About those birds and bees....
July 27, 2011 3:46 PM   Subscribe

Why did my hummingbird feeder become a bee trap?

Two days ago, I noticed that our hummingbird feeder, which was placed outside with fresh nectar, had a lot of bees crawling over it. Probably over 200 bees. There were also many on the feeder last night, though less with perhaps 100. They are all gone today, but there are about 50 bee corpses now within the feeder.
The number of bees on the feeder weren't nearly approaching the numbers I would have expected from a swarm (or at least it didn't look like pictures I had googled).

Did the bees just find an awesome meal, or were they swarming, or what? If I put a fresh batch of nectar out, am I going to have more bees?
posted by nasayre to Science & Nature (8 answers total)
Bees love sugary water; it's what they eat to make honey.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:52 PM on July 27, 2011

I had a similar problem, I put a hummingbird feeder out, and an hour later it was covered with hornets. I waited until the next day, took it down and cleaned it, and hung it back up empty. It's pretty, and I love hummingbirds, but hornets freak me out.
posted by Marky at 4:09 PM on July 27, 2011

Best answer: You can buy a hummingbird feeder with an integrated bee guard, or consider finding a way to add one to yours.
posted by pullayup at 4:21 PM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you put any sweet liquid out, you will get bees. Anywhere there are bees around a public place, it can be difficult to drink soda without the bees trying to get into the can or cup, and they swarm trash cans in these same areas for the same reason. I definitely do recommend a feeder built to avoid this, if you're uncomfortable with bees -- I would like to feed bees myself.

Note that seed-based feeders attract rodents, too, if you were considering that. It's all cute when a squirrel comes by regularly, but it loses its charm when a chihuahua-sized rat cleans out the feeder, sees the seed bag on the other side of your glass patio door, and comes down the chimney to get it.

Feeders are a double-edged sword is all I'm saying.

(Random other fact: yellow jackets fucking LOVE turkey lunchmeat. I don't know why.)
posted by Nattie at 9:57 PM on July 27, 2011

I've found a few wasps or hornets inside mine, but never any bees so far (we've only been using them this summer). However, we have millions of bees (of several species) all over the garden and other flowers. Maybe the feeders don't provide much visual stimulation relative to real flowers, but enough so that if you have no flowers you'll attract bees.
posted by DU at 4:34 AM on July 28, 2011

Yellow jackets and some other wasps are carnivores.
posted by DU at 4:36 AM on July 28, 2011

Best answer: DU, your garden is providing lots of easy sources for pollen and nectar. While your hummingbird feeders are easily accessible, it is not as attractive to the bees at the moment.

Nasayre, are you in the middle of a dry spell? Are there easily accessible sources of water nearby that the bees can use? If the bees don't have access to a good water source, they may be coming to your feeder for the water as much as for the sugars in it. I suspect this is what's going on. Normally, you'd get a couple of bees feeding from your hummingbird feeder at a time. The large number leads me to suspect they're really thirsty on top of everything else.

We keep a solar powered water fountain in our yard. It serves two purposes. Primarily, it provides a good source of clean water for our bees. Secondarily, it serves as our outdoor dog watering spot. We really got it for the bees but you can't convince the dogs of that. We check it each day to make sure there's plenty of water and that the water's clean. Despite this, we still see one or two of our girls over at our neighborhood pool. In that case, they're going after the minerals in the pool water and not after the water as much.
posted by onhazier at 5:36 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your answers!
onhazier, you are correct, I am southwest Texas right now and we are in the middle of a pretty terrible drought. I think it makes total sense that the bees are thirsty, and sugary water is probably like manna from heaven for them right now.

I knew bees like sugary stuff, I just never expected to have so many come to my feeder! I love bugs and find them fascinating generally (Texas is a great place for all sorts of bugs). But...seeing as I like being able to let my toddler daughter run around the back yard without worrying about the 200 bees only 15 feet away from her, I think I will look into one of those feeders with bee guards that pullayup describes.

Nattie, you are right about attracting more than you want with feeders. For a while we had the feeder hung from a nail in a tree, and squirrels would regularly clean the thing out. We also have suet out for the birds in a little feeder. We use one of these to hang the feeders now, and no rodents have been able to figure out how to scale that thing yet.
posted by nasayre at 7:31 AM on July 28, 2011

« Older What should I eat when I am on medication which...   |   I'd Like to Become a Fruit and Vegetable Expert Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.