How To Keep Ants Out Of Your Hummingbird Feeder: 9 Effortless Ways To Ant-Proof Feeders

bird staring at an ant inside a hummingbird feeder

Last Updated: March 19, 2021

Hummingbird feeders bring all the lovely hummers to your yard and for little. They have an entirely easy operation all around – pour in sugar water, twist lock, and wait for the party. 

But... 

Hell breaks loose when the ants and yellowjackets join in on the fun. The anger and frustration are all too familiar to most birders. 

Don't fret. 

There are tons of ways I've learned to keep ants away from hummingbird feeders, and I've become a one less angry and frustrated birder today.

Before that, you may ask, “why do hummingbirds not eat the ants anyways?”

The truth is hummingbirds eat insects like other birds, but never ants. If the ants become a nuisance at the feeder, hummers ultimately fly off to find an alternative. It is also possible for an aggressive army of ants to kill an ailing hummingbird. 

Now, let's get right into it.

How To Keep Ants Off A Hummingbird Feeder

1. Serve Under A Shade

Aside from accelerating nectar contamination, a feeder is subjected to constant heat when it’s hung under direct sunlight. 

Heat expands the plastic and causes it to crack after a while, which in turn attracts ants.

Try to hang the hummingbird under a shade or make one for it. You can prevent hummer casualties this way – they have no sense of smell to know the sugar water is rancid. 

2. Build A Moat 

A Moat is one of the easiest and common fixes on how to keep ants out of hummingbird feeders. You can make an ant moat yourself or buy one for a few bucks.

An ant moat is a bridge of water or a solution attached to the feeder's hook. Like in historical use, ants have to cross to have access to the precious nectar.

In an effort to cross, most drown, and others retreat. It's not unheard of for ants to bypass ant moats and continue to wreak havoc. In such a case, try taking things up a notch and use a pepper solution instead of water. 

An ant moat is a must-try ant-repelling method to use at the feeder. If you haven't, buy a hummingbird feeder with a built-in moat. 

ants on a hummingbird feeder

3. Cleanliness Is Prevention

You should clean the feeding station daily. Often, I'd see an army of ants come not for a treat at the feeder but to clean up a dead insect. Anyway, you get the logic. 

I reiterate to backyard birdwatchers not to take up feeding hummers in the first place if they aren’t committed to cleaning.

Most hummingbird feeders are easy to clean if you aren’t looking for something fancy.  At best, the cleaning process only takes a few minutes, or you can throw it in a dishwasher. 

You have to inspect your feeder regularly to spot leakages quickly. If you notice ants congregating below your hummingbird feeder, there's a leak somewhere. And an invasion is in the books.

4. Fishing Lines Work Too

You can make an ant proof hummingbird feeder when you hang with a fishing line.  The extremely thin surface area of a fishing line or similar thread is too much of a task for ants to travel.

For its literal term, it can serve as a hummingbird feeder ant guard, although, of course, “ant guard” is not what name it’s called. 😉

Try to use a strong thread to hold the wind’s sway to avoid sending the fisher crashing to the floor. Hopefully, the ants will not be able to get a grip to climb up.

This method is recommended for folks who live in an arid climate where an ant moat rough could be unsuitable. A small cup of water could dry up in a matter of minutes in some regions. 

You won't need to smear foreign materials like WD40 or petroleum jelly if they keep you up at night. The fishing line would be enough struggle, except you have pestilent ants who didn’t take the hint.

ant trying to climb a rope close up shot

5.  Alternate Serving Locations

The above is another way of how to keep ants off the hummingbird feeder effectively.

Ensure that you have several suitable spots in your yard that you can use to throw ants off course. Before moving your feeder, adjust your setup to prevent a recurrence of the ant problem. Have a regular or irregular schedule to change the location of the hummingbird feeder.

Sometimes by merely moving the feeder to an opposite location solves your ant problem.

You don't have to do much but try a different spot. And you may be surprised with fewer ant visitors almost immediately.

Once ants find a food source, such as a hummingbird feeder, they leave a scent trail behind to pave the way for the rest of their army. Relocating the feeder is inevitable for other methods to work in some cases.

6. Go Slippery

Another way to keep ants away from a hummingbird feeder is to apply Vaseline to the suspension line. The lubricant will act as a deterrent from reaching the feeder whenever they climb on the line.

The idea behind this method is that ants hate walking over sticky surfaces.

What’s a better way to evict them than lay a ground they can’t maneuver? 

Dab Vicks VapoRub over the connecting hook.  The ants can’t work over it due to its menthol fumes, and the hummers don’t have a sense of smell. You can send them packing this way, never to return. 

hummingbird ready to drink nectar

7. Cooking Oil Works 

You can never know until you try, and that's what I did (Apply cooking oil). Whether you hang the feeder on a pole or tree-trunk on which hummingbird feeder, soak a cloth with cooking oil rub it over their base. 

And guess what? The results are excellent. 

Employ this method weekly to keep the ants at bay.

8. Consider Insecticide Sprays

If your hummingbird feeder is on a tree trunk, suggest that you spray the trunk with insecticide from time to time. This method effectively and aggressively prevents ants and other insects from reaching your hummingbird feeder.

Also...

You can wet the surrounding area with Neem Oil or place insecticide granules around.
Avoid spraying insecticides close to the feeder to prevent avian fatalities.

Using insecticides as a repellant can be just as hairy as using grease or WD40. If anything, use a mild kitchen cleaning spray, or Mr. Muscle, for instance.

9. Even Bay Leaves Work

If you want to create a barrier of sorts on the ground below your hummingbird feeder by placing whole bay leaves down in a circle, this will also repel ants even if your feeder has a small leak.

Bay leaves can also be used to save your regular feeders from squirrels as well. If you use a pole mount, tie some bay leaves or mint leaves around the pole and around the wire on which the feeder hangs.

The scent of bay leaves in an “antville” gives off a pungent smell that drives them nuts.

The leaves contain a camphor-like oil often used as a disinfectant and insecticide.

Bay leaves make ants' lives miserable. So, who better use this, if not a birder trying to keep ants out of their hummingbird feeder.

Wrapping Up

Nectar or sugar water is like candy to ants. Any slight slip up from the hummingbird feeder, and they’d come rushing naturally. 

The most straightforward defense to permanently keep off ants the hummingbird feeder is conscious and regular cleaning.  If that’s not enough to fend them off, you can try one or combine a couple of these simple tips I’ve listed. 

I sincerely hope you send those pesky ants packing afterward.

Do you still see ants in your hummingbird feeder after trying these tips? Which method gave the best result? 

5 thoughts on “How To Keep Ants Out Of Your Hummingbird Feeder: 9 Effortless Ways To Ant-Proof Feeders”

  1. I used the cooking oil. I have my feeder hanging on a shepherd's hook and I greased the shepherd's hook right to the point of where I hang the feeder. Worked like a charm! Thank you!

  2. I have had difficulty with ants - even relocating feeders and keeping the feeders very clean. Finally I tried your Vaporub trick and it has worked! Thanks so much for the ideas and the many ideas to keep the ants away.

  3. Pat Anne Seewald

    I've been using bug spray on the ground where the pole hits the dirt or and just the bottom of the pole and making sure none of my plants touch the base of the pole. BUT thinking these can't be safe for flowers I intend to plant to attract hummers. SO oil/ vasiline is how I'm going to keep those ants out of the feeders from now on. Great article!!! Thanks

  4. Oil, Grease, Vaseline all washes away at the first rain. Water Moat evaporates. Best way is put the water Moat upside down, fill it with Vaseline. Upside protects the vaseline from washing away.

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