Q: What can I do about honey bees that swarm my hummingbird feeder? It’s gotten so bad I had to take it down.
Answer: “Most bees and wasps have the potential to be attracted to the sweet solution in hummingbird feeders,” said Phyllis B. Smith, an extension agent in natural resources and environmental systems who works with beekeepers.
“There are several different ways to keep this from happening, and it will probably take consistent application of one or more methods,” she said. “To temporarily break the cycle, relocate the feeder for several days. The hummingbirds should be able to adapt quickly. Then look for some nectar guard tips, which are designed to slide over the underside of the feeding ports. An opening in the guard allows hummingbirds to insert their long beaks to feed, but prevents the bees from penetrating. There are different types of guards available, so look for one that’s made for your type of feeder. Call one of our local bird shops, or area lawn and garden stores to inquire about availability, or order online.”
When purchasing hummingbird feeders, Smith said you should keep in mind that stinging insects are attracted to the yellow, so avoid feeders with this color. “White feeding stations are fine, but for best success stick with solid red,” she said. “The red of the feeder will attract the hummingbirds, so red dye is neither necessary nor recommended.”
For a long-term solution, she said you can steer bees away from feeders by making sure they have plenty of their own food available in the form of nectar-producing flowers.
“Keep in mind that hummingbirds and bees are important pollinators and a healthy ecosystem will include both,” she said. “Brightly colored, tubular-shaped flowers will also attract hummingbirds and help reduce competition at feeders.”
For details, N.C. Cooperative Extension publishes the booklet Managing Backyards and Other Urban Habitats for Birds.
“Come by our office at 1450 Fairchild Road for a free printed copy, or download at content.ces.ncsu.edu/managing-backyards-and-other-urban-habitats-for-birds,” Smith said. “Although it covers birds in general, hummingbirds have their own section with a long list of wildflowers, shrubs and vines preferred by our native hummers.
“Last, but not least, hummingbird feeders should be cleaned about every other day and replenished with fresh solution during the hottest days of summer to prevent the spread of bacteria and disease. If this is not possible, especially during vacations when no one is around to maintain the feeder, it is better to take it down. There will still be plenty for hummingbirds to eat in the area, and any bees that might still be hanging around will need to find a new food source, too.”
Ron Morris, who writes the Bird’s Eye View column for the Journal, said that he has heard that Aspects brand hummingbird feeders are effective at resisting bees.
We have heard about another shredding event, but it is several months away. Fries Memorial Moravian Church will have a community shred day from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 7, with shredding provided by Shamrock Shredding.