Are hummingbirds afraid of bees?

Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world, some may even say that hummingbirds are just bees with feathers. There was even a time when bees were considered birds [1] in Western Europe. But in recent years, more hobbyist gardeners are feeding hummingbirds and have grown concerned if hummingbirds are afraid of bees.

Hummingbirds are not generally afraid of bees, but they are competitors when it comes to food. Though these birds also include small insects in their diet, nectars are also one of their primary food sources. However, fending against the stinging bees can be exhausting for the hummingbirds, so they choose to avoid places with swarms of bees.

If you’re concerned with these tiny birds, then let’s dive in to learn more about hummingbirds and bees.

What is the deal between hummingbirds and bees?

If you’re lucky to be living in the lowland states of the Western US, there may be a chance that you have seen a hummingbird. They are small birds, about the size of your fingers or even smaller. They primarily feed on small insects but also love the sweet-tasting nectar from flowers.

But there are other nectar-loving creatures that challenge hummingbirds to freely drink from flowers – the bees (and sometimes also wasps).

Bees, as we learned in school, also have a diet of nectar coming from flowers. So, the two flying, nectar-eating creatures of hummingbirds and bees can have a competition for their food.

When that happens, the hummingbird usually avoids these places altogether to avoid getting stung or spending too much energy fending off their rival[7].

Are hummingbirds afraid of bees?

If we look back at the relationship between these two creatures, we can tell that hummingbirds are much larger than bees – unless they are bee hummingbirds (which are only as large as bumblebees).

So, why do hummingbirds avoid bees instead of confronting the insects when they try to pick a spot they want to eat?

The main reason is how they eat and socialize. Bees, like honeybees and bumblebees, are social insects and usually collect nectars in groups, while hummingbirds often eat alone. So, if worse comes to worst and bees become aggressive, they will have the advantage of stings and sheer numbers.

The good thing is hummingbirds don’t solely rely on nectar for food. They can also feed from smaller insects that they can find.

Will hummingbirds feed if bees are around?

If you’re one of the gardeners or hobbyists who love giving these tiny birds some sweet treat through hummingbird feeders, then there is a significant probability that bees will also be attracted to it, which will cause the birds to avoid your feeder.

Out of the 20,000 bee species in the world, around 4,000[2] are native to the United States. And the majority of them are also nectar-eaters, so they are natural rivals of hummingbirds for their food.

So if a swarm of bees chooses to occupy some place like your hummingbird feeder, you can expect hummingbirds to try to avoid that area. If your goal is to feed hummingbirds, you must learn a few tips and tricks to fending off unwelcome guests.

How can I keep bees and other insects away from the hummingbird feeders?

The first thing you must remember is to avoid using insecticides[4] near your hummingbird feeders that are harmful to bees. Bees are not your enemies. They are endangered natural pollinators that many plants and trees need to bear fruit. So you need to implement non-toxic and natural interventions like the following.

1. Use saucer-type feeders.

Hummingbirds drink nectar using their very long tongues coming out of their similarly long beaks[6], so using a saucer-type feeder gives them an advantage over bees and wasps when drinking their artificial nectar.

Bees and wasps don’t have the same mechanism that hummingbirds have, so they will not be able to reach the sugar water even if they try.

2. Use red feeders.

Hummingbirds are most attracted to red and yellow colors[8]. At the same time, bees are more attracted to the blues, yellows, and oranges. So by using red-colored feeders, you prioritize the hummingbird’s preference and discourage bees from going to the sugar water.

3. Use feeders with built-in ant moats

Think of your hummingbird feeders as a guarded castle with a moat to avoid land-based intruders, like ants. This 3-inch deep moat will separate the ants from going to the sugar water that you prepared for the tiny birds.

4. Plant a variety of flowers to attract bees.

By planting other varieties of flowers that are more dedicated to the bees, you are accommodating the endangered bees. This is a win-win situation for you since your flowers and fruit trees will be naturally pollinated.

Are hummingbirds afraid of wasps?

Aside from bees, wasps are also competitors of hummingbirds when it comes to the sugary goods of nectar[3], so it is only natural for them to also be present in flowery fields or your hummingbird feeder.

Similar to the case of bees, wasps are also social insects, and many species are aggressive and present a danger to the birds. So hummingbirds know how to steer clear of these dangerous insects and even avoid their territory.

What type of insects do hummingbirds eat?

We now know that hummingbirds eat both nectars and small insects. But they do not include the larger, social, and more aggressive insects like bees and wasps in their diet.

Aside from the sweet nectar, hummingbirds also prefer eating small insects that include a variety of ants, aphids, fruit flies, beetles, and mosquitoes[5].

So the hummingbirds you choose to feed will also help you naturally eliminate the pests in your garden[9].


Bees are the hummingbird’s natural rival to the nectar which has encouraged many gardeners to place hummingbird-friendly feeders. Though hummingbirds are not aggressive against bees and wasps, they would keep away from places they occupy to avoid wasting energy fighting them.


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