How to Keep Ants Out of a Hummingbird Feeder

Hummingbird at a Feeder

Hummingbirds are truly a wonder of nature and it’s not surprising that they’re such a joy to obverse for so many birdwatchers. Unfortunately, once you decide to hang feeders to attract hummingbirds, they aren’t the only thing that your feeders will attract.

Ants also love the sweet nectar that’s on offer in your hummingbird feeders and they will flock to your feeder in droves if you don’t take steps to prevent them. So, how do you keep ants out of your hummingbird feeder? Making your hummingbird feeder impenetrable to ants, while also taking factors like weather and leaks into account, are the single best things that you can do to keep ants from becoming a nuisance at your feeder.

Preventing ants from becoming a problem at your hummingbird feeder is really all about adding together several preventative measures in order to achieve one overall effective ant-prevention method. So, read on to learn about each and every step that you need to take as well as a few deterrents that some suggest, but that you should absolutely avoid in your quest to prevent ants.

Make Your Hummingbird Feeder Inaccessible to Ants

The single best thing you can do to keep ants out of the nectar in your feeder is to make it impossible for them to reach it in the first place. The easiest and most effective way to do this is by using an ant moat in conjunction with your feeder.

An ant moat is a small cup-like device that hangs just above the hummingbird feeder. Water is then added to the cup to make it nearly impossible for ants to reach the nectar without drowning in the water, which is something any sensible ant would want to avoid.

Just like ancient moats or yore, an ant moat works by making it difficult for the invaders to storm the castle or, in the case, the feeder. That means that the invading ant horde won’t have such an easy time breaching your feeder’s defenses to then plunder it for its nectar.

You’ll find tutorials and videos online on how to make your own ant mot, but purchasing one is really the way to go. Any mistakes when making your own ant moat could mean a hole in your defense through which the water will leak making it possible for a stream of ants to slip right through. Not to mention how annoyed the hummingbirds will be at having their feeder doused in water. However, with a commercially made ant moat, it’s more likely that it will have been perfectly designed to work right out of the box.

Even better, if you haven’t’ already purchased a hummingbird feeder, then you can get one with an ant moat already attached and thereby save yourself the trouble of adding one to a feeder later on.

How Will the Weather Affect My Ant Moat?

The weather where you live will have a large impact on how you’ll need to maintain your ant moat.

In humid climates you’ll need to frequently check the moat to make sure that the water is fresh. In humid conditions, you may find that the water in the moat doesn’t evaporate quickly enough and that it will need to be changed frequently to prevent it from becoming a breeding ground for mosquitos.

Conversely, in dry climates, the water in your ant moat is likely to evaporate quickly. If that happens, then your hummingbird will be left unprotected. That’s why it’s so important in dry climates to keep an eye on the water level in your ant moat and refill it as often as need.

It may sound like a chore, but this extra bit of effort will be well worth it to keep your feeder ant-free and your hummingbirds happy.

Check Your Feeder for Leaks

As an added note, an ant moat may do wonders to keep ants from storming your feeder, but it’s not going to do much good at preventing an all-out infestation in your yard if nectar is leaking out of your feeder and dripping on to the ground.

For this reason, it’s vitally important that you ensure that your feeders are free from leaks. Otherwise, while you may be able to make your bird feeder impenetrable, you’ll just have a swarm of ants below your feeder enjoying the free meal as it drip, drip, drips to the ground for them to enjoy.

How You Hang Your Feeder Makes a Difference

It may seem like ants are capable of walking across just about anything, but the truth is that there are things that even they find difficult to walk across and fishing line is one of these things. By hanging your feeder with fishing line you’ll effectively give ants a slippery tightrope to traverse.

That means that they’ll have a slippery, sliddy, wobbly walk ahead of them if they want to reach your feeder. If any very talented ants do make it to the end of that acrobatic journey they’ll still be faced with an ant moat at the end and there is very little possibility of them managing to cross that watery obstacle. So, by using fishing line to hang your feeder it will be doubly protected against these unwanted invaders.

Is There Anything I Shouldn’t do to Combat Ants?

You might read a lot of advice that suggests applying Vaseline, oil, or some other slippery substance to your feeder. The thinking is that by making the feeder slick ants won’t be able to walk on it and, if they can’t walk on it, they can’t get to the nectar.

While this advice is well-meaning it’s also an awful idea because it could be terribly harmful to the hummingbirds. If your feeder is covered in a slick substance, it’s very likely that that substance could transfer to the hummingbird’s wings and, if that were to happen, the poor little birds would find it difficult if not impossible to fly.

That’s not to mention the effects that these substances could have if the hummingbirds were to accidently eat them.

So, with that in mind, please don’t add any slippery substance to your feeder. It’s simply not worth the risk that it might cause to the hummingbirds.

Another ill-advised suggestion that you might see is to spray insecticide around the area where the feeder is hung. Insecticides are very harmful to the environment, pets, and humans, so it’s best to avoid dousing your yard in these carcinogens. Instead, opt for natural approaches to keep the ants at bay.

Preventing Ants is Cumulative Measure

As you can see, preventing ants from becoming a problem at your hummingbird feeder is a multi-part process with each preventative measure adding another layer of protection. The more preventive measures that you employ, the more chance you’ll have of keeping the ants away. And, once your feeders have achieved ant-free status, both you and the hummingbirds will be able to enjoy your feeders in peace.