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THE BIRDS AND THE BEES: BATTLING BEES AT HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS

We’re pretty sure you already know all about the birds and the bees – at least in the form of “the talk” parents have with their kids as they reach that certain age.

What you may be less familiar with is the lesson about how birds – hummingbirds, in particular –have to deal with bees, wasps and yellow jackets. These beautiful birds often compete for the same food sources, so it’s not surprising when conflict erupts between them.

Even beyond that particular issue, bugs and hummingbirds often find themselves at odds. The most obvious conflict comes from the fact that nearly every hummingbird species preys on insects! A large part of their diet revolves around the protein, fat and other nutrients derived from chowing down on the bugs they capture. In fact, some birds actually eat dozens of insects every day!

But few people realize that many bugs also gain a benefit from the hummingbirds around them. Some of them catch a meal from birds indirectly. Other insects consider the hummingbirds themselves the meal! The good news is you can actually help your feathered friends in these battles.

WASPS AT HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS

 

If bees or wasps are constantly at your hummingbird feeder, try removing it for a few days and then slightly relocating it.

When people say they have “bees” on their hummingbird feeders, they usually mean that they have an invading army of wasps, hornets or yellow jackets. For the purpose of this discussion, know that the suggestions below pertain to all three.

 

These insects are a real nuisance at feeders. Unlike bees, these creatures aren’t known for helping to pollinate plants in a significant manner. They can also be aggressive toward hummingbirds — and humans, too.

To help eliminate a bothersome group of wasps around a hummingbird feeder, try these tips:

BEES AT HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS

While it’s easy to agree that wasps, hornets and yellow jackets are not good to have at a hummingbird feeder, the same can’t be said for bees. These insects truly benefit the ecosystem and serve as pollinators to flowers, trees and vegetables. Without them, it would be impossible to grow crops.

Also worth considering: The honey bee population is experiencing such a massive decline that scientists are extremely worried about their long-term survival. Finally, honey bees are rarely aggressive when compared to wasps, hornets and yellow jackets.

With all this in mind, it’s best to deter bees, rather than trying to destroy them. You simply want to make them find another source of food, and here are some ideas:

ANTS AT HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS

Just like flying insects, many varieties of ants will be interested in the sugary taste of hummingbird nectar. These pests rarely bother hummingbirds, but their persistence can easily drain a feeder in a few days.

Luckily, there are a few options for keeping ants away from hummingbird feeders.

PRAYING MANTISES AT HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS

It’s quite rare, but several videos and photos have surfaced that show praying mantises attacking hummingbirds at feeders.

Experts theorize these attacks are opportunistic rather than instinctual. The mantises are likely on the feeder to ambush other bugs rather than birds, but when a hummingbird gets too close the mantises say, “Hmmmm. Let’s give it a try.”

Despite these instances, it’s important to remember that praying mantises are extremely beneficial bugs and prefer to prey upon insects that can hurt gardens, flowerbeds and trees.

To keep a praying mantis away from a hummingbird feeder, don’t kill it. Instead, just relocate the mantis out of sight of the hummingbird feeder.

WHAT NOT TO DO

Over the years, we’ve heard a lot of suggestions for keeping insects away from hummingbird feeders. Many can be dangerous to birds. Consider these rules as you attempt to fight bugs at hummingbird feeders:

THE BATTLE WITH BUGS

 

How do Hummingbirds Find Feeders

The conflict between bugs and hummingbirds is indeed a two-way struggle! Plenty of these birds include insects and spiders as a primary part of their diet, but many insects compete with hummingbirds for nectar. It’s a cycle that’s just part of the greater role all animals serve – with one species relying on another.

In the same way, we’ve come to rely on the hummingbirds that visit our bird feeders. We find them relaxing to watch, inspiring in their beauty and exciting to observe as they go about their daily routines. By following these tips and ideas, you can help your hummingbirds lead a healthy, bug-free life!

Happy birds = Happy bird watching!

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