how do you keep ants out

We get hummingbirds in the summer months, so I bought a hummingbird feeder to try to attract them. However, the nectar in the feeder also attracted ants. Just how do you keep ants out of hummingbird feeders, was my first thought.

How Do You Keep Ants Out of Hummingbird Feeders?

Questions involving this dilemma include: How can you block these insects without using harmful chemicals? Is there a device you can use to trap ants (learn it here), that will perfectly solve the problem? I like my feeder, so can I solve this problem without buying a new feeder?

Ants Love The Sugar in Hummingbird Nectar

Nectar used in hummingbird feeders is sweet, which means the liquid is a natural attractant to sugar ants. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center details a recipe for hummingbird nectar that involves one part sugar for every four parts of water, which is very sweet.

Hummingbird nectar purchased in the store or online, such as the Perky-Pet Hummingbird Nectar Concentrate, has an even higher sugar content than the above recipe. It’s made that way to mimic nectar extracted by hummingbirds from flowers found in nature, which is also sweet.

A common problem is that the insects also detect the high sugar content of hummingbird feeder nectar and travel up the tree, post, or building that the feeder is attached to, crawl down the rope, twine, or wire that the feeder is hung by, and go into the nectar. You end up with nectar filled with ants. What can one do to get these ants off on-board? Learn the secret method right here:

Advice from the Experts

Hummingbird experts offer a variety of suggestions for deterring bugs from entering your hummingbird feeder, but they all agree that you should never put insect bait containing insecticide near the feeder, because chemicals found in the ant bait are harmful to hummingbirds.

The Alabama Extension Service suggests placing cooking oil on the twine used to hang up the hummingbird feeder. The University of Georgia Extension Service recommends coating the twine or wire holding the feeder in place with petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline.

The top-ranked birders’ magazine, Bird Watcher’s Digest, promotes painting laundry detergent onto the hanging wire or twine with a paintbrush, thereby hampering the chemical trail left by the insects that help them find their way to the sweet nectar in your hummingbird feeder.

The problem with all of these suggestions, as pointed out by the University of Wisconsin Extension Service, is that any tacky material placed near the hummingbird feeder can get onto the birds’ feathers, thereby contaminating them and making it harder for the birds to fly.

An Ant Moat is What You Need

Cornell University’s CornellLab birding website recommends purchasing a hummingbird feeder constructed with a moat that is filled with tap water that keeps ants from crawling down the support rod and accessing the sugary nectar. But, what if you want to keep your own feeder?

The National Wildlife Federation’s eNature website points out that a separate moat can be obtained for keeping ants out of your feeder. This is a cup that is filled with water, which also has hooks above and below the device. It’s hung above the feeder.

You can purchase an ant moat online, anywhere bird feeding supplies are sold, or you can make one. The Grit magazine website includes directions on how to make an insect moat from the plastic cap that usually comes on top of any can of spray paint.

The St. Paul, Minnesota Audubon Society website offers a tip on using an insect moat and petroleum jelly at the same time, which involves coating the inside of the moat with Vaseline and turning it upside down, so that the sticky stuff cannot come in contact with bird feathers.

One of the most popular ant moats is made from copper metal by Skinny Ant, and suggests using two drops of vegetable oil inside the insect moat. The Skinny Ant Anti Ant Brand Ant Trap & Moat receives a five-star rating and great testimonials, such as shown in this YouTube video:


To prevent ants from getting into your hummingbird feeder, do the following:

On a side note; you shouldn't allow your any insect or pest to live in your house, not even the ants. that way, you avoid them engulfing your Hummingbird feeder.

You should now know how to properly keep the insects out of your hummingbird feeders, Plus, by using the insect moat, you get to keep the hummingbird feeder that you already like, and keep ants away without using harmful pesticides!

And, for more info about ants, go to this page:​

For other tips on dealing with Ants, browse a few of these helpful articles or start at the Attic Pest Authority homepage!