Ant moats for hummingbird feeders

With the hummingbirds migrating back to Mexico and Central America, everyone has feeders up  With the abundance of fire ants in my area, I like many was having problems with ants getting into the feeders and ruining the sugar water. Using Vaseline on the hook is not a good idea.  Hummers will brush up against the wire getting the Vaseline in their feathers, and will have problems flying later. I priced some of the store bought ant barrier containers and they were very expensive.  I found one at the end of the season at a very deep discount. I looked at it and said to myself, I can make this.  I came up with a couple of designs for making homemade ones and very inexpensive.  One design uses a heavy gauge wire, such as electric fence wire which I also had on hand for making homemade plant tags.  It’s easily made.

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Other materials needed are a cap off of a spray can or detergent bottle, a nail or ice pick or drill bit, a pipe or pipe or broom handle, pliers, and water proof caulking. Gloves are also needed for this job.

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One advantage of using wire is that if you don’t quite get the hole in the center, you can bend the wire after hanging to level the cap.  Punch a hole in the middle of the cap.  Cut a length of wire around a foot long and file down the sharp edges on each end. Wrap one end around a pipe or broom handle, rod or whatever you have to make a loop. Take the pliers and twist the end of the wire around the length of wire to finish the loop. Push the other end of the wire through the cap, and make another loop as you did with the first end, caulk and let dry and hang with the opening upwards, fill with water. You’ll need to refill every couple of days depending on the weather.  Birds also will use it as a source of water, so you might be refilling daily.

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Don’t use the commercial clear or red dye sugar water. It has chemicals that are good for hummingbirds, especially the red dye stuff. You can easily make your own by using 1 part of sugar and 4 parts of hot water. Cool and place in your feeder.  The red on the feeder itself is enough to attract hummers. 

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You may store remaining mix in fridge for 7 to 10 days.  When I first put my feeders up, I’ll use a coffee scoop to make up the sugar water.  As the number of birds increase, I’ll use four cups of water and one cup of sugar.   Do not substitute brown sugar. Do not add red nectar, red dye, honey or anything else.  Boiling water not only kills most bacteria and viruses, it also removes many other microorganisms and some chemicals.  

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Recommended Feeder Schedule change

70°-84°F: Clean feeder and replace nectar every 3 days

85°-87°F: Clean feeder and replace nectar every 2 days

88°F and up: Clean feeder and replace nectar every single day.

More about feeding hummingbirds…

Cloudy nectar indicates bacteria, which is harmful.

Discard nectar, clean the feeder and add fresh clear nectar.

Black residue indicates mold, which is harmful. Discard nectar, clean the feeder and add fresh clear nectar.

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There are several flowers and bushes that are known to attract hummingbirds.  Plants include red shades of daylilies, columbine, penstemon, cardinal flower, bee balm, hibiscus, peony, coral bells, Garden phlox, Oriental Poppy, echinacea (cone flowers), yarrow, annual red salvia, coreopsis.  Perennial Black and Blue salvia even though purple also attracts hummers.  For every one hummingbird you see, it is estimated you have six more in your area.  Most of the hummingbirds in our area are the ruby-throated.  They will guard and fight over feeders.  The ones at my house love Black and Blue Salvia.  They will fight over it like one of the feeders.

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Plants are screwed up this year with all the rain we’ve had.  I started my Cherokee Purple tomatoes last February, and they were only three inches high come June.  I’ve never had trouble getting plants to grow like these wouldn’t.  I babied them, water, plenty of sun, fertilizer, but they wouldn’t grow.  I finally gave up and bought a nice plant and planted it in the flower bed along the front of the house. It’s growing and has blooms on it, but is too skinny for it height, and holding up fruit.

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I haven’t been able to plow up my garden in a few years.  Privet grew up through the tomatoes cages, and the cages won’t come off.  I sprayed the privet with brush killer as any roots let in the ground will grow a new plant.  I need to check on them and cut them off so I can remove the cages, and take the front end loader to the stumps and pull them out of the ground. 

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When Brad brought my tractor and tiller back from the AMHOF, I plowed up a couple of areas for planting sunflowers for the goldfinches and indigo buntings. I need to go and check and see if I have sunflowers coming up.   I plan to set up a blind and get a bunch of pictures.

I’ve been busy digging my daylilies out of trumpet vine, honeysuckle, blackberry and some sort of green vine.  Spot spraying wasn’t killing the stuff, just what was spot sprayed. They’ll go into pots for a few weeks while I’m killing all the vines.  I have another bed that common Bermuda has taken over.  It’s next on the list.

I took some single ply toilet paper that I bought during the shortage and lined up squash seeds down the middle. I rolled it up length wise and put the wad into recycled yogurt cups and moisten the paper daily until the seeds started sprouting.  I had almost 100% germination. Hopefully I’ll have enough squash to feed an army later.  I’ve planted pickling cucumbers a couple of time around the cages I have protecting new shrubs. I think I’ll stay away from those ten cent packs of seeds from now on as the germination rate seems very low.

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The last of my Hooligans, fifteen year old Blackie is slowing down a lot and almost deaf.  She had bladder stone removal surgery several years ago due to being locked in a crate for two years.  Now she is having trouble holding it especially while sleeping and leaks on herself.  Levi used to bark at Blackie until she got mad and would chase him.   He would bounce in front of her teasing her like he saying “you can’t catch me”. Every once in a while he would be too slow in making a turn and Blackie would cream him. He would be ready to rest, but not Blackie.  He would hide under the tractor or my truck to get away from her.  Then he would grab Patches by the back leg and drag her around the yard until she got mad and bit him. He would run to me to save him. When I shooed the girls off, he would go back and start picking on them again.    I’m constantly yelling Lucy leave her alone, get off of her whenever Blackie fusses, only to have Blackie pick at her again. Now the roles are reversed, Blackie hides under my truck or tractor to get away from Lucy. 

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