What to do about bees in Campbell hummingbird feeders, hummers in San Juan Bautista bee feeders

DR. JOAN: In our front yard, we have three bird feeders and two hummingbird feeders in the front and back yards. We’ve lived here for nearly 29 years, and this is the first time I’ve had to shake off bees from one of the backyard feeders. In both yards, we have flowering plants.

Are the bees simply looking for new food sources?

— Jim and Campbell

DR. JIM:Bees, like all living things, are constantly on the lookout for new food sources. They are most likely to visit sun-lit hummingbird feeders. If your feeders are older, any decorative red on them may have faded and turned pink or orange, both of which attract bees. Older feeders are also more likely to develop leaks, which could attract bees.

Examine your locations, relocate feeders to more shady areas, and replace any that are leaking. While hummingbirds will find relocated feeders in the yard, bees and wasps will not go out of their way to find them.

DR. JOAN: I have a few bee hives, and I set up a feeder to keep yellow jackets and other bees away from my hives. The proportions are one part sugar to one part water.

I’ve seen some hummingbirds drinking from that feeder while trying to avoid the bees. I’ve set up this feeder before and never seen any hummers drink from it. Could a lack of other food sources be attracting them to this feeder? I have a hummingbird feeder with a 4-to-1 mixture set up.

San Juan Bautista, S. Hedrick

DEAR S.: Serving 1-to-1 sugar water is the equivalent of opening a Cheesecake Factory on my lawn. I’m going to go there a lot, and it’s not going to be good for me.

Sweet nectar attracts hummingbirds. Hummingbird feeders use a four-part water-to-one-part sugar formula that closely mimics the sugar level in flowers. Going sweeter than that is bad for the hummers, who may find it irresistible. Drinking overly sweet nectar is thought to cause kidney and liver damage in hummers.

If you keep using the super sweet formula to keep wasps and bees away from your hive, you’ll need to conceal the feeders, perhaps with mesh with openings large enough for the insects but too small for the hummers. Removing red colors and replacing them with yellows will also make the feeders more appealing to bees and wasps while making them less appealing to hummers.

DR. JOAN: In response to your column on squirrel gnawing, we’ve had success feeding them soup bones to chew on. I boil the soup bone, remove the gunk, and dry it.

Screw it into a tree limb, and they’ll chew on it more than anything else.

Carol from Pleasant Hill

DR. CAROL: That is an excellent suggestion. Thank you for your contribution.

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