Thirsty. Or hungry. Just annoying.

When I added a couple of new hummingbird feeders earlier this summer in an effort to get the hummers to settle down a little and share, I made more work for myself. You see, hummingbird feeders get filled with sugar water, and there are lots of critters that like sugar water. Hummingbirds, yes, but also woodpeckers, wasps, and ants. Don't forget raccoons too. There's only one creature from that list that is a real problem in my yard though.

Can you guess which it is? Yep, raccoons. Wait, I mean ants. (I'm so used to blaming raccoons for every problem in my garden.)


These new feeders have a built in reservoir in the lid, which should be filled with an ant-deterring liquid. The problem is that liquids evaporate, so unless I check the feeders a couple of times a day the reservoirs dry out and the ants move in.

These big ants have only been a problem for a couple of weeks, but they're persistent.

I'm going in!

I'm coming out!

They climb up the pole (which is also being climbed by a cypress vine seedling now):

Climb down to the hook, sometimes stopping to get directions from their hive mates:

Then help themselves to a nice drink, or meal, or whatever it is to them:

They're pretty defensive -- at least they look that way to me:

Put your finger down here, I dare you!

When I remove the feeder to clean and refill it, they quickly form a mob, searching for the missing feast:

With the feeder back in place they feel only momentary relief, as the reservoir is now full and they can't cross it:

Eventually they will make it across and the cycle will start over. I know I can't win, but at least I can hope to let the hummers get a few drinks before the ants reclaim this as their own again.

Incidentally, I've read that you shouldn't use oil in the reservoir, as it can get on the birds' wings, which would cause all sorts of problems. That's why I stick with water with a couple of drops of soap in it as an extra deterrent. The soap becomes a problem when it rains as it will overflow and run down into the feeder area, contaminating the sugar water so the birds won't drink it -- but since it hasn't rained in weeks I'm not too worried about that right now.

I do wonder why the woodpeckers don't take care of the ants for me. Maybe they do -- perhaps they've already eaten their fill but the ants just keep coming.

So I'll keep battling them until the sad day when all of the hummingbirds head south for the winter, and I put away the feeders until next year.

Stupid ants.


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (September 8, 2011 at 9:42 AM)  

These are ginormous ants--or maybe your macro images made them seem much bigger than they are :-)

Unknown  – (September 8, 2011 at 1:27 PM)  

Same problem here...but my hubby took one of my yellow sticky traps (that I use in the greenhouses against aphids) and wrapped in around the pole. The ants climb up and stick to the trap--et voila! No more ants in the hummingbird feeders. Granted, we also found the skeleton of a skink on the trap, so I feel kind of bad about that...but it did keep the ants away!

Anonymous –   – (September 8, 2011 at 1:35 PM)  

hmmm, maybe you could try duct tape with the sticky side out at the bottom of your pole? Or some sticky tape used for insects? I haven't had any problems with ants in my feeder which hangs from a pole, don't know why not? You seem to have lots more bugs and animals than I do in general though....
on another hummingbird note, we had a new hummingbird at the feeder for about a week that kept getting chased away - she could have been making a stop on her migration south from more north than we are. The regularly seen female has been at the feeder almost non-stop it seems and she is definitely gaining weight for her ride south. I had the feeder in for a few minutes yesterday to clean and refill it and when I was walking to put the feeder back she was perched on the top of the pole waiting! (she flew off but returned soon after the feeder was in place). Love watching these birds.

GrowingHabit –   – (September 8, 2011 at 8:11 PM)  

Double stick tape works a treat, and is invisible. Anywhere on the pole or hook- they can't pass. One strip works all year long.

Elegans  – (September 8, 2011 at 9:42 PM)  

Wild Birds Unlimited sells a little cup with a hook on the top and on the bottom that actually holds a little more water, then your feeder hangs from the cup. Works pretty good, but I still get some flying insects in my feeders...

Alan  – (September 10, 2011 at 8:13 AM)  

GrowingHabit (and lilafee): I'm going to try the double-sticky tape -- great idea! Oh, did I mention that raccoons sometimes climb the poles and remove the feeders?

Gardener on Sherlock Street  – (September 27, 2011 at 4:23 PM)  

It's crazy how they figure out how to get to the feeders hanging up so high.

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