I love having birds in my garden, so I always hang a selection of bird feeders, each aimed at attracting a specific type or group of birds. The staple feeder of any garden is of course the hummingbird feeder. Who can resist those little suckers? They are gorgeous jewels that zoom around, feed, fight each other over food and make a ton of (non-annoying) racket.
What is annoying is the stupid ants have decided the hummingbird feeder is also their feeder. I honestly wouldn’t mind it- ants do serve a purpose in the garden- but their presence on the feeder often repels the hummingbirds, especially if they are of the really pheromone-y variety that stink to high heaven.
The best natural solution I’ve found for this problem is to use an hummingbird feeder ant moat (also known as an ant guard) that hangs between the feeder and whatever it’s hanging from to deter the ants from going after the sugar water in the feeder. Ants will not attempt to cross the water in the ant guard because they can’t swim and can drown in even a drop of water if they get caught up in it.
I could just buy an ant guard since there are plenty of them on the market, but almost all of them are plastic (which doesn’t last long outdoors) and, frankly, pretty ugly. I have seen some pretty ceramic ones for sale as of late, but they are pretty pricey. So I decided to make some of my own and try to come up with something eye-catching and save myself a few bucks to boot.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 – 1 1/2″ terracotta flower pot (find them at craft stores)
- 2 – 2 1/2″ x 3/16″ eye screws
- 1 – 3/16″ coupling nut
- 2 – 3/16″ nuts
- waterproof silicone sealant
Screw one of the nuts all the way down on one of the eye bolts:
Insert bolt through the bottom of the pot:
Put a dab of silicone around the bolt on the inside of the pot, then screw down the other bolt on top of it, holding the bottom bolt firm and forming a watertight seal:
Screw the connecting bolt halfway onto the eye bolt in the pot, then screw the other eye bolt onto the other side:
Allow silicone to dry for 24 hours.
Attach ant guard to wherever you hang your hummingbird feeder, fill pot with water, and hang your hummingbird feeder from it.
Feel free to paint this if you like… I left mine au naturel for now, but I might paint it later. Also, feel free to experiment with different sized pots and hardware. I like the look of the tiny pots, but in summertime I have to refill them with water almost daily. A bigger pot would not have to be filled as often.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and it helps keep the hummers in your garden happy! 😉
Michelle @ The Painted Hinge says
You betcha! 🙂
You are SO creative!!! Thank you for a pretty alternative!!!
Michelle @ The Painted Hinge says
You’re welcome Nana! 🙂
Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures says
What a perfectly charming solution! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures
Michelle @ The Painted Hinge says
Thank you Marci! 🙂 Before I did this, I tried everything short of buying the plastic ant moats, so I’m glad it worked so well, and looks good while doing it. 🙂
Stephanie J. says
Thanks so much Stephanie! 🙂
Are the little clay pots waterproof? Seems to me the water would evaporate through the sides of the pot as well as the top. Do you think spray painting them would help them to retain water better? I have used a commercial ant trap previously and have floated Ivory dish soap on top of the water. It really cuts down on the evaporation. Love your idea and plan to try it soon.
They are waterproof to a point… the clay pot absorbs some of the water, which holds the rest of the water in. I’ve since painted the pots (haven’t gotten around to post the pics yet) and they do hold the water better and don’t dry out as fast. Using dish soap in place of water is an awesome idea! 🙂
Happy you loved my idea and thanks for sharing the dish soap tip!
You can use a clay pot sealer, such as Thompsons Water Seal. If you are thinking of painting the pot, its good to also seal it first. The paint you apply will last longer.
I paint them, but turn them upside down & use Vaseline inside the pot. I was afraid of mosquitoes even changing their feeder every few days. Ants don’t go over the vasiline. Just wash & reapply when needed.
Vaseline is a bad idea. If the crazy birds happen to get some on them or try to eat some it will be bad for them. Water is the best. Refill every couple days or so. The birds might even want a drink of the pure water. I use distilled but I’d use rain water if I collected it. If mosquitoes are terrible then I’d empty it and replace with fresh water more often.
Connie S. says
I am so excited to make these for my husband for Father’s day. He has feeders and the ants are a problem. Thank you for sharing.
You’re welcome Connie! 🙂 Your husband will love them!
Awesome! A couple of my hummingbird feeders have built in ant Moats on top. The chickadees love to drink from them, so maybe a little larger pot would attract them also!
Nashville Nana says
Maybe try making it with the saucer for the terra-cotta pots? You should be able to use a fairly big one that the bird will love drinking out of but still stop the ants?
The feeder itself is beautiful! Where can I get one like it? Thanks!
Hi Matt! I got it at Amazon: http://amzn.to/2nkXgi6
I made one similar to yours with a spray paint can cover using a fishing swivel. The key to your water problem is to use cooking oil of your choice. It lasts all summer.
Thanks for the tip Paul! I’m definitely going to try that! 🙂
Oh my gosh!!! This is perfect!!! Thanks!
You’re very welcome Paulette! 🙂
Angela Woywod says
Water is the safest substance to use in an ant moat. Dish soap and oil could harm the birds that are drinking from the moat.
Thanks for the info Angela! Definitely want to keep my hummers safe and healthy! 🙂
What an amazingly awesome idea! I love the natural look of the clay pot with the feeder in my garden!!!
Thanks so much! 🙂
Vaseline on the hanger also works . . ants won’t go on the vaseline
But its bad for birds! – stick to the water.
What a fantastic idea. After reading some of the comments saying the hummingbirds drink from attached pieces. I thought maybe the saucers for the clay pots might be an idea. They would probably need to be filled with water everyday. But such a simple thing for watching the beautiful birds. Thanks for sharing your wonderful ideas.
Hi Stephanie! I have tried some of the other suggestions that have been shared here, but I feel better about just using water and refilling it often, both for the health of the hummingbirds and to keep the feeders and our deck clean. I did try using vegetable oil once and it worked well for ant control, but when it rained the oil would overflow and spill all over the hummingbird feeders and our deck and made quite a mess. It’s just plain ol’ water for me for now on! 🙂
I’ve done this but used a can (Delmonte Green Beans or San Marco Pealed Tomatoes). I’ve either removed the label and spray painted the outside of the can red to help attract hummers or left the label and sprayed it with a sealant so it lasts through the season. Just drill a whole in the bottom and attach the bolt, etc. the same as with your example. I’ve only used water as birds do drink from it. Liked how the label looked, kind of farm chic.
Thanks for sharing this with us LB! What a great idea to use a can and finding a way to preserve the label on it! Very cool!
I think if you sprayed the inside or outside (or both) of the clay pot, which as a gardener, I really like the look, it would keep the water in a little longer.
Just a thought.
Thanks for sharing your wonderful tip Judith! 🙂
Love this, going to make this with my feeders. I have been putting baby powder on the top of mine and the ants won’t cross it. Have had lots of problems with ants where we lived but not since since using the powder. My problem also was bees, haven’t solved that one yet.
Thank you Cindy! 🙂 We’ve had the bee problem too, and I haven’t figured out how to keep them out either.
Monica Westerfield says
Thank you so much for this post. I am extremely tired of having to replace the water in my feeders.
Ron in Ohio says
Not a “Bee problem” – Due to mostly pesticides, we have not seen a Honey Bee all Summer. And we are in the middle of a prime Apple and Peach growing region.
What we HAD around our Hummingbird feeders were various Wasps and Yellow Jackets. No more! I cut out a fine mesh, store, onion bag and placed it between the nectar reservoir and the beak openings. The pesky Wasp types become quickly discouraged and go away leaving the Hummingbird’s visits alone. It deters all but the smallest Ants too. I don’t remember where I found this idea on the Internet to give attribution to. It works!
I’m still gonna’ build a few of these Ant Moats though. For nothing else but to give water to our Chickadees and maybe they’ll the little drowned ants too. I will use a few of the plastic Terracotta look-alike’s instead to lessen the water loss.
Thanks for the info Ron! We have yellow jackets here too (a.k.a. arseholes with wings) and tips to discourage them are always welcome 🙂
Patti Luzzo says
Thanks, on my things to do today list. And sharing with my sis.
Flora Baker says
I made your ant moat. I’m going to paint mine at a later date also. I’m sure it’s going to work great. I’m sick of the ants. They probably hate me because I’ve killed some of their family. Anyway thank you so much for the idea. Happy Humming Birding.
Great idea, found the screw eye bolts, and the nuts but the connector is a no show please help, any ideas
Mary G says
I bought some yesterday at Home Depot 3/16 they are in a small bag in the screw and bolt section
I just bought regular lag bolts at Menards. They’re all in one. 99cents. And they come in all sizes.
I’m going to make a couple of these moats for my Hummingbird feeders. I am so tired of the ants and this is such a cute idea!! I’ll let you know how they turn out!
The hole on my pot is smaller than the eye screws you said to get. Did you enlarge the hole in the bottom, and if so, how?
Susan Gale says
I inverted mine and put Vaseline on the inside of the pot to detract the ants. Works great!
Neat… except many ants are able to walk on water. .
Mix a little bit of iquid dish soap with the moat water. This will break up the water’s surface tension and prevent the ants from raising the feeder.
Awesome tip! Thanks Eric!