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Old Thursday 22nd June 2006, 07:17   #1
bluetit
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HELP - bees and bumblebees on hummingbird feeders?

I would like to enlist some help please, from hummingbird watchers/-feeders ANYWHERE in the world: Does anyone ever notice bumblebees/bees on their feeders or has done so in the past ( perhaps on a different feeder ) and if you do, to what extent ( in numbers ) and is the feeding successful ( do they feed or just nosey around ) and what sort of a feeder it is that you have seen them on a) successful and b) unsuccessful? I know this is quite specific but you are the experts in small-and-fast flying creatures watching and it's amazing what one actually notices when one pays particular attention to it.

In our part of the world the bs and bbs are in quite serious trouble for several reasons and I'm doing some research into the feasibility and possibility of devising ways to supplement the natural feeding ( as in planting flowers etc. ) to help out at strategic times: after a cold/wet/windy night esp.

I would be eternally grateful ( and so would the bs and bbs!!!!!! ) for feedback here ( unless some higher power redirects this ) or you can PM/e-mail me, the more the merrier as they say, please and you'll get brownie points in b-heaven I'm sure.....

Thanks, Cornelia
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Last edited by bluetit : Thursday 22nd June 2006 at 07:19. Reason: an attention seeking HELP
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Old Thursday 22nd June 2006, 09:23   #2
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Cornellia:
This is one of the most common complaints about hummingbird feeders, especially if the feeder leaks or the fluid is otherwise spilled. The more concentrated the solution, the bigger the problem generally.

I have seen bees at any feeder, but the feeders that have a large reservoir above the feeding base, like "Best-1", "Natures Best", most of the Perky Pet styles, etc. seem to be easier for the bees to overcome the bee resistant capabilities. "Best-1" and "Natures Best" are notorious here in Texas for leaking around the seal at the mouth of the bottle, and bees often build into quite a cluster here.

I will be happy to discuss this further with you if you PM me.
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Old Friday 14th July 2006, 05:10   #3
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[quote=humminbird]Cornellia:
This is one of the most common complaints about hummingbird feeders, especially if the feeder leaks or the fluid is otherwise spilled. The more concentrated the solution, the bigger the problem generally.
______

I tend to agree with you on this. I never had problems with bees until the hooded oriole caused a lot of the nectar to spill, leaving a sticky residue. Today, I notice there were bees and some other unidentified flying insect trying to access the feeder.

I am also going to dilute my 1:4 solution a little.
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Old Friday 14th July 2006, 12:29   #4
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I am not an expert on this subject but....remember bees are to pollinate flowering trees and flowers and all the clovers and such. tis their job. it seems to me that by feeding them they might not do their work as they should. We do put bee guards on our feeders??? If the bees don't do their job then there are no fruits..
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Old Friday 14th July 2006, 13:39   #5
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Bee Management

My wife was in the teacher's lounge and one of her co-workers asked if she'd been breast-feeding a smurf. It turned out that a blue pen had leaked in her shirt pocket. My apologies if I offend. Regarding your question:
Bees are attracted to yellow, much like hummers are attracted to red.
I like to use feeders without bee guards, since guards are extra ugly with regard to photography, as well as being a nuisance to clean. I immediately throw away the little plastic floweres, bee guards, and perches on any hummingbird feeders I have. I even use wire cutters and cut off perches if that's necessary. That way I get more photos of hoveriing birds and fewer of perched birds. The birds don't seem to mind much.
Anyway, back to bees. My carpenter bees never seem to bother my feeders, so perhaps that's because I DON'T use bee guards!
When honeybees swarm my feeder, a short term measure is to move the feeder (gently) to a different location, and hang a bee proof feeder where the feeder originally was. Often the bees can't find the moved feeder, after a short time, and then you can take it in the house anc clean it. After a few hours, you can rehang it, or hang it elsewhere. The key here is that bees take a while to discover a nectar source, and can't find a feeder immediately if it's moved about 20 or 30 feet. Once the ones one it leave, it takes a while for others to return.
The "permanent" solution is to use an absolutely bee-proof feeder. That's a saucer type feeder, which is a little flying saucer, with an ant trap in the center, a brass hook to hang it by, and a clear plastic ring to hold the necter.
The ring has a red lid, with ports on the top for feeding. Nectar NEVER touches the port When you carry the feeder, carry it by the hook, and the nectar won't slosh up against the rim of the lid, which can leak, and the ports. If you're pretty careful filling and carrying it after cleaning and filling it, there will be NO sugar on the outside of the feeder, and therefore nothing to attract the bees. They can't get to the sugar through the port, and aren't attracted anyway. Perhaps they'll discover it after the birds have sponged nectar from the feeder onto the port with their tongues, but this is a very small amount, and bees don't generally find it.
I also modify my bottle-style perky-pet feeders. As I said, I discard the flowers, perch, and bee guards. I saw off 3 of the 4 ports, and plug them with hot glue. Then I use a drill (1/4 inch, I think) and enlarge the hole in the port, and insert a little "nipple" of clear plastic with a star shaped slit on the end. I bought this at a bird supply store in the hummingbird section. This keeps the port "closed", but allows the bird to insert it's tongue or beak. It serves to almost totally eliminate dripping from inverted bottle style feeders, and it works great. Without extra nectar dripping below the spout, bees are less likely to find the sugar. Use care when drilling the hole larger, the wall of the port tube will be quite thin. Use a port brush to clean the port, it's hard to get the port-star-thingy in and out. I just leave mine in place. I prefer my modified perky-pet for photography. The birds approach the feeder from a wide variety of angles, and so you get more interesting poses. With a saucer style feeder, you get them hovering level above the dish, only, unless they react to the click of the shutter. They you may get a good acrobatic shot as they are startled by the shutter. Flash doesn't really bother them at all, except that they learn to blink, just like you do, when their photo is taken several times in a row, so you get some closed-eye shots.
Back to the bees: I find in Arizona in the spring that there is a short period where the bees are very active. I hang orange halves in the trees to attract orioles. When the orioles find the orioles find the oranges, they first eat the bees, and then eat the orange. Maybe it's a coincidence, but perhaps the bees pass the word that my campsite is dangerous to bees, and they stop coming around so much. Perhaps that's my imagination. Or perhaps they swarm feeders most in early spring when there aren't many flowers in the high desert yet. (I had snow on the ground just a few days before my worst bee problems! this was in Mid-march.)
Anyway, some of these techniques may be of assistance when trying to protect hummers from bees.
Re-reading your post, I see that you're from europe (I think) and therefore have no hummingbirds. You can invert what I said to see that a bottle style bird feeder, with the port painted yellow (and bee guard removed) would be an excellent bee feeder. I think the same 1:4 nectar formula would be great, it sure attracts bees just dandy. With regard to numbers, I've seen at least 50 bees on a feeder at once. I doubt you can get a perky-pet hummingbird feeder in europe, but they have a flat bottom which can accumulate a lot of nectar drippings, and has a big surface area to support them. you could make one by drilling a hole in the bottom of a bottle, capping it tightly, and hanging it up. Any drops leaking from the bottom would tend to accumulate acoss the base. A wine bottle might be great for the purpose. You can buy drill bits which are designed to drill through ceramics and glass, and they're not hard to use.

Last edited by Greg Scott : Friday 14th July 2006 at 13:52.
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Old Tuesday 18th July 2006, 06:46   #6
bluetit
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Gosh guys, thanks very much for all your replies, from humminbird ( the 'early' bird ) to Greg's ( breastfeeding a smurf, haha :))) ) with suggestions as to homemade b/bb feeders. My main objective really are the bbs, I will keep you posted as to what happens but that may in fact be next year as I'm planning to 'trial' stuff with several other people involved and the year for the bbs is wearing on and of course now there are plenty of flower sources and the weather is nice and warm for them. So watch this space and thanks again, till then, Bluetit
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Old Tuesday 18th July 2006, 14:50   #7
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I have had no Bee's or Bumble Bee's around my feeders. I have seen wasps buzz them, though.

My yard is always active with B's & BB's. I have flowers that bloom at different times of the year. The biggest attractions are the Hollyhocks, and Sunflowers. BB's especially love the Hollyhocks. I don't know if you can grow Hollyhocks there, but it might be worth a try. If you can't find any seeds, LMK and I will sent you some.

Take Care, Karen
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Old Tuesday 18th July 2006, 18:57   #8
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Hello, Cornelia. Interesting questions. I don't know of anyone who feeds hummingbirds who really wants to feed bees. They only do it out of desperation, to try to lure the bees away from their feeders so the birds have safe, comfortable access.

The most common problem bees around hummingbird feeders are feral honeybees, which are not even native to the New World, much less endangered. They compete with our native bees, and southern populations have become Africanized and extremely dangerous, so I don't lose sleep over killing them to protect my feeders, pets, and wild neighbors.

Generally, the presence of bees at feeders doesn't escalate to problem levels unless the bees are sufficiently rewarded to make it worth telling their sisters back at the hive. Because poor feeder design is often to blame for making the sugar water accessible to bees (as Mark indicated), I usually recommend getting a better feeder (the best being the ones Greg mentioned). Unfortunately, some people get so attached to a certain type of feeder that they are reluctant to switch to a better model, leaving them with little choice but to try luring the bees away. Besides modifying the problem hummingbird feeeder to make it more "bee friendly," I've heard of people using yellow cellulose sponges placed in shallow dishes of sugar water. Since you'd have to go to a great deal of trouble to get hummingbird feeders, this might be a better solution for you. Another approach would be to inquire with a local apiarist or beekeeping group about how they feed their honeybees when times are hard, then modify that technique to better suit the species you're trying to help.

As Mark mentioned, bees prefer sweeter nectar than hummingbirds, but they also prefer different sugars. Honeybees seem to be particularly attracted to soft drinks, perhaps because these days they contain so much high-fructose corn syrup in addition to white sugar (sucrose). While researching bait for my bee trap, I read a scientific study that reported that the best bee attractant was a cheap lemon-lime soft drink (some generic version of 7-Up or Sprite, I suppose), so perhaps this will help you formulate a particularly attractive nectar substitute.

Good luck,
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Old Tuesday 28th October 2008, 21:59   #9
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After a particularly bad case of bees actually swarming a hummingbird feeder, I finally hit upon a major deterrent that works amazingly well. First, I removed the little red plastic flowers and replaced them with bee guards. However, the feeder I have is the vacuum bottle type, and does leak, so the bee guards really did nothing as they could feed off drops of nectar that leaked.
Secondly, I could see the bees were able to land on the feeder and get at the base of the feeder tubes where the nectar leaked, so I dabbed olive oil with a paper towel around the bottom and tubes. This worked fairly well, as my theory was the oil would not give the bees traction.
But what really did the trick was using cooking spray...didn't have to remove the feeder. Just sprayed around the bottom of the feeder and the tubes, and the bees were completely unable to land. Bingo! Non toxic, doesn't bother the hummingbirds, and really keeps the bees off the feeder, even if it drips. The bees FINALLY gave up!
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Old Wednesday 29th October 2008, 00:39   #10
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Greg Scott:
I had 15 feeders running in my yard until recently. The only one I did not have bees on was also the only one that had yellow flowers on it!
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Old Wednesday 5th August 2009, 16:25   #11
Laura Green
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bees and bumblebees on hummingbird feeders

Greetings!
I had a terrible problem with bumblebees on my hummer feeders. After reading the posts here, I offer my Most Excellent and 100% Effective solution:

Feeder: Typical "Pesky" Feeder with the red plastic flowers and yellow bee guards. Hummers are color blind, so the red coloring of commercial feeder mix and the yellow bee guards are purely for human delight.

1.) Remove the plastic flowers and guards. They harbor excess sugar and black mold and are very unsanitary and unnecessary.

2.) Fill feeder with 1:4 (white) sugar solution. Hot water, no boiling.

3.) Screw on base. Rinse with hot water to remove any excess sugar drip.

4.) Dry thoroughly with paper towels.

5.) Liberally smear feeder (top, glass bottle, around the seam, a little around the port stems but not in the open nectar port.) with BADGER ANTI BUG BALM
or any other ointment goopy based insect repellant. Natural bug balm repellants are available in health food stores or drug stores.

6.) Flip feeder back over, hang it up and prepare to be amazed! Hummers are not repelled, and seem not to care. Bumblebees hate it! They stay away in droves, so to speak. I assume other bees will be equally repelled.

End of bumbling bothersome belligerent bees. By the way, you can handle feeders with bumblebees...they (the bumblebees!) are passive and won't go for you, unless you go for them first!

If you have read this, and have found success, please do write me!

Sincerely,
Laura Green, White Hall, Maryland USA
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Old Wednesday 5th August 2009, 17:35   #12
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Quote:
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Hummers are color blind, . . .
Are you sure about this?
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Old Wednesday 5th August 2009, 20:51   #13
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The best way to limit the bees is to reduce the potency of the nectar. The hummers still drink it and the bees don't care for it. 1 part sugar to 5 parts water. It's worked for me for years during the heavy bee season. When they drop off I go back to the 1 to 4 ratio.
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Old Thursday 6th August 2009, 04:38   #14
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Where can one purchase this bug balm? Wild Birds Unlimited?
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Old Thursday 6th August 2009, 04:58   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laura Green View Post
Hummers are color blind
No, Laura, they're not. In fact, they see far greater color depth than humans or bees.

Liberally smearing a greasy substance on feeders where it may contaminate the birds' plumage is an extremely bad idea. Just get rid of the cheap-o feeder and invest in a better-designed model.
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Old Thursday 6th August 2009, 12:29   #16
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Thank you Sheri. Excellent advice from one who knows!
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Old Sunday 23rd August 2009, 16:00   #17
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Like a lot of people in Southern Arizona at the moment, my feeders have higher than normal activity this migration season. I have 8 feeders and epic battles over them by all ages and genders of multiple species of hummers every day. Costa's (year-round, rule the territory), Anna's, Broad-billed, Broad-tailed, Black-chinned (all mostly year-round), Rufous (just passing through) and 2 very stray Ruby-throats that came through. I'm hoping for my wintering Blue-chinned again.
I also currently have a large swarm of Africanized bees. I always have them in early spring, sometimes in late summer. This bunch is more agressive and seems to like my hair, neck and ankles as much as the feeder nectar. Sigh.
My poor Oriole family left early this year because of the swarm, since their feeder, oranges and jelly were a solid mass of bees.
Like Sheri, I'm not a fan of feeding the bees, but sometimes it is the only way. She mentions lemon-lime soda. I'll put in a vote for Mountain Dew. I noticed that given a choice of soda at a local school, Mountain Dew was the overwhelming favorite. I just pour some into a plastic bowl in an open area away from people and houses and, except for strays, it solves the problem.
Moving the feeders or removing them for an hour or so when the scout bees first come in and then replacing them when the bees have locked on the "decoy" bowl is helpful as well.
You only have to do this for a few days, then let the bowl of sweet stuff dry up - the bees will return to the bowl, but the swarm will leave when they perceive the supply is exhausted for your area.
Mostly, the bees will leave on their own no matter what, but it helps to feel like you're doing something!
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Old Friday 10th August 2012, 00:09   #18
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I took a glue gun to every seam and when they found a spot I missed I did it again. The feeder has glue hanging all over but the hummers are back.
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Old Friday 10th August 2012, 20:35   #19
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I have two Perky Pet feeders (with flat plastic flowers on the feeding holes, no 3-D flowers) and I do get an occasional bee on them, but it hasn't created any problems. I get plenty of hummers on the feeders all year. The hummers will hover and look at the bee, then land on another hole and feed.
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Old Friday 17th August 2012, 00:12   #20
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For the last month or so we've had bees, about 4-5 on each Hummzinger feeder, all the time. While the hummers try to avoid the bees, they are still able to get in often to get drinks, so I haven't worried about it too much. . . yet.

I get a kick out of the Gila Woodpeckers which land with a plop on the feeder and the bees go flying. The woodpecker is oblivious to them, unless they get too close, then he snaps at them.
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Old Friday 17th August 2012, 20:23   #21
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I've seen bumblebees, honey bees, yellow jackets, and wasps at the feeders, at one time or another. But, I've also seen the hummers run them off.

There is something that happens that we haven't figured out why yet. The heat, or the barometric pressure, or something, causes the liquid to expand and leak out the feeder holes, onto the ground and bushes. Of course, it's on the feeder's base too. That's usually when we see the bees at them. It doesn't happen all the time, so I guess that's why it's so hard to figure out why it happens. If anyone knows, please let me know. Thanks.
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Old Friday 17th August 2012, 20:29   #22
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I have to be careful and not fill my feeders to the brim because I store the nectar (sugar + water that I mix up) in the refrig so it goes from 40 degrees F to 104 degrees F, which definitely causes expansion. Remember that water is densest at 4 degrees centigrade (about 39 degrees F). If I happen to overfill, some weeps out of the holes (I have bowl style feeders) and it attracts bees and ants. But even if you mix your nectar at room temp, in the summer time it could be 30 degrees F warmer outside which will cause expansion of the water solution.

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Old Saturday 18th August 2012, 14:33   #23
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I get a kick out of the Gila Woodpeckers which land with a plop on the feeder and the bees go flying. The woodpecker is oblivious to them, unless they get too close, then he snaps at them.
I'd love to see that - it's a great image.
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Old Saturday 18th August 2012, 14:41   #24
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I'd love to see that - it's a great image.
I jokingly call the Gila Woodpeckers "my Texas Hummingbirds".

Here is a good picture of one. You can also listen to their call.

http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/178...oodpecker.aspx

So, you're an expatriate. Are you there on business, school, or permanently?
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Old Monday 20th August 2012, 11:32   #25
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I jokingly call the Gila Woodpeckers "my Texas Hummingbirds". Here is a good picture of one. You can also listen to their call. http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/178...oodpecker.aspx
I've seen pictures of these, but look forward to seeing them in person someday. Your description of them snapping at bees caught my imagination - I feel like it's "take that bees, it's my feeder". Or as bug hunters, the Gilas might feel that the feeder is a good place for waiting for the food to come to them. (I assume that the hummingbirds don't manage to scare away the Gila.)

Quote:
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So, you're an expatriate. Are you there on business, school, or permanently?
Long term work. I try to keep not only two cultures in mind now, but also two sets of birds!
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