ants on hummingbird feeder

nacho_mommaAugust 1, 2009

I live in east county san diego - and am having a horrible time keeping the ants away from my hummingbird feeders.

I've tried fishing line, vaseline, vapor rub, etc. I only have so many branches to work with.

I am now considering trying an ant moat, like the copper ones at the big E auction site.

If you have any more ideas, please share!

I've also tried using cinnamon and thought about making a peppermint salve to try. I am very frustrated. I have never had it this bad with the ants on the feeders.

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gobluedjm

I use white grease from the automotive store. It won't melt until 350 degrees. I have my oriole feeder on a shepards hook and this works. I put it a few inches above ground and 2 inches of it on the pole. Occaisionally have to replace due to wind blowing debris around.
The ants don't normally bother my hummer feeders hanging on the patio cover. If possible relocate your feeder off of the tree.

Although I don't think this should be applied to any living plant.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 5:19PM
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reefisher(z10SoCal)

Based on the techniques you are trying, I'm guessing you don't want to kill the ants. So I guess, many very effective solutions are out. You've not actually described where you are putting the vaseline, etc. Are the ants climbing up a tree, or up the support for the feeders? The ants you have are more than likely Argentine ants. The only real solution is to bait for them or apply barrier treatment with a pass it on to the other workers toxin. Fipronil

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 5:22PM
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nacho_momma

I am not opposed to killing the ants. I have a little chihuahua that enjoys the yard, so that is a concern.

I have placed vaseline on the caps of feeders and up the clear fishing line type of filiament. I have even cut up plastic as a baffle and covered the top of that with the vaseline - this handmade baffle sits about 4-6 inches above the feeder, on knot in the filament.

My feeders are all hung from my trees. I don't really have other hanging options.

I've also toyed with the boric acid baits and although they've attracted ants - I still have them. So yes, ants are climbing up the tree.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 5:59PM
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gardenguru1950(SunsetZ16)

Wildbirds Unlimited has a little cup-like device that fits on the wire/cable that holds the feeder onto the tree branch. The cup totally encircles the wire/cable and you simply put water into the cup. No more ants.

Joe

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 6:10PM
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ccroulet(z9 CA Sunset 18)

Don't use grease or vaseline or anything that might get on the birds' wings, at least not anywhere near the feeder. Use an ant moat. Some feeders have one built in (e.g. HummZinger). Some people have used Tanglefoot at the base of the shepard's hook, if that's the support you have. Be aware that the ants bother you more than they bother the hummingbirds, but recently the ants found one of our feeders, and when I opened it up, the interior was choked with drowned ants.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 6:24PM
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nacho_momma

I am considering this handcrafted version of a copper ant moat - the moat is 1' across. Think this would work? Pic of it at link below - can't figure out how to get pictures to post here. The person who makes them, swears by them.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 6:32PM
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gobluedjm

I think the moat would work but you have to keep filling with water. In my area that water would evaporate in one day. Thats why my only option is the grease at the base of the shepards hook.
My hummers won't come near a feeder full of ants.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 7:15PM
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nacho_momma

The hummers here won't come near an ant filled feeder. Others using that moat have used cooking oil or vaseline in place of the water - and says it works. I'll just have to try it and see what results I get.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 7:19PM
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gobluedjm

I think the cooking oil might attract the ants even more.
I had some out in a small container for earwigs and it was full of ants the next day. Perky Pet Co sells the ant moats and I have seen them at the big box stores and nurseries. But that copper one is much nicer looking.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 7:57PM
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reefisher(z10SoCal)

"I am not opposed to killing the ants. I have a little chihuahua that enjoys the yard, so that is a concern.

I have placed vaseline on the caps of feeders and up the clear fishing line type of filiament. I have even cut up plastic as a baffle and covered the top of that with the vaseline - this handmade baffle sits about 4-6 inches above the feeder, on knot in the filament.

My feeders are all hung from my trees. I don't really have other hanging options.

I've also toyed with the boric acid baits and although they've attracted ants - I still have them. So yes, ants are climbing up the tree."

Okay I've got the picture. A very easy solution. Spread lightly, a solution of Fipronil (%0.06 aqueous) on the plastic disc you made, or something just like it that is a little more pourous. Let it dry and put it on the fishing line like you had it. Let the ants come as normal. They will be gone in 1-3 days. http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/fipronil.pdf A note of caution. Fipronil is the active ingrediant in Frontline, BUT it is WAY too concentrated in that mixture and not safe at that concentration IMO. But you may already be using it on your wee doggie.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 8:06PM
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nacho_momma

Thank you - any idea where can I purchase Fipronil?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 11:47PM
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gobluedjm

Nacho, I was curious about Fipronil. It is in a product called Maxforce. It comes in bait stations, 24 in a bag for about $25-30 from various web retailers.

Maxforce: http://www.backedbybayer.com/bayer/cropscience/backedbybayer.nsf/id/EN_Pest_Maxforce_Ant

I couldn't find a where to buy listing on their site just distributors and sales.
If you order please report back how they work.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 12:31AM
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gardengrl54

Joe had great advice. I would advise trying his idea first. I use the same cup-like device from Wild Birds Unlimited on my hummingbird feeder and have had no ant problems at all. The water lasts a good while in the reservoir even in my zone. I check it for refilling every week or two depending on the season.

It is easy, clean, and no grease or chemicals are needed. Just a little water does it.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 10:43AM
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kathi_mdgd

Mine are hanging on a shepards hook and i spray part of the hook with Pam.Works great.
Kathi

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 6:01PM
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dicot

Not to derail the thread, but I'm curious as to why everyone seems to use feeders rather than landscaping with hummingbird-attracting annuals and perennials? I seem to have the Anna's hummingbirds almost year-round in my yard. I honestly know nothing about them, but it seems like sugar water would be a limited nutrient source compared to flower nectar?

Not that I don't have a million Argentine ants crawling up my trumpet vine right now.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 12:48AM
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gobluedjm

I have tons of salvias for the hummers but not always in bloom. They go from plant to plant, to feeder, back to plants. But normally the ants only seem to bother the oriole feeder. I get finches and woodpeckers visiting it also. Right know I have more black chinned hummers around.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 9:47AM
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debbysunshine(san diego)

When we moved to San Diego I loved feeders ! We have more ants and snails up in the plants this year than I've seen in 23 years living here. No more feeders for us just Honeysuckle and Durants bushes which all the little birds just love and are so colorful and fast growing.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 12:30PM
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ccroulet(z9 CA Sunset 18)

Hummingbirds use nectar for energy, not nutrition. They gain nutrients from eating tiny insects. When you see hummingbirds hovering and facing different directions or aimlessly zipping short distances, they're probably snatching flying insects. Their bills open and snap shut on the insects faster than the human eye can see, but it can be filmed. Amazingly, the lower bill actually bends quite substantially while they're doing this.

Hummingbird feeders bring the birds into view, which many people enjoy. Feeders are entertainment for us. If you have sufficient flowers to attract the birds you want to see, nobody will quarrel with it. Flower nectar contains traces of things other than sugar, but it's not necessary to attempt to exactly duplicate flower nectar to make an effective feeder, and neither do feeders interfere with the birds' willingness or ability to use other sources. Some people have mistakenly added other things to feeder nectar in an attempt to make it more attractive, but hummingbird experts and banders -- to a man or woman -- recommend plain sugar and water. Anecdotal evidence suggests the birds can tell the difference between cane sugar and beet sugar, and they prefer cane. Most experts recommend a ratio of 1:4 or 1:3 sugar to water, measured by volume. Anything in this area will work. I know a famous bander and author in Louisiana who has standardized on 1:3, and tests show that birds are attracted to higher concentrations. Most hummfeeders use 1:4 -- a balance of attractiveness to the birds with economy for you. Feeder nectar does not lead to diabetes in hummingbirds. They naturally seek sources of concentrated sugar, and they regulate their behavior to get the amount they need. Their physiology is different from humans, and concepts gained from promoters of healthy living are not appropriately applied to hummingbirds.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 1:21PM
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kathi_mdgd

I also have lots of flowers for the hummers as well.
Kathi

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 4:26PM
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dicot

Thanks for that CCroulet. I honestly had never looked into anything about the hummingbird's needs, I've just gotten use to them being here almost every day since we ripped out the lawn and put in natives and xeric plants.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 5:27PM
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gobluedjm

Oh dicot you are really missing out.
Sit out there very still in a red shirt.
They will buzz you like crazy! It's fun.
They are very territorial and will guard feeders, so if you ever put up a feeder try to put up 2 where the feeders can't see each other. I have a Rufous that migrates thru in spring and fall and no one gets to eat when he is around.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 6:11PM
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CA Kate

I recently discovered that ants don't seem to like chlorine... at least on countertops. I wonder if it would help to put a drop of chlorine at the tree/hanger attachment point; but I wouldn't get it near the feeder itself because the smell might chase off the Hummers.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 3:40PM
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stockupsl(8)

I had the same problem but i use fishing line and a metal hanger and this seems to keep the ants at bay not one try to climb onto the the feeder.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 8:42PM
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laurmela

I have plants and feeders and get hummers galore! I use the old spray the hook/hanger with Pam to keep ants at bay! My neighbors are amazed at the hummers, but I tell them it is easy! I just go through 10 lbs of sugar a week, and change 8 feeders everyday, but I love watching them.

Here is a pic of a Costa's on one of my sheperds hooks

Laura

    Bookmark   August 22, 2009 at 1:20PM
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sparkie001_pobox_com

Having the same problem... Can't we all just get along?

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 2:03AM
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kathi_mdgd

Great picture Steve!! I have one like that in one of my albums as well.People are shocked when they see how many i have at one time on a feeder.
Kathi

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 1:20AM
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