Dining Where They're Not Wanted
If your hummingbird feeders are filled with that oh-so-tantalizing sweet sugary syrup, you may be attracting not only hummers, but honey bees, too. In fact, the bees may be crowding out the hummers.
Just how do you keep your hummers happy and the bees away from the bird feeders?
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology is asked that often.
The trick, he says, is to make sure the hummers CAN reach the syrup, but the bees CANNOT.
"The hummers’ tongues are much longer than bee tongues," he says. "So find or make a feeder that has a little wire screen “hood” over and around the hole where the syrup is available. Eight-mesh is good. If the hummers can’t feed through it, try six-mesh; anything larger than that and the bees can crawl through. Feeders that have the hole pointing upward probably are best. Make sure that the bees cannot reach the syrup anywhere on the feeders--leaks--and your problems are solved."
Mussen adds: "If you are not an engineer and don’t wish to build your own, bee-proof hummingbird feeders can be found on the web. Some just use a tube that is too long for the bees to reach the syrup. That is great, unless the device leaks to the sides. Bees are happy to lick up spills. They do not need to reach the main source."
Honey bees licking the surface of a hummingbird feeder. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hummers can reach this syrup but the bees cannot. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)