Ants & hummingbird feeders

Discussion in 'HortForum' started by Fossil, Jun 16, 2009.

  1. Fossil

    Fossil Active Member 10 Years

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    Does anyone know how to keep ants out of the hummingbird feeders? I have hung them in different places on the house and in trees, wrapped sticky tape around the hangers, etc.etc. and still they are full of ants, which of course stops the hummingbirds getting the necter.

    There is a very angry little bird that keeps glaring at me through my living room window - can somebody please solve this problem? Thanks.
     
  2. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    How about something really sticky like petroleum jelly?
     
  3. Fossil

    Fossil Active Member 10 Years

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    It's a good idea - but apparently they liked it when I tried it before!
     
  4. Barbara Lloyd

    Barbara Lloyd Well-Known Member

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    Fossil, please check out the following from Wikipedia.
    "Hummers need more than just sugar to survive. They also need protein. That's why they eat small bugs inside flowers, and sometimes pick bugs out of spider webs for food. In early spring, before the flowers bloom, hummers will follow Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. These woodpeckers peck holes in trees to get sap. The hummer can lick the sap and eat the bugs around these holes!"
    So the ants are the other end of their diet. With the ants right on the feeder they do not have to expend more energy to have a complete diet. You are giving them a balanced diet. It will take a toothbrush or similar to clean their (the ants) little body parts out of the holes in the feeder. That's always fun. barb
     
  5. Weedbender

    Weedbender Active Member 10 Years

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    I take a plastic lid, drill a hole in it, put it on top the feeder upside down and seal it with a little silicon caulk where the wire goes through. Add a little water and a drop of dish soap.
    Works like a charm : )
     

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  6. Fossil

    Fossil Active Member 10 Years

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    Thanks for the replies! I know hummingbirds eat insects also, but these are giant carpenter ants - and the birds just won't go near the feeder when they are present. I'm not worried about having to clean bodies out of the feeder - just that the birds won't eat.

    Like the idea of the plastic lid Weedbender - but have a slight concern that the birds might accidentally drink the soapy water - or are they more intelligent than that?
     
  7. Barbara Lloyd

    Barbara Lloyd Well-Known Member

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    I agree. Carpenter ants aarrrgh! I assumed they were the tiny sugar ants. Bring out the big guns for Carpenters. Could you some how screen the lid water barrier, so the ants could get in and nothing else? Maybe use a small cat food or tuna can or something that would be deeper, Deep enough the hummers beak would not reach the liquid and use the mentioned above elixer. My Dad used to use Boric Acid and I think something else to either draw or repell sugar ants. Can't remember which. Maybe some one on this forum is a chemist and can clairfy. Make sure they are not eating your house! Good luck....barb
     
  8. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    A band of Tanglefoot applied around whatever you use to support the feeder will keep ants away.
     
  9. Weedbender

    Weedbender Active Member 10 Years

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    I've never seen one drinking from mine : )
     
  10. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    My mom swore by a mixture of Borax (boric acid) and white sugar to draw and subsequently kill sugar ants. The beauty of this system, besides it being really cheap, is that they take the stuff into the nest and feed it to the queen, who dies, and voila no more ant problem.

    Carpenters, however. Yuck. Hummers are smart enough not to drink from soapy tins, but ants aren't. The little trap is a great idea, and likely the only thing that'll keep them out of the feeders.

    You may also want to switch to a nectar made with pasteurized honey rather than sugar - this provides more trace minerals and a bit of protein to the birds; you'll find that the feeder draws more in the long run that way. It's also quite a bit closer to what they'd be eating in nature.
     
  11. Fossil

    Fossil Active Member 10 Years

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    So - I tried the "upside down" lid and it worked fine until the first heavy rain, which must have washed out the soap because the feeder was full of ants again the next day. However, I seem to have found a solution (touch wood!). Probably not the most environmentally friendly - but I used coarse string sprayed with residual ant killer to suspend the feeder - this in combination with the soapy water trick seems to be working very well and with no bad effects to the hummers.

    Thanks for the honey tip lorax - I never thought of that - it certainly would be a much more natural food than the one made with refined sugar.

    Many thanks for all the help folks.
     
  12. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    I was reminded of this conversation when I spotted a couple of products in the Lee Valley catalog. They're called Ant Moats and work in a fashion similar to Weedbender's homemade solution. Thought I'd mention them as an alternative.
     
  13. HomerDoe101

    HomerDoe101 New Member

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    Locate-the-feeder-away-from-ant.jpg
    The ant moat is the best method to get rid of ants on the hummingbird feeder. Try it and i guarantee 100% success (except those with wings). I once read about using gum trap, you guys can look up if you find it interested.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 20, 2017
  14. HomerDoe101

    HomerDoe101 New Member

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    Updated the original post for this picture. And btw, using water could be effective but during hot summer days, they could dry out very quickly. So you can use petroleum jelly instead.
     
  15. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    If petroleum jelly will work, it can be applied without the moat apparatus, like Tanglefoot, as I suggested earlier.
     
  16. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    The OP already tried petroleum jelly...
     
  17. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    Hm, yes, don't use petroleum jelly; but Tanglefoot will work, directly applied to the wire holding the feeder. I use it all the time to deter ants.
     

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