Think Twice Before Using Vaseline To Keep Ants Out Of Your Hummingbird Feeder

Ants are intelligent and will sniff out food wherever it's available. Not only will they make a beeline for your kitchen counter, but they'll also invade any outdoor feeders. That's because the feeders are filled with sugary treats, and if you've ever seen a melted Popsicle on the pavement, you know ants will swarm it. That's because they use sugar as an energy source, so they beeline toward anything sweet. This can be a nuisance since they can contaminate the feeder, discouraging the birds from returning. Because of that, people use natural remedies to keep the pests away, such as slathering the feeder with Vaseline. However, you will want to stay away from that solution. 

Vaseline can do more harm than good. If your goal is to keep hummingbirds in your yard, this will create the opposite effect. That's because — while natural — Vaseline can harm the birds. Not only will it injure some of your feathery friends, but it will also teach them that your yard is dangerous, possibly keeping them away for good.

Why you shouldn't use Vaseline, and what to use instead

While Vaseline will make the feeder slippery, making it impossible for ants to cross it to get to the food source, it can also majorly harm the hummingbirds. "Please do not use any greases to prevent ants from climbing onto hummingbird feeders!" ornithologist Zach Hutchinson told Homes & Gardens. "If this grease or oil gets onto the hummingbirds, it can be deadly." The petroleum jelly might get on their feathers, and when it does, it will throw off their thermoregulation. For example, hummingbirds go into a type of hibernation state at night to conserve energy, which involves drastically lowering their body temperature. They can't do that if slicked with jelly, and they can end up dying. Plus, without thermoregulation, they can also overheat or freeze — they will no longer be able to keep their body at a stable temperature.

Instead, try hanging the feeder from a tree, far away from any ant colonies or structures they could climb. This can be especially helpful if your feeder used to be on a pole, since ants can easily climb those. You can also try liberally sprinkling cinnamon on the feeder, as this is a natural ant deterrent and is safe for hummingbirds. Just make sure you don't put it in the food so as not to contaminate the nectar.