Hummingbird feeders and bees. What a dilemma. The hummingbirds really do not like to share the feeders with bees. Bees do not like sharing a feeder with hummingbirds. If there are enough bees working together, they will either chase the hummingbirds away or the hummingbirds will say 'why bother?' and take off.
So it sounds like the thing to do is to just get rid of the bees, right? Well, yes and no. Bees are a very important part of our eco system, and right now colonies around the world are dying off without any definitive reason. Mark Twain summed up this problem by stating that if honeybees where to go extinct, the human race would follow in four (4) years.
Ok, so we can't kill off the invading bees. What do you do to get rid of them? There are a couple of things you can do. Let's look at all the options.
First thing to do is to make sure your hummingbird feeder is not leaking. If you live in an area with hot temperatures and have a bottle feeder, the nectar in the bottle can heat up, causing the nectar to expand. When this happens, nectar can leak out of the feeder. Try to use a bowl type feeder, like a HummZinger, if you live in an area where this happens. Also make sure you keep the nectar in the feeder clean and fresh. Bees are more likely to be attracted to a hummingbird feeder with old nectar inside.
Another option is to get a hummingbird feeder with bee guards built in. The hummingbird can reach through to drink nectar, but the bees cannot. The HummZinger feeder has the flower ports covered with a thin membrane that the bees cannot bypass. The nectar is also lower so that the bees are unable to reach the nectar if they got past the membrane. Click on the Feeders section to see more. You might be able to attach a Nectar Guard to your feeder.
Bees are very attracted to the color yellow. Try using a hummingbird feeder that does not have any yellow on the feeder. This might work for a little while; however, bees can smell the nectar and could return in time.
Moving the hummingbird feeder just a few feet away also works really well. The bees usually are not smart enough to find the new location. If this does not work, take the hummingbird feeder down for a couple of days. Put it up again once you notice the bees have stopped coming by to look for it. Bees prefer to drink nectar while basking in sunlight. Try moving the hummingbird feeder to a shady location to see if that helps.
Another trick is to mix a batch of nectar especially for the bees. Make some nectar using three (3) cups of water and one (1) cup of sugar. Pour the nectar in a bowl and place it near the hummingbird feeder. The bees should soon find their bowl of nectar. Every day, move the bowl of nectar a little further and further away from the hummingbird feeder. Keep moving the bowl until the bees are no longer near the feeders. Remember to be careful when refilling the bowl. Ants, wasps, yellow jackets, and other flying stinging insects may also find this newly found magic bowl. Also be thoughtful of children, pets, or other wildlife in the area. You may have to place the bowl in safer locations.
Next approach, try mixing your hummingbird nectar with five (5) cups of water and one (1) cup of sugar instead of the standard 4:1. The hummingbirds won't like it quite as much, but hopefully the bees will not like it as much to the point of going away.
Of course, you can always just give the bees their own feeder. Mix the bee's nectar at three (3) cups of water to one (1) cup of sugar and put it in one feeder. Then mix the regular hummingbirds nectar and put it in a different feeder in a different location.
Someone suggested using a water pistol to get rid of bees. If you have the time, shoot at them though the window screen to annoy them into going away.
Another suggestion was to use a shop-vac to collect about 10-15 bees and then release them far away. However, this is a death sentence for the little bees. If they live through the vacuum, it makes it impossible for the bees to fly back to a colony.
One year, there was this little bee that was very sweet, timid, and smart. Every day at about 10 a.m. he would come by and check out all of the flowers. After about 2 weeks he discovered one of the large feeders. So, before checking out the flowers, he would hang upside-down under the hummingbird feeder and wait until the hummingbirds went away. As soon as the coast was clear, he would crawl up, grab a sip of nectar, and crawl back down before he was caught. One day, a hummingbird was taking her time getting some nectar. The little bee thought the coast was clear and climbed up to the flower right next to the hummingbird. The hummingbird was startled at first, and then she got mad. She flew toward the little bee, which flew off the feeder. She chased the little bee all around the feeder with her mouth open wide (really wide) to try to bit that thieving little bee. The bee tried to keep far away from the hummingbird, while still trying to find a chance to get a drink. Around and around they flew. Eventually the little bee gave up and flew off. He never did go back to that feeder.
Don't put any oils, Vicks Vapor Rub, Pam Cooking Spray, Duct Tape, Off, Skin-so-soft, or Vaseline on your hummingbird feeder. These may work slightly. However, hummingbirds have a tendency to fly around frantically and bump into feeders quite often. If there is oily stuff or duct tape on the feeder, it can get into the feathers. The hummingbirds will have a hard time getting it off and it's not all that good for them. Plus, most of these items will melt in the heat making goo run all over the place. Please don't use these items.
Do not use any form of insecticides on bees. We are trying to keep these critters alive, and the insecticides are just plain bad for hummingbirds.