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Hummingbirds drink a red nectar, a sugar water mixture, out of specially designed feeders. The sweet sugar scent attracts many other animals and insects, such as ants, bees, bears, and raccoons. Hummingbird feeders come in several shapes and sizes, and include features to keep insects and animals out. Sometimes pests still reach the sweet nectar, despite the obstacles implemented to keep them out.
Ants will find a hummingbird feeder very quickly. They can climb up poles and posts and across wires and hooks to reach the feeder and find the nectar. A dripless hummingbird feeder, or one with an ant mote, will help keep the insects out. Another option is to paint Tanglefoot, a sticky paste found in most nurseries, on the bottom of the ant moat. A home remedy to keep ants away from a hummingbird feeder is to cover the hanging wire and support arm with shortening or vegetable oil.
Bats can drink the nectar and empty a feeder overnight. Several types of bats eat nectar and will be drawn to a hummingbird feeder. The Nectar Art Prints website notes that as bats eat thousands of mosquitoes a night, "you may want to decide to coexist" with the flying rodents. Having a hummingbird feeder with bee guards can help keep bats away. Another option is to take the feeder in at night, and put it back very early as hummingbirds can begin to feed before sunrise.
In areas where there are bears, an animal known to be attracted to sweat-smelling sticky stuff, hang the hummingbird feeder at least 10 feet in the air. This will keep the feeder far enough from the ground and out of a bears paws, yet hummingbirds will still be able to find it.
Bees and wasps are attracted to the sweet nectar and any yellow coloring on the feeder. Avoid hummingbird feeders with yellow decorations on it, especially ones that look like flowers, as bees will investigate the flower to find food. Some feeders have bee guards, but they tend to drip and will not keep the bees away. Remove any yellow flower-like decorations, or paint them a different color.
Other birds, such as orioles, are also attracted to nectar and may try and eat out of hummingbird feeders. If this happens, purchase a feeder that is specifically made for these larger birds and put it the same vicinity as the hummingbird feeder, but not too close to scare the hummingbirds away if they were to see a bigger bird nearby.
A raccoon may become interested in the sweet sugar water inside a hummingbird feeder and will find a way to access the nectar by removing covers or the fake plastic flowers. To stop raccoons from drinking all the nectar, remove the hummingbird feeder and replace with an old feeder that contains hot sauce. The spicy sauce will not harm the raccoons, but will give them a bad taste in their mouth.
- 5 hummingbirds at a feeder image by Clarence Alford from Fotolia.com