7 Effective and Natural Ways to Keep Ants Out of Your Hummingbird Feeder

Costa's Hummingbird feeder
© Rick Scuteri/Shutterstock.com

Written by Sharon Parry

Published: April 14, 2024

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Hummingbirds are amongst the most precious visitors to our yards and gardens. There are hundreds of species of hummingbirds throughout the Americas but many suffered declining populations in the last century. This was partly due to the use of non-native plants in landscaping and the spread of invasive plants. Many people wanted to help these gorgeous birds out and started to put up special hummingbird feeders full of a sugary solution. The problem is that this solution also attracts ants! Here, we detail 7 natural ways to keep ants out of your hummingbird feeder that don’t require insecticide – just some ingenuity!

Why Are Ants Attracted To Hummingbird Feeders

The Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute recommends a sugary solution for hummingbird feeders. You make it by mixing one part of sugar with four parts of water. The sugar should be refined white sugar (not confectioner’s sugar). Sugar is a highly accessible form of carbohydrate for ants and supplies them with loads of energy. Ants have a keen sense of smell and can detect this sugary solution easily. They will do everything they can to get at it! So, here are some ways in which you can stop them.

Install An Ant Moat

Hummingbird Feeder with an Ant Moat

Spot the ant moat above this humming bird feeder.

©Chiyacat/Shutterstock.com

Ants find it hard to get across water and this is useful for us! You can buy ant moats that hang above the feeder in lots of attractive colors. To get to the sugary food, the ants have to get past the water in the moat and this is where they run into trouble. It is entirely natural and uses just water. Ant moats only work if they are full of water so don’t forget to keep your’s topped up. You can even construct your own ant moat from an old soda bottle.

Regular Cleaning

ruby throat hummingbird standing on the nectar feeder

Keep the feeder clean to deter ants.

©xphotoz/iStock via Getty Images

Ants are especially attracted to the left-over residue that sticks to the surfaces of the feeder. A completely natural way to keep ants out of your hummingbird feeder is to keep it clean. Daily cleaning is best, make it part of your cleaning routine. Wipe away all of the residue with a damp cloth. It’s as simple as that!

Suitable Position

Water Lily, Underwater, Backgrounds, Beauty In Nature, Blossom

Hanging feeders over garden ponds puts ants off.

©iStock.com/winyuu

With careful placement of the feeder, you can deter many ants from getting onto it. Ideally, you need to place it away from anything that can act as a gangway for ants to get onto it. This is why it is not a good idea to place it near trees. If you know that you have ant nests in your garden, hang the feeder as far as away as you can from them. Many people have found that hanging over a body of water (the larger the better) also works. Have you got a fountain or a pond that you could hang it over? These are very off-putting for ants.

Hang It On Slippery Thread

Hummingbird at bird feeder in front of suburban sunset

Make it hard for ants to reach the food in the feeder.

©Glenn Highcove/Shutterstock.com

The more difficult ants find it to reach the feeder, the less likely they are to try. They will simply find an easier food source. If you can construct a suspension cable or a pully system to hold up the feeder that will help to deter them. Also, if you use a very thin and slippery fishing line to support the feeder the ants will hopefully slip off it!

Sprinkle Cinnamon

Cinnamon deters ants from raiding bird feeders.

©Derkien/ via Getty Images

Ants hate cinnamon and this makes it a useful and natural deterrent for your feeder. However, do not spread it on the feeder itself. Instead, put a thick layer around the base of the hooks or any other chains, etc. that are holding the feeder up. It may get blown off by the wind or washed off by the rain so you will need to reapply it every time you re-fill the feeder.

Move The Feeder Around

Male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Hovers Upright Near Feeder

©CharlieFloyd/iStock via Getty Images

Ants are very good at remembering where a food source is. So, make it confusing for them. One of the simplest ways to keep ants out of a hummingbird feeder is to keep moving its location. Don’t worry, the hummingbirds will soon work out where it is and will start feeding again. The ants, however, will likely look for alternative food sources nearby. If you have multiple feeders, keep them at least seven feet apart.

Repair Leaks

Portrait of female Ruby Throated Hummingbird perched on red feeder before green background

Leaking hummingbird feeders attract ants.

©LHolmes Photography/Shutterstock.com

Leaking bird feeders smell very sweet and this will be even more attractive to ants. In fact, this is what attracts ants to most feeders in the first place. Many feeders are made from plastic and high temperatures can make them expand – this causes cracking. You may find it better to hang the feeder in the shade. Also, strong winds and heavy rain can knock feeders over and they can get damaged as they hit the ground. Check for signs of damage every time you hang up the feeder or fill it.


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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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