5 Humane Ways to Keep Ants Out of Hummingbird Feeders

Don't let unwanted visitors takeover your hummingbird feeder.

Lauren Wellbank - Author

May 31 2024, Published 2:03 p.m. ET

Hummingbirds at a feeder
Source: Getty Images

Adding a hummingbird feeder to your yard is a great way to encourage more of the darling little birds to visit your property. But it's the very thing that brings them fluttering into your garden in droves — a sugary sweet water mix that reminds them of the nectar they get when they visit the different flowers that they feed on — that also brings unwanted guests as well.

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Creatures from bumblebees to ants may find themselves drawn to your hummingbird feeder, creating a mess for you and some competition for those tiny birds you're trying to welcome. But don't worry, there are actually some simple ways to keep ants out of your hummingbird feeder. Check out some of my favorite methods below!

Hummingbird at a feeder
Source: Getty Images
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Use fishing line to hang your hummingbird feeder.

If you want to keep ants out of your feeder, making it harder for them to get to that sweet nectar is going to be key. You can easily do this by swapping the twine or rope that comes with your feeder for something smoother (like fishing line), which will make it harder for the ants to get the grip they need to travel up and down to the feeder.

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Use cinnamon to naturally keep ants away.

Ants don't really like cinnamon, so they try to avoid it when they can. That's why @vision.unfolding recommends adding a bit of the spice to the base of whatever structure you're using to hang your hummingbird feeder. Just remember, this only works on those freestanding bases, and you'll likely need to reapply it every time you change out your hummingbird feeder.

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Use a cotton ball soaked in cinnamon and veggie oil.

If you're battling ants, you may want to try preventing them from ever reaching your feeder by attaching a cotton ball that has been soaked in a mix of cinnamon and vegetable oil to the top of the feeder's hook. The oil will help keep the cinnamon on the cotton ball and the cinnamon will help keep the ants at bay. Safety note: squeeze excess oil from the cotton ball so that it doesn't drip on the feeder, since the oil is not good for hummingbirds to get on their feathers.

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Create a water moat for your feeder.

Some hummingbird feeders will come with a small dish at the top that users can fill with water. This creates a little barrier that the ants can't cross on their own. Instead, they're forced to work together with several other ants from their colony to bundle up together to float across the waterline together, which is something @birding_by_ear says doesn't typically happen.

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Peppermint oil on the hook deters ants.

Another DIY option involves getting some peppermint essential oil and mixing it together with olive oil. You can then combine these two onto any access points where the ants may be getting to the hummingbird feeder, whether that includes a shepherd's hook, the twine used to hang the feeder from the hook, or the underside of the feeder itself.

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