Here at Wishetwurra Farm, we’re fond of “our” hummingbirds.
Every spring, we keep track of the northward migration, at http://www.hummingbirds.net , and when the birds are getting near, we get out the feeders, make a batch of sugar syrup, and hang the feeders out, to welcome the weary flyers.
Another thing we do to make the birds welcome is to be sure there’s a healthy population of fruit flies in the compost tumbler outside. Fruit flies are a favored source of protein for baby hummingbirds, so by having the flies around, we’re helping the nest generation along.
If you want a good read, there’s a fine book, “Birdology”, by Sy Montgomery. Her chapter on hummingbirds is delightful. The book should be available at your local bookstore, library, or online.
A downside of our syrup feeders is that they have always been invaded by ants. Different species of ants stake out different feeders, on different sides of the house. On the north side, thousands of those little black “sugar ants” make a claim. On the south side, big black ants, probably carpenter ants, are the hegemons. They get in the feeders by the hundreds, where many of them eventually drown. They’re a nuisance.
It came to me that the myrmidons might be reluctant to cross water to get to their food supply.
It was time to make a moat, to stave off the hungry hordes.
I scrounged some small, 8 ounce yogurt cups from the trash, cleaned them, and drilled holes in the center bottom of each cup. The holes were sized to slip firmly onto the brass shaft that the feeders are suspended from. Then globs of five-minute epoxy were put where the shaft went through the cup, both inside and out. Caulking compound would probably work just fine.
Once the epoxy was set, the feeders were reassembled and refilled. The cups were filled half-full of water, and a dash of dish detergent added to the “moat”.
Here’s a close-up of the base of the cup. You can see the epoxy seal.
In the last few weeks, since the moats were installed, the ant invasion has ended. There has been exactly one ant on just one of the feeders. I think it fell on the feeder accidentally, since it was going around and around in circles, trying to find a way off.