5 Steps to Managing Wasps at Feeders

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

In most cases, wasps and other sugar-loving insects do not bother birds at feeders - some birds even make them a snack! But sometimes they become such an issue that the birds stop visiting, and it seems you are only putting food out for the insects to enjoy. As annoying as we think they are, wasps provide a great service to us by helping keep actual pests (like aphids) in check. Without them there would be a larger need for pesticide use which is not only harmful to us, but to our environment and everything within it. The good news is, we're going to help you deter wasps from your feeders without the need to harm them, so you can continue to enjoy the birds as they enjoy the food. 

Northern Paper Wasp

Why do wasps become more active in late summer?
Wasps don't actually become more active or "aggressive" in late summer, there are just more of them. Throughout the spring and summer, workers of the colony spend time feeding and caring for larvae within the hive. Larvae require protein to grow into adult wasps, so the workers feeding the young aren't searching for nectar as feverishly. Once the larvae transition to adulthood, they are no longer being fed and need to leave the hive to find food on their own, this typically happens right around the end of summer. At this time the adult wasps are in need of a sugar fix and natural sources are depleting, but our feeders provide an endless supply.

Managing Wasps at Feeders

  1.  Inspect your feeders, replace as needed.
    Give your feeders a thorough inspection every time you clean them to check for cracks. If a feeder is cracked or damaged, it's time to replace it. Some feeder styles are also more prone to leakage, which is a huge attractant to insects. Classic (or "old fashioned") hummingbird feeder styles that have ports below the nectar reservoir often leak, which not only wastes nectar, but also draws wasps and other insects in to feed on the sugary goodness. When it comes to hummingbird feeders, it's best to choose a style that has a holding tray for the nectar below the feeding ports, this helps eliminate leakage unless the feeder is tipped on its side. WBU High Perch Hummingbird Feeder line is a great example of a feeder that minimizes leaks, and is tougher for insects to feed from.

  2. Use nectar guards.
    If you are using a WBU Hummingbird Feeder and need some extra protection against wasps, adding nectar guards are the solution. Nectar Guard Tips protect nectar solution from bee and wasp contamination by creating a barrier that deters bees and wasps. Tips easily slide onto the feeding ports on the underside of the feeding cover.  Each tip has a flexible center that opens when a hummingbird inserts its beak to feed and closes tightly when it removes its beak. 

  3. Avoid feeders that have the colour yellow.
    Hummingbirds like red, orioles like orange, wasps like yellow! If a feeder is yellow, has yellow nectar ports, or is decorated with yellow flowers, it will attract wasps even if it's bone dry. If this sounds like your feeder, it may be time to consider replacing it with a feeder that only attracts the birds you're seeking such as red or orange. 

  4. Change up the food.
    Wasps aren't only attracted to nectar, they enjoy anything with hints of fruit or sugar like BirdBerry Jelly or seed cylinders with fruit in the blend. If you notice wasps swarming around your cylinder feeders, try changing up the variety you offer to a fruit-free blend such as the Supreme, Naturally Nuts, or Safflower cylinders

  5. As a last resort, remove your feeders.
    If you find that none of the above tips are helpful in your yard and the wasps are getting out of hand, removing your feeders may be the only option. Once wasps find a food source, they are pretty good at remembering where it is and will continue to return until the food source is gone. Don't worry, you don't need to take them down for long (a few days is usually long enough for them to move on) and the birds won't abandon you!

Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeding from a High Perch Hummingbird Feeder

Tried all of the above and still have heavy wasp presence at your feeders? Get in touch with us to troubleshoot. Find us on Facebook, Instagram, or pop in to the store for a face-to-face consult with one of our expert team members. 

Happy trails!
- Shayna 

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