How to Keep Ants Out of Hummingbird Feeders

During spring, you will find plenty of hummingbirds flying in your backyard. The way these birds swarm over feeders and flowers to drink nectar and sweet water is the highlight of the year. However, ants can quickly destroy this beautiful sight by making their way into the feeders.

Like hummingbirds, ants, too, are attracted to sweet water. So, these pesky critters crawl up to the feeders and settle inside. Sometimes, they drown or die due to overdrinking. Leaving them in the feeder is not a good idea. While hummingbirds feed on insects, they don’t particularly like ants. Hence, you need to take a few measures to protect these tiny birds.

Quick Answer

There are plenty of ways to keep ants out of hummingbird feeders. Many people use a popular method to install an ant moat, which is similar to a castle moat. Its purpose is to deter ants with water. A few other methods include hanging the feeder with a fishing line, changing the position of the feeder, and using an ant guard.

Now that you know how to protect hummingbirds from ants, let’s take a look at the methods mentioned above in detail:

Using an Ant Moat to Keep Ants Away From Hummingbird Feeders

An ant moat has a water barrier that stops ants and other insects from reaching the nectar. Owners of medieval castles used this trick to keep human intruders away. Since a feeder hangs from above, the moat is located on top of the nectar. As we all know, ants crawl in groups. The only way to reach the nectar with an ant moat in between would be to fly, which is impossible for ants. The water in the ant moat stops ants from moving forward, allowing you to keep the feeders safe and clean.

There are three types of ant moats explained below:

Moat Built Into the Feeder

When buying a hummingbird feeder, look for one with a built-in moat. These structures have an inconspicuous design, making it easy for you to plan a sneak attack on the ants. However, ants are one of the most intelligent insects on earth. They can devise a plan in a matter of minutes, and crossing an ant moat is not that big of a challenge, something that we will discuss later.

Buy a Moat Separately

If you already have a bird feeder, you can simply add an ant moat to the structure. The shape of most bird feeders resembles a bottle. This means that the nectar is above the feeding ports. These types of feeders don’t come with an ant moat. However, you can attach one above it separately.

Making a DIY Moat

Buying an ant moat is not that expensive. Still, if you are a DIYer, you can make a lovely one at home, all by yourself. Here’s how to make a DIY moat:

Items You Need

  • A Plastic Bottle (A size that is slightly bigger than your feeder)
  • A Coat Hanger
  • A Utility Knife or Scissors
  • A Thin Drill Bit and Drill
  • A Hot Glue Gun


  • Clean the soda bottle and use a utility knife to remove the neck. You will now have a bottle with a wide bowl shape and the cap on one end. This will be the moat.
  • Cut off the straight part of the hanger.
  • Drill a hole in the bottle cap. It should be smaller in diameter compared to that of the coat hanger.
  • Insert the hanger into the cap and twist it onto the bottle.
  • Pour hot glue into the cap to prevent any leaks. (Make sure that the glue does not touch the bottle, or it might warp its shape and puncture a hole in it).
  • Bend both sides of the coat hanger and faster it with a wire to your feeder
  • Finally, fill the moat with water.

Other Methods of Keeping Ants Away From Hummingbird Feeders

Regular maintenance is the key to keeping the feeders clean. This will prevent ant invasions and keep the hummingbirds safe. It will take about 30 seconds to run the feeder under tepid water, and then you can hang it again.

You need to clean and refill the feeder every day to prevent any infestation. Ensure that the sweet water is not dripping outside because this will attract more ants. One of the best ways to repel ants from a feeder is through an aesthetic change. Decorate the feeder with bay leaves and cover the hanging line with them. The scent of the leaves will keep the ants away and drive them crazy with the pungent smell. You can also use mint leaves. However, you will often have to replace the leaves before they dry out. If this seems too much of a hassle, you can use essential oils instead. These include:

  • Clove
  • Peppermint
  • Pennyroyal
  • Spearmint
  • Lemongrass
  • Roman Chamomile
  • Wintergreen
  • Lavender
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Patchouli
  • Thyme
  • Geranium
  • Citronella
  • Anise
  • Fennel Seed

Using a Fishing Line

A fishing line is very thin… too thin for insects such as ants as well. It also slippery, which prevents ants from climbing up to the feeders. When using a fishing line to hang the feeders, make sure that you are choosing a strong one because it will not only support the weight of the feeder but of the hummingbirds too.

Using an Ant Guard

You installed ant moat and are still seeing ants invading the feeders? What is your next step? As we said earlier, ants are highly intelligent, and they can form a bridge to let other ants cross to the sweet water. Pretty brilliant, right? An ant guard comes in here. This structure contains Permethrin, which is a light insecticide. It does not kill ants or harms hummingbirds. However, it does deter ants and other insects from invading the sweet water feeders.

Stop Leakages

Leakages are the number one cause of ants attacking hummingbird feeders. They follow the sweet water trail. Although hummingbirds don’t eat ants, they start doing it when the said insect constantly enters their feeders. Normal wear and tear cause leaks, which you can quickly fix with a glue gun. However, there’s one thing you need to keep in mind: Once the ants know the trail, stopping them is impossible. This leads us to our next point:

Change Positions Often

Keep changing the position of the feeders so that ants don’t form a colony nearby. Not finding the feeders in their previous position will throw them off the trail. Don’t worry about the hummingbirds because they adapt to change easily, and finding the new feeder will not be difficult for them. Paint the feeder with a bright color, and the hummingbirds will come where X marks the spot.

Apply Adhesive Tape

This old trick is one of the oldest and easiest to keep ants from hummingbird feeders. You need to apply the tape with the sticky side out. The ants will get stuck on the tape and won’t reach the feeders. However, you will have to keep changing the tapes because dirt can wear off its adhesive properties.


There are several ways to keep ants away from hummingbird feeders. Combining an ant moat with an ant guard will work as the best deterrent. From time to time, spray some essential oil onto the bird feeder so that the pungent smell keeps the ants away.

Lastly, keep up with the maintenance and change the sweet water every day to prevent the hummingbirds from drinking moldy and contaminated water.