“Every day, every single day I’m changing the nectar because of ants” my friend said in desperation. Insisting if she’d just use an ant moat, the problem would be solved. She kept saying her feeder had one, to which I replied “then keep it filled”. When she told me “you can’t” – I then insisted “then something’s upside down!”
How frustrating because it’s a fairly simple principle… ants won’t cross water because they never took swimming lessons. Gathering two moats and a new glass hummingbird feeder she had her eye on, it was time to see the moat that couldn’t be filled, it piqued my curiosity.
Upon seeing the cheap plastic feeder (it’s okay, we use them sometimes too) it was absolutely moat-less. “There’s no moat, that’s why the ants keep getting to it”. I showed her the little cup-shape moat, said to fill it with water and hang the hummingbird feeder directly below.
It was like a light went off, and a clear understanding was now obvious. Why would we even mention it? Because everyone starts somewhere when feeding the birds. When you’ve been doing it for 30 years or so, much knowledge is gained as to what works and what doesn’t. The hobby’s become wildly popular in the past few years, which means there’s a lot of folks who are fairly new to backyard birding.
Everyone loves hummingbirds, they’re one of summers’ highlights, but ants can ruin the experience quickly… for the tiny sprites too! It takes just one pesky ant to sour a feeder full of fresh nectar – and that’s a bummer. They must emit something terribly fowl to hummingbirds?
Save your nectar and your money by using a moat and making your own sugar-water solution. It’s SO easy and really fast, no red dye needed. Table sugar and water at a 1:4 ratio… that’s it! No other ingredients as they’re harmful to the birds. During migration, the nectar can be a bit stronger at 1:3, the extra calories serve the birds well for their long journey ahead.
Oh yeah, and the pretty glass feeder was an instant hit with her hummingbirds, she said it took about four seconds before they discovered it and started feeding!
With the big migration underway, it’s a hectic and busy time of year for hummingbirds! It’s not the temperatures, but rather the number of daylight hours which dictate migration. This natural occurrence, along with instinct tells the tiny sprites it’s time!
For their long journey back to Central and South America, hummingbirds will need lots of energy, and feeders are a critical source for that food. Due to extreme summer weather conditions around most of the country, many hummingbirds have become accustomed and/or dependent on them. Be sure nectar is always fresh and sans the ants!
If the water in your ant moat seems to evaporate quicker than you are filling feeders, this little trick will help slow the process. Cooking oil. Yes; corn, olive, peanut, any kid of cooking oil added to the water will greatly help slow evaporation. Just a drop or two will do it, and you’ll always be covered in the pesky ant department!
The tiny sprites are mesmerizing, you could sit and watch their antics for hours if time allowed! Definitely one of the most endeared birds, hummingbirds are in a class of their own. A magical experience to have them around your place during the season.
What’s not so magical is the fact that ants love sugar water too. (Yes, nectar is simply sugar water you can easily make yourself- recipe link at the end). Without fail, pesky ants will find a way to invade the sweet, sticky nectar, and when they do, hummingbirds won’t drink the solution. So you end up with wasted nectar and a bunch of ants, some dead, some still alive. They’re dead because they can’t swim… silly ants!
That’s why ant moats are so perfect with these feeders. Placed above the hummingbird feeder, the ant moat holds water, and ants can’t cross the water successfully. The ant moat usually has a double-end hook, so the feeder hangs directly from it. The top hook on the ant moat is basically the main hanger. It’s a one-time investment, and very reasonable considering the results. You’ll save nectar, save money, and your hummingbirds will be happy too!
Oh yeah… and the really simple nectar recipe can be found here.