Why You Should Tie A Red Ribbon Around Your Hummingbird Feeder

Hummingbirds are among the most engaging garden visitors to watch and are attracted to yards by flowers or hummingbird feeders. Of course, these feeders also attract bees and other insects that enjoy sugary drinks, leading to a variety of hacks and suggestions for attracting hummingbirds while repelling bees. One of those hacks includes tying red ribbons to your feeder. Some hummingbird lovers claim that the ribbon flying in the wind helps detract bees, but regardless, the red color will attract hummingbirds to a feeder if it isn't already painted red.

Hummingbirds are a joy to watch in the garden, with their beautiful iridescent feathers and almost impossibly fast wings. Despite being the smallest birds, they're surprisingly aggressive and have a variety of fascinating behaviors to observe. Hummingbirds are native to the Americas and can be seen throughout the United States year-round or during their breeding season. Hummingbirds' extremely fast metabolism means they need to eat almost constantly, making them frequent guests at feeders and flowers. Hummingbirds aren't just beautiful in gardens, however. They're also helpful, as they eat insects like mosquitoes, gnats, and spotted wing drosophila.

How to attract hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are attracted to flowers with tubular or trumpet shapes and are particularly attracted to the color red. While most hummingbird feeders are already red, adding red to a plain-colored feeder will help birds find it more easily. The University of California Cooperative Extension suggests using red ribbons or even red fake flowers.  

Given the hummingbird's love of red, you might assume that filling your hummingbird feeder with a red-colored solution would be the best way to attract the little birds, but Penn State Extension advises against this. They instead suggest using a simple syrup of 1 part sugar dissolved in 4 parts boiling water. Be sure to clean your feeder regularly and replace the food as needed. If hummingbirds are still steering clear of your yard, make your garden a welcoming and serene habitat for them. Place the feeder near trees and places where the birds can hide. Hummingbirds often like to guard their feeders, so providing some perches nearby will encourage the little birds to stay close. 

How to keep bees away from your feeder

It's sometimes suggested that using red on hummingbird feeders will prevent bees from noticing them. While it's true that bees can't see the color red and generally favor yellow flowers, this doesn't mean they won't find your hummingbird feeder. Even though red probably appears dark gray to bees, they are remarkably good at finding nectar regardless of the color it is near.

Alabama A&M and Auburn University Extension recommends avoiding hummingbird feeders with yellow on them as the color can attract bees. While avoiding certain colors may help deter bees somewhat, the best way to keep bees from your feeder is to make it inaccessible for them. Hummingbirds have significantly longer tongues than bees, so buying or building a feeder with long, narrow tubes for accessing the nectar will allow hummingbirds to continue feeding while deterring bees. Be sure to use a dripless feeder so that bees and ants can't lick the sugar from the outside.