Grit Blogs > Outside My Window

Hummer Summer

Sheila S. Hudson head shotWhen we returned from our adventure in the Everglades, the first hummer of the season greeted me as the tiny avian helicopter swooped past the patio glass doors.  I put out the first hummingbird feeder with trepidation of last year’s hummer summer.  For those involved, this innocent act might be perceived as a declaration of war.

As always last year’s nectar was a dinner invitation to the hummers we fed from year to year.  And that invitation was accepted but not by the guests we intended.

In less than an hour, my pear shaped feeder swarmed with armies of black ants.  Their voracious appetites were second only to their territorial fierceness. An entire battalion stationed themselves at the base of the feeder and made their presence known. Not certain what to do, I pulled out books and finally Googled to find the answer.

While contemplating my ant problem, the bees attacked.  I was waiting for the red-jeweled avian to feast at my red festooned feeder.  The tiny green male made a valiant effort.  He bobbed and weaved, retreated and managed to spear an oncoming yellow jacket with his maneuvers.  Alas, the yellow jackets and black Army ants prevailed, and with helicopter speed, he zipped into the unknown. 

War was on.  I determined to save face and refused humiliation by an insect army.  Much to my husband’s dismay, I plunked down $30 plus tax for a hummingbird feeder complete with an ant moat.  According to the side panel, ants can’t cross the moat filled with water and feed on the hummingbird elixir.

It is plain that whoever invented this expensive gizmo hadn’t met my Robo ants.  Not only can they swim, but the gigantic carpenter ants among them merely stepped across the moat.  When I complained to the manufacturer, customer service recommended filling the moat with soap bubbles.  Back to the nature store, where after spending another $20 I floated my hummingbird feeder on a sea of non-toxic soap bubbles. 

“Just let them top that!” I sneered.  The next time I glanced at the feeder, the ant engineers had constructed an oak leaf bridge for their horde to stroll across.  One of the soldier ants floated across on a dead comrade.  And still the black menace gorges sweet nectar meant for my hummers.  As a last resort, I took down the feeder hoping that the ant pests would torment someone else. That was the first skirmish.

I waited a week before hanging the hummingbird feeder for the second time. The ants had given up getting anymore nectar from me and moved on.  However, a local squirrel adopted us and made it his personal quest to hang upside down and rob the wild bird food.  Using the hummer feeder as a trapeze, he managed to spill most of the sugar water in his aerialist attempts.  But nevertheless glutted himself on birdseed, corn, and peanuts while washing it down with any remaining liquid in the  hummingbird feeder.

I figured if my hummers happened to return, the bionic squirrel would send them straight to therapy.  All the while, the slap happy rodent has managed to chase off all the cardinals, chickadees, and blue jays.

I moved the feeders higher then lower.  I rotated them. I greased the chain with shortening.  I hung shiny aluminum pie pans and even used noisemakers. No luck.  The Incredible Stanley, as I now called him, was messing with me. For the entire summer, no hummer dined at my feeder and no cardinal perched on the birdhouse.

I reflected on the past months. Spring was spent fighting ants of all varieties: black, red, and carpenter.   After the Ant War came the Intrepid Stanley who raided the bird feeder regularly.  I got so used to him, my husband often photographed Stanley upside down, stretching between the feeders, and once inside a birdhouse. 

One day I noticed that Stanley had mysteriously disappeared.  It was then I spied a red tail hawk as he swooped down over our patio. I feared for Stanley, a weird attachment I admit.

Once again my patio is quiet.  I actually miss the Ant Wars,  being buzzed, and Stanley the daredevil who finally left after the hawk scare plus losing a skirmish with a raccoon.  Now only the hawk reigns supreme.  My own little wild kingdom.  That’s cool as long as there’s no skunks.