Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hummers and hornets

I've had my hummingbird feeder up all summer, but it's only recently that the hummers have been actively using it. (Presumably there were plenty of wild flowers prior to this to provide for their needs.)

The trouble is, wasps and hornets (yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets) have discovered the feeder as well -- and they were aggressive and possessive about it. Frequently the hummers would hover nearby and decide it wasn't worth fighting the stinging critters.

Short of purchasing a different kind of feeder with a bee-guard, I wondered what I could do to keep the hornets away. A little bit of internet research suggested swabbing the outside of the nectar holes with petroleum jelly on a Q-tip.

I smeared the "flowers" on the feeding, taking care to leave the opening itself clear.

It worked like a charm. For a couple of hours, the yellow-jackets tried in vain to land and drink, but they didn't want to sully their feet.

The bald-faced hornets didn't like it either.

After a few hours the hornets and wasps left the feeder alone. The hummingbirds were able to relax and enjoy their food without competing. (Except with each other.)

Meanwhile Don discovered a new feature on my camera called a "burst," in which the camera will take rapid-fire photos in fast succession (i.e. 10 per second) of a particular object. I never knew my camera had this option and decided to try it with the hummers. It's a fun tool, especially for a fast-moving target! These photos were taken through a screened window so they're not the clearest, but it was fun to experiment. Notice how the hummingbird stretches her neck upward as she hears the shutter of the camera.

Clearly this is a feature on my camera with which I'll have to play around some more. And without the wasps and hornets, the hummingbirds will cooperate.


  1. That's a way fun feature, isn't it? I've only used it a few times, but seeing this post makes me resolved to get better at it, since most of what I shoot are critters and people in the act of playing music.
    Do your some of your hummers stay year round? Ours do. It's a real joy come winter. We make sure there's always a feeder thawed and ready.

    A. McSp

  2. It is good to know that the petroleum jelly will deflect hornets. I have used it in the past on the hanging wire to keep ants from getting in the feeder. I have also had good results using a solid fat (Crisco) instead of petroleum jelly.

  3. Your pictures are really great. Thanks for the tip about the petroleum jelly.

  4. You are the second person this week to post about hummingbirds....I love them. Mine and Kelly's brother has a bluegrass/newgrass band called KrippleKrunk. This week he posted a video of hummingbirds fluttering and flying in rhythm to one of their tunes on CD. It was amazing. You can see the video here: if you're interested. great music and fun to watch hummingbirds. Or go to youtube and search for kripple krunk hummingbirds Carole from King, NC sister to kelly in K'ville

  5. Oh, I'll have to remember that trick. I broke down and got feeders that are far less likely to feed stinging insects, and I will say that they're working. I've seen a few yellow jackets buzzing it, but none feeding. But it would be nice to use my regular feeder TOO.....

    And yup, love that camera feature, its netted me some awesome photos!

  6. the petroleum jelly works! we here in the Carolinas have more than our share of the obnoxious critters...thank you, Sam