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The Hummingbird Feeder Saga, Part 2: The Honeybee Conundrum

While Welcome in the Yard, Honeybees a Nuisance to Our Birds - and Must Go

The Hummingbird Feeder Saga, Part 2: The Honeybee Conundrum

I have an update to .

The feeders are down.

Precious little ones, I apologize, but I'm trying to relieve you of your bane, the honeybee. Please stand by.

Yes, weekly readers, we finally spotted the first hummingbird at our feeder a week after on attracting them. It was a Sunday when I spotted its tiny flit near the perch, and there it rested to feed. We lay still on the grass with our ball gloves, thrilled, to absorb it.

Soon I could spot four distinctly different birds in one sitting around 6:30 or 7 p.m. (Thanks to for your friendly timing advice.)

Two weeks later, however, we had also attracted a couple handfuls of honey bees.

Well that's actually pretty awesome, I thought, to be feeding these dainty birds and assisting a species in need. Ah, optimism.

But insect numbers soon grew, and last week I began to worry they were deterring our new feathered friends.

They'd fill every other port with one or two exoskeletal bodies, rapidly sucking up the nectar I made on the stove twice a week. Our new second feeder, of blown glass with a rubber stopper, even caused them to accumulate in a buzzing ball that fell several times a minute under its own weight.

When, on Thursda,y I saw a perched hummer take flight several times to dodge a bee, I knew something had to be done.

What would Donna Jacko do? I thought.

“Spray your feeder with Avon Skin So Soft; bees don't like that smell, but the hummingbirds don't even know it's on there,” .

However, not knowing an Avon lady in town, I consulted my mom, who said she'd also heard of applying mint extract to the ports.

Towel in hand, my husband battled the bees off the feeder for its biweekly cleaning, and I dabbed mint extract onto the smooth plastic around the ports.

I dejectedly logged onto Amazon and spent $13 on the Avon product when they were only momentarily deterred.

However, to tap a resource I should have tapped much earlier, I also consulted a pair of naturalists at Geauga Park District, where I work.

Naturalist Dottie Mathiott said a dry summer may have made them more desperate, with fewer flowers blooming to keep bees satisfied.

“With that many, they must also have a nest nearby,” added Naturalist John Kolar.

Internet-recommended pesticides and Vasolines can be harmful, while bee guard ports aren't appealing to some hummers, they both said.

Instead, remove both feeders a few days in a row to break their flight patterns, John suggested, then return only the non-stoppered, less troublesome feeder to the fray.

As a more labor-intensive suggestion, both also suggested cooking a super-concentrated batch of the sugar-water mix — two parts water, not four parts like usual, and one part sugar — pouring it onto a shallow (preferably yellow) plate, positioning it on a ladder or stool near the feeder, then moving the plate a foot or two away each day until the bees are too far away to cause trouble.

With a heavy heart, I gave the hummers a feederless weekend, hoping to send bees elsewhere for their meals. This afternoon, I'll start with a plate bait and some strategic Skin So Soft placement.

If anyone else has any other solutions to try, please post a comment. Otherwise expect one more column on this topic before the early-autumn disappearance of our very special guests.

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