How to keep ants out of hummingbird feeders – 5 expert-approved tricks

 hummingbird on feeder with ants
hummingbird on feeder with ants

A hummingbird feeder is a wonderful way to invite beautiful birds into our backyards, adding a wildlife-friendly dimension to our outdoor spaces.

Although, given their sugary contents, it's not just the hummingbirds that they attract, and you may have to take some simple measures to get rid of ants from the feeders as the weather warms up. Ants can contaminate the nectar and will prevent hummingbirds from visiting, so it's worth learning how to fend them off.

Knowing how to clean hummingbird feeders is key, as well as positioning the feeder in the optimal spot and knowing which ant-repelling methods to avoid.

How to keep ants out of hummingbird feeders

We turned to experts for the best ways to keep ants out of hummingbird feeders, making for a more pleasant environment, both for the hummingbirds and for us.

hummingbird on glass feeder
hummingbird on glass feeder

1. Use an ant moat

One of the most effective ways to keep ants out is to use an ant moat, available at Amazon. These are small dishes that contain water and create a barrier that ants cannot cross. Stainless steel ant moats will hold up against the elements and are easy to clean.

Zach Hutchinson is an ornithologist at the nation's largest bird conservation group, a hummingbird bander, and a consultant for the wild bird feeding industry. He explains that many hummingbird feeders use moats at the top of the feeders that can be filled with water. 'While these moats do not reflect the moats of days long past, they can be used to prevent ants from reaching the sweet, sugary goodness of nectar.'

2. Keep it clean

hummingbirds on feeder
hummingbirds on feeder

An easy way to reduce the presence of ants, and keep bees away from hummingbird feeders, is to keep on top of cleaning. Little and often is best, and Trent Copperfield Vice President of On Demand Pest Control even recommends cleaning your hummingbird feeder every day. This will avoid any leftover residue that might attract ants. If your feeder has seen better days, consider replacing it with an attractive mason jar hummingbird feeder at Petco.

3. Consider placement

Thinking about hummingbird feeder placement is essential – the perfect position for a feeder is a shady spot that isn't too near to any trees or anything ants might be able to use as a bridge onto the feeder. A cool spot will be best for keeping the nectar fresh, and, of course, it needs to be somewhere you can see it easily.

'Being close to ant colonies, ant aphid farms, or too near structures that already attract ants can exacerbate your ant problem,' comments Zach Hutchinson. 'However, if you can mount a hummingbird without direct contact with the ground, you can minimize access for ants.

'Suspension cables, pulley systems, and other similar hanging systems can minimize the ability of ants to detect your sugar water as well as their ability to climb to it.' A thin and slipper fishing line is another option that is often recommended by the experts.

If you live in an area with persistent ants or find ant moats challenging to maintain, Kelsey Waddell from Wild Bird Scoop recommends hanging your feeder over a large body of water. 'This is a surefire deterrent,' she says. 'Consider placing it in the center of a wildlife pond, fountain, or other water feature. Ants are unlikely to cross a significant amount of water, and the hummingbirds will appreciate having a place to cool down and bathe nearby.'

4. Sprinkle cinnamon

Using cinnamon in your soil
Using cinnamon in your soil

A solution might just be waiting in your spice drawer, as cinnamon is a powerful ant deterrent, and can also be used when getting rid of ants in the kitchen.

'Not only does cinnamon create some delicious desserts, but it also can stop ants from approaching the feeding zones for hummingbirds!' says Zach Hutchinson. 'Spread a heavy layer of cinnamon around the base of the hooks or other infrastructure used to hold your hummingbird feeders.

Avoid putting the cinnamon directly on your feeder and remember to reapply it whenever you refill the feeder.

5. Avoid pesticides

Steer clear of any harsh chemicals and pesticides in your wildlife garden because they can harm hummingbirds and other birds in your backyard. Experts will tell you that many insect repellents can harm other pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, too, and are often expensive and less effective than regular cleaning and natural methods like cinnamon.


Does Vaseline or vegetable oil keep ants out of hummingbird feeders?

It may make surfaces slippery, preventing ants, but wildlife experts firmly advise against using it: 'Please do not use any greases to prevent ants from climbing onto hummingbird feeders!' says Zach Hutchinson. 'If this grease or oil gets onto the hummingbirds, it can be deadly.'

These oils affect a hummingbird's ability to control its feathers, which then impacts its ability to thermoregulate. With this ability inhibited, hummingbirds can suffer hypothermia or heat exhaustion in a matter of minutes. This method can also kill ants and other beneficial insects, like bees and butterflies, in a most inhumane way.

Avoid this hummingbird feeder mistake by following the steps above, from daily cleaning to careful placement.

To give these elegant creatures somewhere to rest and digest their food, and for males to court females, consider a hummingbird perch.