Into The Air

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How to Keep Flying Insects Away from Feeders

hummingbird-feederLast week, I wrote about ways to keep ants away from hummingbird feeders, but there are sometimes more alarming creatures out to get the nectar: wasps, hornets and yellow jackets.

Flying insects, like all animals and bugs, contribute their own things to nature, but they can bully hummingbirds and orioles away by constantly swarming feeders. Some of the aggressive insects like yellow jackets will also attack and sting birds. Not to mention, these aren’t insects you’d want around your property where you or your kids are.

Unlike ants, which can be stopped with things as simple as a water moat, flying insects are a bit harder to keep away. Here are some things you can do from discouraging them from swarming your feeders.

Keep your yard clean

The first thing you should focus on is prevention. Limit or cover things in your yard that would attract these flying insects. For example, if you have a cat or dog, don’t leave their food sitting outside (this could also attract unwanted ants too). Cover any trashcans that may have food particles in it. You generally want to make sure there’s no standing water outside too. If you have a birdbath, consider getting one with moving water.

Buy feeders without any yellow

The only feeders really at risk of flying insects are hummingbird feeders and oriole feeders. Since wasps are attracted to the color yellow and can’t see red very well, getting a red feeder without any yellow is a good way to keep wasps from noticing it.

Get a dripless feeder

You can reduce the presence of flying insects by getting a feeder that doesn’t drip nectar. That will stop the scent of sugar from wafting in the air.

Take the feeders down for a few days

Once insects have found your feeders, they will usually be able to find them again if they’re in the same spot. So in order to get rid of them, you should take down the swarmed feeders for a few days. This is usually not a good idea because birds come to rely on these feeders, but if it’s getting overrun by unwanted insects, removing them for a few days will make the insects forget about them.

261118Put up wasp traps

Another solution is to hang up wasp traps near the feeder. Fill the traps with highly concentrated sugar water (you need to make it stronger and more desirable than the hummingbird nectar or oriole jelly). The wasps will fall into the trap and be unable to get out.

Get a hummingbird feeder with bee guards

Bee guards keep flying insects from entering a hummingbird feeder, but leave enough space for hummingbirds to drink the nectar. Many hummingbird feeders already come with bee guards, but you can also buy them from manufacturers like Perky-Pet.

For oriole feeders, switch jelly with live mealworms

Getting flying insects away from oriole feeders is a bit more difficult because they’re usually more open and can’t accommodate bee guards. So, aside from taking it down, you can also just replace the jelly at the feeder with live mealworms, which will still attract orioles.

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27 Comments

  1. Margaret Polifko

    Good info, thanks, would like link to wasp trap please.

    • Earl & Nancy Hughes

      We found wasp traps at Lowes and a Farmer’s Supply Store. There are a few different varieties.

  2. Glenda

    We have a wasp catcher we purchased at Lowes. And have not seen the first wasp or bee even check it out

  3. Kathy Castro

    We use peppermint oil on our feeder, taking a Q-tip and lightly put some of the oil around the underside or around the outside of each ‘flower feeder’, not on the flower itself. The hummingbirds do not come in contact with the oil and can not smell it, but the wasps do not like the peppermint and will not land on the feeder. This has to be done each day or every other day, to keep the mint fresh, and it is easier to control the application to the areas that you want.
    We also use wasp traps and have replaced the ‘pheromone’ attractor with 7-Up or Sprite (not diet types). Our local nursery suggested the replacement and it has worked wonders, better than strong sugar water too!

    • Linda

      Peppermint or any oil on your hummingbird feeders is a very bad idea. If the hummingbird should get it on his wings or feathers, it could be a death sentence. They cannot fly or regulate their temperature with it on. So please do not use any oil of any kind, just move your feeders!

  4. Ed Harris

    The wasp trap from lowes actually had mud dobber nest built inside the trap after two weeks.

  5. Kim

    If you blow up a brown paper lunch bag and hang it nearby it will look like a hornets nest. wasps and hornets are natural enemies and it helps deter the yellow jackets away which are usually my biggest problem around the hummingbird feeder

    • Sherry

      That’s awesome…hope it works!!

    • Dee

      My question is won’t the fake brown bag frighten the Hummers???

      • Billie

        No! we have the brown bag for wasps hanging close to our feeder and we have lots of hummers, hummingbirds are very curious birds.

    • Julie

      But does it detract the hummingbirds? I’ve noticed they won’t come if
      I have any wasps crawling around feeder.

  6. John A Knuckles

    I bought too much Hummingbird food last year. I stored the unopened bottles inside my home on a shelf. Both 1- liter bottles were clear last fall but has turned a faint yellow color this spring. It is a name brand product. Is it OK to use or should I discard it? Thank you.

    • Connie Phillips

      It is very easy to make your own fresh every week. One part sugar to four part water. It is also healthier for the hummers

    • Jan

      please start making your own by using the 1/4 ratio 1 c. sugar, 4 cups water. add sugar to water after it comes to a boil and boil a couple minutes just to be sure sugar is completely dissolved. Much better for the hummers than store bought stuff.

  7. Debbie

    Trash it, make your own, one part sugar to four parts water.

  8. Anita

    How do I keep these flying ants from getting in my feeder I already bought the things to put on top of the feeder but they’re not working

  9. Kay

    I have used the paper bag for wood boring bees on my deck. Works like a charm. I stuff bag with newspaper to keep it full.

  10. V Valencia

    I use Vaseline on the top of the feeder. It stops the ants from traveling down to the openings of the humfeeder, etc.

  11. Sally

    NO!Do Not use Vaseline anywhere by your hummingbird feeders.

  12. Sheryl

    NONE of the remedies above have helped!!! I can see the hummers perched on a rope & in the tree abt 10-15 ft from feeders, waing for their chance at the feeders! We have three different kinds of Hummers here and it’s really upsetting to me that I can’t see them feeding after all the work that I do specifically for the hummingbirds! I’m at a loss!

  13. Sheryl

    Edit prefs for emails

  14. Deborah Nelson

    Hornets took over a hummingbird feeder and nearby Oriole feeder. They wer so thick they literally covered all the feeders. They would eat so much grape jelly that some died overeating it I guess. Anyways, I just tried this trick:

    I took a 2-liter bottle and cut the top off at where the curve ends. I put the top back on upside down, making a funnel of sorts. I made a cup of double strong sugar water and poured it in. I put a rubber band around it towards the top and tied 2 pieces of string long enough to tie onto a nearby branch. I then removed the hummingbird and Oriole feeders and hung this. Within minutes the hornets were crawling into it. It’s kind of nasty seeing them all in there and they can’t get out, but at least now I could probably put my feeders back as they sure like my new one! Mine are bald-faced hornets, aggressive buggers so if you do this, wear dark clothes and gloves as they got a little mad at me when I was removing the feeders and I had to run like heck!

  15. Barbara Bowers

    I read that when bees are swarming the feeder, you need to dilute the sugar water formula. Instead of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water (boil, cool, and fill), use 1 part sugar to FIVE parts water. This results in a more dilute taste that the hummingbirds enjoy but that the bees consider too bland for their taste. After they have departed for other food sources, change the formula back to 1:4 and continue minus the bees.

  16. Joyce Bodette

    I have tried the bee trap close to my oriole jelly feeders. It trapped a lot of bees and flys, but did not stop the bees from invading the jelly bowls. Going to try the brown bag trick next. Hope it works . My poor orioles can’t get anywhere near their feeders with that many bees.

  17. Busyb

    My hummingbird feed doesn’t have the yellow center on the flower on the feeder but I’m still getting wasps in the feeder.
    So I’m trying to come up with a way to block them out of the feeder

  18. Ed Stevenson

    Yellow jackets are looking for protein, especially in the fall. Get a mason jar and a funnel. Put the funnel in the mouth of the jar. I like to tape it so no insects can get out around the funnel. Before taping the funnel in, put a piece of meat in the jar( a chicken neck works well) add water but leave some of the meat exposed. Don’t leave it out too long cause the meat will really stink if left too long. Reload as needed

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