How To Keep Ants Out Of The Sweet Nectar in Your Hummingbird Feeder: Best Solutions + DIY

ants climbing up a feeder

Last Updated on October 1, 2020

It’s common for a hummingbird feeder to double as an “Ant Feeder.”

No grudges there.

It’s just the law of nature – everyone goes after what they like.

In this case, the ants go after the sweet sugar water they so cherish. At first, it’s really no harm to the birds until the ants become a nuisance.

Here’s why:

You’ll see them all over the feeder and find armies of dead ants in the sugar solution. Soon, the solution becomes contaminated, and your precious hummingbirds leave the feeder.

Now, they are nothing but pesky little pests that you just want to get rid of, right?

Somewhere between disposing the ant bodies and just seeing them all over the place tripped you off. Whatever it is, you want them gone, we all do.

And that includes not just ants but also yellow jackets and honeybees.

Relax. I’ll show you some simple, cheap, and even free methods to get rid of ants on your hummingbird feeder. The other bees and wasps may need a different approach, which I’ll explain shortly.

For now, let’s get rid of those ants!

Don’t Give Them A Chance

Like the old proverb, prevention is better than cure.

On some occasions, it’s possible to stop the ants from getting anywhere near the feeder in the first place.

With the easiest step being to…

Get the Right Hummingbird Feeder 

Perky-Pet 203CPBR Pinchwaist Hummingbird Feeder, Red Glass

If you are proactively trying to keep ants away before you get a feeder, get an easy to clean hummingbird feeder that comes with an ant moat. The moat is a small container infused to the top of the lid that traps ants when you add water. 

Some hummingbird feeders also have bee guards, or a combination of both, just like the Perky-Pet 203CPBR Pinchwaist, if bees are also an issue. 

Hang Away From The Elements

Where you hang your feeder also matters when you have ant problems.

Wherever it is, try not to place the feeder directly under sunlight or constant exposure. This is especially important if you own a plastic feeder.

The plastic can become brittle, slit, and leak nectar, inviting ants for a treat at your feeder.

If it’s a spot where all the fun is, you can get a shade to cover, and bask in the sight of the hummers in your yard as you want. If not, the nectar would expand under the sun, and cause the plastic to crack.

Also, sometimes even if there isn’t any leakage, changing the position of your feeder might just work the magic.

Buying Ant Moats, Traps, and Repellent

If you are dealing with persistent ants or want a ready-made solution, you’re in luck. There are plenty of commercial products to stave off those pesky ants. And they won’t cost you a fortune.

Ant Moats

There are tons of ant moats online made of plastic or metal and in varying sizes. You just attach the moat to your feeder, fill it up with water, and watch the ants effortlessly try to cross it. Skinny Ant Moat with Guard for Hummingbird Feeders - Gets Rid of Ants Fast in Nectar Feeder. All Natural & No Chemicals Needed.

Sometimes, water may not be enough for some types of ants, especially carpenter ants. 

Just ensure to pick a size that correlates to the army of ants attacking your hummingbird feeder. Else, it might prove ineffective if bodies pile up, making a bridge for other ants to reach the loot.

If you are indecisive of which one to buy, I recommend you get the Skinny Ant Moat. Although it typically works the same way as other cheaper ones, it’s made of metal and also the most popular ant moat in the world for a reason.

The gripe with using an ant moat is that you have to refill the water in the moat every other day. And water alone might not keep off ants from your hummingbird feeder.

Alternatives When Water Proves Ineffective:

Rubbing Alcohol

You can add rubbing alcohol to the water to kill off the ants. Make a 50% water, 50% rubbing alcohol solution to see results. Hummers are smart enough not to take a drink, but it’s still a crude method.

Soapy Water

If ants still swim across the moat, just add a drop of dishwashing soap to the water. The soapy water makes it hard for them to swim, so they drown. And in the rare case that a bird takes a sip, the little dose wouldn’t harm it.  

Vegetable Oil

A lot of folks use oil as an alternative to water because it lasts longer, and is more effective. If the ants remain persistent, a dose of peppermint oil will seal the deal.

However, like most bird enthusiasts, I wouldn’t recommend using oil even though there’s only a slim chance it’d get on the birds’ feathers.

Ant Repellent

Like the old school way of getting rid of ants, you can simply poison the moat with insecticide or spray directly at them.

BUT:

It’ll be dangerous to put regular insecticide in the moat or spray on the feeder. This is because it may be harmful to the hummingbirds, other little birds, and pets around the yard.

Fortunately, you can now use non-toxic pesticides that are child and pet safe. Impressive right? Some are even recommended for use in food handling areas. mdxconcepts Organic Home Pest Control Spray - Kills & Repels, Ants, Roaches, Spiders, and Other Pests Guaranteed - All Natural - Pet Safe - Indoor/Outdoor Spray - 16oz

The MDX Concepts Organic Spray is popular among birders and has all the features to repel ants and do no harm to your adorable hummers. It’s not the cheapest you’d find, but it costs only a few bucks for a premium quality product.

Spreading ant dust over where the ants come from on the floor might also help.

DIY All The Way!!!

If you have some time on your hand or just prefer taking out the army of ants with your own weapon, there are tons of DIY options available.

I’ll start from the fastest and easiest ones that really don’t require doing any building.

Getting Things Slippery-Sticky

This method doesn’t involve using an ant moat or trap. Some folks just coat the string or pole hanging the feeder with a sticky material like Vaseline, grease, carnauba wax. The idea is that ants won’t walk on a slippery surface and will stay off the feeder, which works.

The only thing is, these substances can make a mess on the feeder if and when they melt under sunlight. Moreover, oil is bad for birds. Hummers can’t preen oil off their feathers, which takes away their greatest survival tool: speed.

Also, sticking double-sided duct tape to the feeder pole stops ants from crawling to the feeders. The downside to this is that some birds may try to use the wire or string as perch. However, the tape can trap and even send the little birdies away if they see it as a potential danger.

Make Your Own Moat & Keep Ants Off Hummingbird Feeders

Hummingbird flying towards a feeder image

After scouring the internet, I’ve found a simple way to keep ants away from your hummingbird feeder. The good thing about this method is that it requires no water. So, you don’t have to stress about filling the moat daily.

All the material you’ll need are:

  •   Plastic lid
  •   Skewer, bit, scissors, or a drill bit to make a small hole
  •   Wire (preferably flexible 12 gauge wire) or metal hanger
  •   Mild insect spray or any cleaning agents like Mr. Muscle

Directions

Getting the Saucer Ready

  1. Put a hole the size of your wire or hanger through the lid. Try to make the hole as small as possible. Smaller is always better, so the ants don’t breach any gaping space.
  2. Spray the top of the lid with your cleaning agent. You can also dab it with rubbing alcohol if you don’t have any hard surface cleaner in your home. Keep in mind that these substances are very potent, so you should try to adhere to the next step religiously.
  3. Spread the plastic lid to dry out in the sun.

Threading The Hole

  1. Now, thread the wire through the plastic lid and bend the wire on both ends to make a hook. If you want to build a fortress to keep off ants from your hummingbird feeder, thread it with two or more plastic lids.
  2. Make sure the sprayed side is facing the top to serve as a landing zone for ants.
  3. Make a loop with on the underside to stop the lid and hang unto the feeder. The loop should be strong enough to support the weight of your feeder.

And there you have it:

Your very own handmade ant saucer.

If you’re worried about the environmental issues or safety of the birds, don’t be. The lid would be too wobbly for them, and they’d be too concerned about the sugar water in your feeder anyways.

Even better, the spray elixir lasts for several weeks before it wears off. Or perhaps, the ants now stay away from the hummingbird feeder because it’s a danger zone. 

No oil. No spills. No ants. Happy birdies. 

Wrapping Up  

What methods have you used in fighting off ants at your hummingbird feeder? Which ones have proved to be the most effective?

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