Keeping the Ants Out of the Hummingbird Feeder

We have a little community of Black Chinned and Rufus Hummingbirds in our backyard.  After work, Frank and I like to sit under the shade of the elm trees and watch them fight over the feeder.  Recently, a large adult male moved into the neighborhood.  He sits on the electric cable above us, guarding the nectar against the other hummers who might try to eat there too.

When we set up the feeder at the beginning of the summer we had a huge ant problem.  Hundreds of ants would climb up the post and over the hanger and down into the feeder, where they would drown in the sugar water.  The birds turned up their beaks and refused to drink there and told their friends that we were not keeping up the sugar bar.  Then they attempted to drink from our red patio umbrella.

Frank tried spraying ant killer on the pole.  Not only did this not work, but it put pesticide on the buffalo grass we have growing there, disrupting whatever might be living down there minding its own business.

So, I checked google who recommended a water trap for ants.  A quick stop at amazon.com and a little red cup on a hook arrived a few days later.  We hung it from the hook and hung the feeder from the loop on the bottom, filled the cup with water and waited.

We were not disappointed.  The ants climbed up and over and down until they reached the water.  The ant super highway screeched to a stop.  The feeder has remained ant-free ever since.  The birds are back to fighting amongst themselves over the feeder and we get hours of entertainment.

There are several versions of ant traps for hummingbird feeders.  Some, like ours, use a cup of water as a deterrent.  There’s one that is just a copper wire but I’m not really sure how it works.  Here’s the affiliate like to the one that we have (I get a small commission from your purchase, thank you).

Hummingbirds are one of my favorite parts of summer.   Post your hummingbird pictures in the comments!

5 Reasons To Create a Certified Wildlife Habitat in Your Garden

We live in downtown Albuquerque, not far from the Rio Grande Bosque State Park.  In about 15 minutes I can walk to a beautiful riparian habitat filled with egrets, herons, song birds, porcupines, beavers and muskrats.  While we can’t get the fabulous water birds in our yard, we can create a wildlife habitat at home that brings in songbirds, lizards and other wild things.

I can practically see your eyebrows raising as you read this.  Why on earth would we want to do that?  Doesn’t wildlife = cat eating coyotes and smelly skunks?  How does this benefit a city dweller?  We’ll start with the five most obvious ways

  1. Year Round Beauty:  a backyard wildlife habitat has a wide range color and texture that changes throughout the year.

2.    Low Maintenance:  If you choose native plants or non-natives that are appropriate to your location, you’ll spend less time watering, mowing, and taking care of it in general

3.  Natural Pest Control: A healthy eco-system isn’t over run by bugs bent on ravaging     your veggies.  The whole circle of life is happening right there in the garden without any interference on your part

4.  Free entertainment:  Watching the hummingbirds battle it out over the feeder like tiny fighter jets is way better than any war movie

5. Helps Protect Our Native Birds and Other Wildlife:  Urban development is happening at ever increasing speed, often with little thought of its effects on the non-human world.  We can help to mitigate some of the damage we cause by using native plants and taking care of our winged and wild neighbors.

To create this little urban oasis, you need 4 things:

Food: put out a bird feeder or plant sunflowers.

Cover: anyplace where critters can hide from predators is good.  We have a butterfly bush, and a huge rosemary where sparrows like to hide.

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Butterfly Bush

Water:  a bird bath or a fountain. Bees and lizards will appreciate it too.  You might also be visited by thirsty mammals.

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Our birdbath under the Desert Willow. The rocks are there so that the bees have a place to land and get a drink.

Places to raise young:  trees or shrubs for nesting, bat boxes, bird houses etc.  Often, the cover and food source will also serve as the place to raise babies.

It doesn’t take much by way of effort or resources.  You may already be doing these things in your garden without any special recognition.  If you really love this process and want to tell the world what you are doing, you can register your backyard habitat with the National Wildlife Federation for $25 and they’ll send you a sign to put in your yard.  This donation will help them in their work to protect wildlife and habitat, advocate for the environment and confront climate change and make you look super-green to your neighbors.

Hi!

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Prickly Pear after the rain

Hey, I forgot to tell you all why I’m here!

Are you interested in growing your own food and flowers?  Do you have a particularly difficult gardening situation?  Are you interested in learning more about plants, bugs, and how to take care of what you’ve got with the resources at hand?

Me too!

Gardening in the high desert is not for the faint of heart.  We have 30 degree temperature swings daily, rock hard, alkaline soil, and often go long stretches without rain.  On the bright side, we get 280 days of sunshine per year and have a blissful 6 months between frosts.

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Hedgehog Cactus

We have a lot of the same problems here that gardeners around the world deal with: how to choose plants that are right for your garden, how to take care of plants once they are started, and what to do with all the beautiful produce when it’s ready to pick and how to deal with pests.  We’re learning something all the time about the best way to use water in our garden, how to prune our apple trees, and what to do about squash bugs (I think the answer to that is bourbon. It doesn’t kill the squash bugs but it can ease the pain of watching all your pampered squash and cucumbers withering away).

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mmm… cherry tomatoes

I also love to see what is going on in other people’s gardens including botanical gardens and public spaces.  The trend towards using native plants in landscapes rather than European imports in a climate that just won’t support them gives us a sense of place.  We can have our romantic cottage garden but need to use plants that will survive in our unique biome.

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Albuquerque Botanic Garden

I hope we can make our journey together.  If you live in the arid west or in a similar climate, I think you’ll find plenty of useful information.  If you live elsewhere, not everything will apply to your situation but I think you’ll still find some pearls to take to your garden.

Thanks for coming!