12 Tips on How to Keep Ants OUT of Hummingbird Feeder (2020)

Tori Rhodes
Written by
Last update:

Install an ant moat

Ants can be a big problem in the spring when hummingbird feeders are new.

Place your feeder away from plants and other places where ants may be.

Ants are mostly attracted to the liquid sugar solution that feeds the hummingbirds, not to the food on the perch. Put a small basin filled with water near your feeder.

The basin should be about 6” to 8” in diameter and no deeper than 1.5”. Place a small rock on the bottom so that water will not splash out.

The placement of the feeder with respect to the key trees and shrubs is also an important factor when considering ant control. Place the feeder where the hummingbirds can come and go safely with minimal disturbance.

Clean the feeder every 2 to 3 days. Change the sugar solution and rinse it with hot water.

Find and stop the leakage

You probably haven’t yet discovered exactly where ants are getting into your feeder. So I’ll assume they’re just getting in anywhere they want. If that’s the case, here is a good practice:

Place the feeder on sturdy cardboard or thick paper and flood it with a harmless substance such as glycerin or baby oil.

Then lift the feeder up and set it back down again on the cardboard so the substance pools on the feeder floor. If you watch closely where it trails away, you will likely discover an entry point.

Once it’s dried, you can discover the entry point by looking for a dark spot. The darker the spot, the more concentrated the flow of ants appeared to be.

Hang the feeder on fishing line

Unfortunately, ants crawl up fishing line. So to prevent ants climbing up the line, hang the feeder on a wire or other material that ants cannot crawl up. Fishing line will work but you must check and re-hang regularly.

You can use special products that ants cannot crawl up such as beekeeper’s mesh or copper mesh that can be hung on a hook.

Such products do help prevent ants from climbing up but requires regular cleaning of the mesh to prevent mold.

Place the feeder over water

And away from dishes or food. Having water below the feeder will help dissuade ants from walking up into the feeder. Also, be sure the feeder isn’t close to another dish or surface that ants like to feed from. Ants might creep up into the hummingbird feeder from these.

Try adhesive tape

One of the easy solutions is to tape over the hole to the feeder. This is a long term solution if you do not want to buy a new feeder. Just be sure to keep the feeder clean and well-maintained or the ants will still stick site.

Consider a shaded location

If you’re going to put a new hummingbird feeder outside, then you’re going to want to figure out how you can keep those pesky ants out of it. It’s a tricky problem. Ants definitely seem to love hummingbird feeders, but it’s not for the nectar. They like the syrup, which is bad news for hummingbirds. Ants act as a vehicle transporting infectious bacteria and fungi, diseases that hummingbirds can easily pick up from eating in the same place.

So it’s best to figure out a way to keep the ants out. The main reason you want to keep ants away from the hummingbird feeders is because of the bacteria infections they can cause. A little bit of time and a few dollars can save your hummingbird from a lot of trouble.

Make it slippery

Ants are attracted to the sugar in the nectar. They climb the feeder hoping it will lead them to their food.

You can make it more slippery or difficult to climb by applying a clear slippery coating. Spray a solution of one tablespoon of vegetable oil and one tablespoon of cooking oil, like canola on a paper towel. Fold the paper towel and put it in the feeder.

Clean the feeder thoroughly after 3 days.

You can also use cooking spray to coat the surface of the feeder.

Clove oil

Ants are not attracted to clove oil, so you can also try placing a few drops of clove oil on a cotton ball, then placing it in the feeder. Leave it there until you notice ants have started using it.

Remove it and replace with your regular homemade hummingbird nectar.

Other kitchen herbs

Other kitchen herbs are also believed to repel ants. Dill, mint, and cinnamon are just a few examples. You can try them all or mix them together for your homemade hummingbird nectar.

A tea of strong mint (or clove oil) and dill will ensure that your hummingbird visitors are not disturbed by ants.

Move the feeder around often

You do want to be careful about moving the feeder around too much though.

The best way to stop ants is to keep them away from the feeder in the first place.

Move the feeder around at least once per week. Move the feeder somewhere else if you notice ants on the outside of the feeder.

But be careful not to move it to an area that’s infested with ants.

Clean the feeder on a daily basis

The combination of sugar water and (insect) nectar makes for a very attractive ant banquet. Clean the feeder at least once a day or more if there is a large amount of ants around.

Place the feeder in direct sunlight in the morning (when the temperature is cool) to kill any ants climbing the feeder. Make sure you do this in the early morning so that the nectar is no longer warm.

Replace the feeder with a sugar free variety. I use a 100% clear tap candy. By using these or corn syrup you will eliminate ants quickly. The ants will take some time to find the sugar free syrup and once they do, they will want to protect the nectar from other ants.

Ants are attracted to a sugar source. Nectar is a sugar source. The trick is to eliminate the nectar or eliminate the ants.

If you see ants traveling up the pole carrying sugar water, remove the entire pole and place it near the feeder until the ants have transferred the sugar water to the feeder. Once the ants have transferred the syrup to the feeder, put the pole back up in the original position and the ants may never find the feeder.

Try bay leaves

Forget about the traps and the powders that keep ants away. They go bad. They attract other and sometimes bigger pests. If you use bay leaves, you can prevent ants and human noses from knowing they are there.

Simply replace the water and add a few fresh bay leaves. If they go bad, simply replace them and your feeder will smell like bay leaves, which is not an unpleasant smell. And ants won’t want it.

Test insecticide sprays

One of the most effective ways to get ants out of the hummingbird feeder is to spray an insecticide spray such as Ant Bait … onto the ants. This will stop them from attacking the hummingbird feeder.

You can also use a solution of peppermint oil as a spray to stop the ants as peppermint oil is not only harmful to ants but will also act as a deterrent to them.

Use household ingredients to repel ants