the way to go. You’ll see two kinds of products available, saucer and inverted. The former permits access to the nectar through ports that the hummingbirds can easily use. The latter keeps the ports filled, making it easier for insects to get to the nectar. As you may surmise, the saucer kind is the best for keeping the bees out of the feeder.
Nearly 13 million Americans participate in birdwatching. It’s easy to understand why. Placing a hummingbird feeder in your yard is an excellent way to bring the action home. Fortunately, you don’t have to deal with the interlopers that can make it less enjoyable and even harmful. A few simple things can keep the nectar for the hummingbirds as you intended all along.
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Featured Image Credit: Mike_Rowand, Shutterstock
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Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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