Sunday, September 20, 2009

Of Bees, Bats and Hummingbirds

A little sugar and water in a feeder brings hummingbirds to my yard throughout the year.  Various species come and go, and some hang around all year.  Anna's with the bright red head and gorget and  Costa's sporting outrageous purple on the throat are the mainstays.  They are sometimes joined by Rufous, Black-Chinned, Broad-billed, and one very special winter by a Violet-Crowned.  There really shouldn't be any drama.  Just remember to fill the feeder every few days, sit back and enjoy the show, right?  Oh, the Gila woodpeckers like to hang on the feeder to get a free meal, and the tiny Verdins have figured out that some sweetness can be had from this odd-looking flower.  That I don't mind. 

But, last September, a lone bee discovered a nectar source beyond her wildest dreams and raced back to spread the news to the workers.  Soon the troops began arriving at each of the two feeders, one in the front of the house and one on the back patio.  Two hours later, the feeders had disappeard under a buzzing, roiling  mass of insects, drunk on the sweet bounty, climbing all the way inside and even drowing in the liquid.  Needless to say, the hummingbirds took one look and made other plans for their meal.  It was terribly distressing to watch the hummers go away frustrated. 

I tried all kinds of deterrents - moving the feeders, spraying the bees with soapy water and even insecticide, taking the feeders down for days at a time - all to no avail.  Finally, I took them down for the duration, however long that might turn out to be.  During day, that is. 

More drama.  Every fall, the nectar-feeding Lesser Long-Nosed Bats (Leptonycteris curasoae) are making their preparations for the long trip back to Mexico and their winter home.  They, too, have discovered how easy it is to get nectar from a hummingbird feeder rather than looking for night-blooming flowers.  They arrive at my house around 8pm expecting  to find a full feeder.  Being the accomodating host that I am, I want the fuzzy little fellows to be happy.  So I filled the feeders and hung them out for the night, retrieving the empty, sticky thing in the morning before the damn bees arrived. 

By the middle of October, the bats had moved on.  Every two weeks or so I would hang the feeders up again, testing for bees.  It would take the hummers a couple of days to come back.  But it was well into November before the bees were finally gone.  To where, I will never know.

Fast forward to September of 2009.  Almost to the day, one year later, I was so disappointed to see bees hovering around the feeders, a prelude to the onslaught.  How weird is that?  I decided there was no point in fighting those determined little buggers and just took the feeders down for the day, filling and putting them back up for the nighttime arrival of the bats.  I mentioned this aggravation to one of my fellow docents at the Desert Museum and she said, "Spray the feeders with Pam!" She works in a hummingbird banding program and said that all the feeders at the banding sites use this method to keep the bees away, while allowing the birds to feed.  Wow, such a simple solution.  It has worked perfectly.  The bees hovered around for the first few days, but would not land.  Now they don't even bother coming around. 

The bats are happy.  The hummingbirds are happy.  I am happy.  The bees are pissed.  Well, you can't please everyone.


  1. Great little tidbit to know. It does make me wonder, however, about the thought process that made someone think to use Pam in the first place!

  2. Indeed. I always wonder about the first person that decided to eat a crab!

  3. Brilliant! I love these little gardening miracles!


I welcome your comments, but those from Anonymous users, or those including links will be immediately reported as Spam to Blogger and will be deleted. Thanks for your understanding.