Although not greater in number, our hummingbirds this summer seem to be larger than in the past. I think it may be because my husband started making our own nectar, so it's fresher, and might taste better.

Some of the feeders are attracting a large number of bees, possibly for the same reason. My question is, does the presence of those bees make the hummingbirds more likely to choose a different feeder, or go to a different yard altogether?

In Massachusetts, United States, where I live, there are a very few breeds of hummingbirds. The only one that nests here on a regular basis is the Ruby-throated hummingbird, so I'm willing to bet that's what we have. As for the breed of bees, I have no idea.

The picture on the left is an example of bees at one of our feeders. Sometimes they line themselves up completely around the base of the feeder, or even clump up. Others fly around. We don't see hummingbirds eating at the same time. The feeder in the picture on the right is in the same yard about 20 feet away There are no bees, and the bird is happily enjoying the meal.

Click on pictures for larger view.

Pretty bees! Pretty hummingbird!

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    As a former beekeeper, I think 'yuck' when I see honey bees drinking from a bird feeder with home-made "nectar". Those are domesticated honey bees. They came from a local hive within 3 miles of your home. The bees will use your "nectar" to make honey. If their hive is owned by a beekeeper (most likely), then your "nectar" will end up in the honey they sell. If you buy that honey, then you will be eating (indirectly) from your own bird feeder.
    – 243DRob
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 20:47
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    @DavidRoberts Since you're interested and have knowledge about bees and beekeeping, I think some questions might be fun and educational here. It's up to you, of course! Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 15:31
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    Oh, it's been too long, but thanks for the suggestion! - I became allergic to the honey bee's venom a few years back and had to leave it to others. I still love seeing them, however. Just last week, a honey bee got lost in the big cup and lid drawer of my wife's lemonade stand at our local Farmer's Market. I set my finger in front of her (the bee) and she crawled up on my finger and went exploring on my hand while I walked her away from the crowds where she could go look for more natural foods. They're actually rather docile and tame when they don't feel threatened.
    – 243DRob
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 18:37
  • @243DRob Can you help me understand that? It seems to me that without bird feeder, the bees might get nectar from flowers instead - just like the humming bird. So instead you would be eating from a natural bird feeder, with the "bonus" that a fox or other non-bird animals might urinate and defecate on it. I would understand an argument for flavour (e.g. acacia honey), but I don't understand the argument "it's from a bird feeder".
    – R. Schmitz
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 9:33

1 Answer 1


Yes, there is actually quite a bit of discussion you can find online. Bees in large numbers can keep hummingbirds away. They don't want to get stung either!

However, you can lessen the bees by doing a couple things. The first is to maybe dilute your concentration of sugar. If you are doing a 4:1 solution of water to sugar you can do a 5:1 and that may make it less enticing.

EDIT: Don't use olive oil. Some people have reported success at not adding to the mixture but around the bottom of the feeder, which detracts the bees. But apparently the chance of it getting on the hummingbird doesn't make it very viable since they can't really clean themselves.

BUT, peppermint extract is harmless and bees and wasps hate the smell. Advice says to rub on the bottom of the feeder. Hummingbirds aren't affected negatively through the smell or touch of it.

  • 2
    Thanks for this! We are doing 4:1, so I'll take your suggestion and try 5:1. We have a lot of bee-friendly flowers quite close to the bird feeders so maybe that will encourage them to re-locate. I never heard of olive oil, but kind of wonder if that would be hard for the hummingbirds to digest. I'll do some research about it! Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 18:16
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    Wouldn't the oil just float to the top of the water? Oil and water are immiscible.
    – jejorda2
    Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 20:32
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    @jejorda2 I think that's meant to be the point -- the birds can reach through it but the bees can't or are dissuaded from doing so.
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 14:11

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