Cleaning Hummingbird Feeder

 Cleaning a hummingbird feeder is fairly simple if you know what to do.

Here you will learn how to clean a feeder, when to change the nectar, how to keep bees and wasps away from your feeder and how to make homemade hummingbird nectar. At the bottom of the page you will also find my special instructional video that will also teach you how to hand-feed hummingbirds.

Keeping your hummingbird feeder clean is very import if you want to be successful at attracting and feeding hummingbirds. It’s difficult to attract hummingbirds to a moldy feeder containing fermented nectar.

Keeping the nectar fresh is most important for maintaining the health of the hummingbirds and for keeping your feeder clean. Mold and bacteria growth in the nectar, as well as fermentation caused by yeasts can be harmful to your hummingbirds. To prevent this harmful contamination it will be necessary to change the nectar often and to properly clean the feeder each time you change the nectar.

If the nectar is kept fresh and not allowed to ferment, all you have to do is pour out the old nectar and rinse the feeder out with hot water before you add fresh nectar. Besides rinsing with hot water, The National Audubon Society suggests you should clean your feeder about once a week. The National Audubon Society says this should be done by rinsing the feeder with 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts water. Follow the vinegar wash by rinsing your feeder three times with clear warm water before refilling with fresh  sugar solution.


How to keep the hummingbird food fresh

To keep the nectar in the feeder fresh, simply change the nectar before it goes bad. Heat will cause the nectar to ferment. The temperature of the outside air will determine how long the nectar will stay fresh. The hotter the temperature the quicker the sugar will ferment and need to be changed. Below is a simple chart you can use as a guideline to get an idea of about how long the nectar will last according to outside temperatures.

If the outside temperature stays below 70 degrees, changing your nectar once a week should be enough. Once the temp. climbs above 70 degrees you can use the chart below as a guide to how often you will need to change your nectar to keep it fresh and mold free. This is only a general guide and a visual inspection of your feeder will actually tell you when the nectar needs to be changed. It’s better to change it sooner than to change it too late after the sugar in the nectar has started to ferment.

High temperatures…………Change nectar after

71-75……………………………6 days

76-80……………………………5 days

81-84……………………………4 days

85-88……………………………3 days

89-92……………………………2 days

93+………………………………change daily


Cleaning hummingbird feeders

If the nectar becomes cloudy or has black specks of mold in it, this is a sure sign that the nectar is contaminated and will have to be changed more often. Also, once the nectar has become contaminated in this fashion, you will have to use a mild bleach solution to kill the mold and to sterilize the feeder.

hummingbird feeder brushes
              hummingbird feeder brushes


Bleach solution

To make the mild bleach solution you can add 1/4 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water and soak your feeder for 1 hour. You may find it helpful and necessary to use some hummingbird feeder brushes to help remove any mold from the feeder. After the mold is brushed away and the feeder has soaked for an hour, rinse the feeder thoroughly, several times with clear running water to remove all traces of the bleach so the bleach doesn’t harm the Hummingbirds.

Hopefully you change the nectar often enough so that the nectar never becomes moldy. But even if you do, the feeder still should be cleaned once a month with the mild bleach solution. Cleaning the feeder once a month with this bleach solution will help maintain the cleanliness of your feeder so that it continues to attract hummingbirds and keeps them coming back for more.


Below is a good video that shows how to clean a feeder and it shows some of the feeder brushes that are available to aid in the removal of mold from the feeder.



Choose a hummingbird feeder that is easy to clean

To make the chore of feeder cleaning as easy as possible, you should start with a feeder that is easy to take apart and has easy access to all the internal parts. This will of course make it easy to clean and if it’s easy to clean, you are more likely to keep it clean. The result of a clean feeder is you will have more success at attracting hummingbirds to your feeder. It’s called the “trickle down effect”.

A good feeder will not only be designed to be easy to clean, but it will also have other features that will greatly increase your success at attracting hummingbirds to your feeder. For instance, keeping insects away from your feeder will also help to keep it clean. Ants are especially bad at getting into the nectar where they will drown and decay, which will ruin the nectar. Other insects such as bees and wasps, can physically keep the hummingbirds from feeding. So for best results, it’s a good idea to bee and ant proof your feeder.


How to keep bees and ants away from your hummingbird feeder

The sweet sugar syrup in your feeder will not only attract hummingbirds, it will also attract bees, wasps and ants like a magnet attracts steel. A lot of hummingbird feeders will leak nectar out of the ports onto the feeder and then onto the ground. This will lead ants and other insects right to the feeder. There are basically 2 types of hummingbird feeders, basin/dish feeders and inverted bottle feeders. Inverted bottle feeders have the nectar in a bottle that screws into the base of the feeder. They will get an air space at the top of the bottle as the nectar level recedes. Heat will expand the air in this space and force nectar out of the feeding ports below the bottle. n the basin/dish feeder the nectar is below the feeding ports where expansion can’t force it out. They are leak-proof feeders and are what you should use for best results.


ant moat
                   ant moat

Keep ants out of a hummingbird feeder

The best way to keep ants out of a hummingbird feeder is to use an ant moat. An ant moat is a small container that holds water. The ant moat is placed between the hanger and the feeder. The ants will climb down the feeder hanger until they reach the water in the moat. The ants can’t swim, so that is as far as they can go. The best hummingbird feeders have an ant moat built into the design if the feeder, but you can buy a separate moat to use with your existing feeder. They come in different designs and are made out of several different materials. A red ant moat will also help attract hummingbirds.







Below is a video on how to make your own ant moat




How to Keep bees away from a hummingbird feeder

Keeping bees and wasps away from your feeder is much easier if you have a feeder with built-in be guards of some type. Hummzinger hummingbird feeders have patented “Nectar Guard Tips”.  These are flexible plastic membranes that fit into the bottom of the feeding ports. The hummingbird can stick it’s beak down through the guard tips to feed and when it withdraws it’s beak the guard tips close up and keep bees, wasps and other flying insects from reaching the nectar.

Below is a video that shows hummingbirds feeding at a Hummzinger feeder. Notice at the 2:35 mark that a bee checks out the feeding ports, isn’t able to reach the nectar, and soon leaves. Also notice the built–in ant moat at the base if the hanger rod. And notice the absence of ants on the feeder. The Hummzinger has a lot of other good features that I will mention later.




Here’s an interesting video on how to bee proof a hummingbird feeder using the plastic mesh from an onion sack.




Cleaning a hummingbird feeder and keeping away insects is a whole lot easier if you start with a properly designed feeder.

There are a few features that you want to look for when you want to get the best hummingbird feeder.

* non-leaking feeder so it won’t attract insects

*a red feeder that will attract hummingbirds

* a feeder with a built-in ant moat to keep out ants

*a feeder designed to keep away bees and wasps

*a feeder that is easy to take apart and is easy to clean

a feeder with rain guards to keep rain water from running into the feeder ports and diluting the hummingbird food

*a feeder with perches so the hummingbirds can conserve energy while they feed

To sum it up, the first choice for a hummingbird feeder would a feeder with as many of the above design features as possible.


Here’s a great feeder with all the important features.

A hummingbird feeder that is easy to take apart and gives easy access to the inside of the feeder that  will make cleaning your hummingbird feeder so much easier. It’s a basin type, red, non-leaking feeder with red, raised flowers around the feeding ports to deflect rain water. A perch encircles the whole outside of the feeder and the 4 feeding ports. It has a built-in ant moat to keep away ants and it has the “Nectar Guard Tips ” to keep away bees and wasps. 


My favorite hummingbird feeder is the  Humzinger Ultra, 12oz hummingbird feeder

Hummzinger Ultra hummingbird feeder with ant moat and bee guard tips.
  Hummzinger hummingbird                              feeder

 It’s inexpensive and  has all the features that  makes it well worth the price. For ease of cleaning and for protection from bees, wasps and ants, this feeder can’t be beat.


Make your own homemade hummingbird nectar

Learn how to make your own hummingbird nectar and you’ll have all the knowledge you need to be successful at attracting and feeding hummingbirds.

Homemade hummingbird nectar recipe

*In a sauce pan mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water and stir to dissolve the sugar as you heat the mixture to a boil
*Boil 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.
*Once the nectar mixture is cooled you can fill the feeder

That’s all you use, tap water and ordinary granulated white table sugar. Don’t add any other types of sweeteners and don’t add red food coloring. Food coloring is thought to be harmful to hummingbirds and it isn’t necessary to attract them if you have a red feeder. If your feeder isn’t red you can attach some red ribbons to the feeder or red silk flowers.

Only boil for 2 minutes. If you boil too long you will boil out too much water and change the ratio of sugar to water.  The 1 to 4 ratio of sugar to water closely resembles the nectar that hummingbirds get from flower blossoms.


Here’s a video on how to make hummingbird food

Most people do boil the mixture longer than she says to in the video.




Here’s the video that will teach you how to hand-feed hummingbirds




Here is another technique you can use to hand-feed hummingbirds through a window in your home.


If you would like to watch my other videos on hand-feeding different backyard birds and squirrels, click the link    Hand-feeding backyard birds and squirrels


Now you know how to clean a hummingbird feeder, you know when to change the nectar  and you know how to keep ants and bees away from the feeder. You know how to make your own hummingbird food and you know how to hand-feed hummingbirds. Now you know all you need to know to be sure that you can attract hummingbirds to your feeder and get the most enjoyment possible from feeding them! Enjoy!


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