How to keep wasps out of your nectar feeder

Hummingbird

I have found the ultimate solution for keeping wasps out of nectar feeders: Use plants to attract hummingbirds instead of nectar feeders. I don’t even have to wash them!

I ran a wild bird feeding store for eight years, and I’m ready for just about any bird feeding question. My knowledge of seeds and suets is vast. I know which hummingbird feeders will drip and which are easiest to clean. As the popularity of native plants spread, I’d get many customers asking for advice. I’ve spent most of my adult life in apartments with some opportunity for gardening, but I didn’t have much personal experience with native gardening. I asked friends who are avid gardeners of native plants for advice, and my standard answer for customers became: cardinal flower and salvia.

Suddenly, this year I found myself living in a house with a yard and freedom to attract all the birds I want. I enjoy hummingbirds, but I dislike hummingbird feeders, or at least maintaining them. I’ve certainly benefited from other people cleaning them, but the hassle of mixing nectar and keeping the feeders clean is just too time consuming for my lifestyle.

So, when I started gardening in my new home, I got myself the two things that I had recited over and over to customers regarding hummingbirds, and I put cardinal flower in the ground and salvia in my container garden on the patio. They did not disappoint! I had hummingbirds throughout the day and often they would feed on the patio flowers while I sat in a chair nearby. Wasps were never an issue and I did no cleaning. The cardinal flower was especially pleasing with its brilliant red flowers that bloomed nonstop from the end of July and well into September. As I type this up on Sept. 10, I still have some flowers left on the plants for hummingbirds moving through on migration.

If you want to get a head start on hummingbird plants now, find a nursery that sells native plants and look for cardinal flower—it’s a biennial. The first year it throws up leaves and sets roots, the second year it sends up its lovely flowers. I found a great deal on first year cardinal flowers and have them in the ground for next summer. I also found a native plant dealer on Craigslist this past spring, and that’s how I was able to get blooms for the summer.

Salvias come in many different forms and colors. I had the best luck in my container garden with Salvia splendors aka scarlet sage. Salvias are staples in garden centers and mine were an impulse by at a garden center in a grocery store parking lot while I was out on a bike ride. There are many nectar-rich plants you can use, but these two are guarantees and if I can successfully grow them, anyone can. You can see a short video of a female ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on my cardinal flowers. She has a patch of pollen on her head from feeding on other flowers.

Categories: Sharon Stiteler

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