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My wife recently hung a couple of hummingbird feeders at our house. They have proven popular with the local hummingbirds, and she ends up refilling them almost daily.

One day, however, she found that the hummingbirds were staying away. It turns out that a group of ants had found their way up the side of the house and were all over, and in, one of the feeders. This deterred the birds, which in turn upset my wife.

After some research, I found that the best way to keep the ants away was with an ant moat. I looked up some commercial offerings, and none of them looked ideal to me, nor were they available locally, so I came up with my own design, based on parts you can easily find at any hardware store. The whole thing can be constructed easily in less than 5-10 minutes.

Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools

You will need the following materials:

* A plastic bowl with a flat bottom. It should have a depth of at least 1.5 inches. I'm using a KALAS bowl from Ikea

* 5/16-18 x 2" eye bolt

* 5/16-18 x 3" J bolt

* 5/16-18 threaded rod coupling nut

* 2 5/16" washers

* Plumber's putty, silicone sealant, or 2 rubber washers. I used plumber's putty

If your bolts do not come with nuts, you will also need 2 5/16-18 nuts.

You will need the following tools:

* 1/2" wrench

* Drill

* 5/16" drill bit

It may seem that the use of 5/16" hardware is overkill for the application, but I chose it for the extra weight. The moat holds up well even on very windy days.

Step 2: Drill Hole in Bowl

Using the drill and bit, drill a hole in the center of the bowl. The Ikea bowl had a small indentation in the center, making alignment very easy.

Step 3: Prepare J-hook

Thread a nut on the J-hook as far down as it will go. Place a washer on top. This is what the bowl will rest on.

Step 4: Seal the Bottom of the Bowl

Add a seal to the bottom of the bowl. If you are using plumber's putty, form a circle around the hole. If you are using silicone, place a bead around the hole. If you are using a rubber washer, just lay it over the hole.

Step 5: Insert J-hook

Insert the J-hook through the bottom of the bowl, pushing the washer into the sealant.

Step 6: Seal the Inside of the Bowl

Add your preferred sealant to the inside of the bowl, around the inserted J-hook.

Step 7: Tighten Nuts

Using the wrench, tighten the inside nut, while holding the bottom one. The nuts will "jam" together easily so a second wrench is not required. Once tightened, clean up any excess sealant that may have squeezed out while tightening.

Step 8: Thread Coupling and Eye Bolt

Thread the coupling to the J-bolt and keep turning it until it gets about half-way. Then thread the eye-bolt into the other side of the coupling and turn it until it bottoms out. Grab the J part of the J-bolt and the eye part of the eye-bolt and twist to tighten the whole thing. Hand-tight is plenty, there's no need for tools.

Step 9: Hang

Hang the moat, by the eye-hook, onto the hook where your feeder normally hangs.

Step 10: Add Water

Pour some water into the moat.

Step 11: Hang the Feeder

Finally, hang the feeder on the J-hook at the bottom of the moat and wait for the hummingbirds to come back. Even though this feeder was out of commission for a couple of days, the birds were back and feeding in less than a minute.

After a week, the ants have not returned and I don't expect they will. The birds are back to enjoying the sweet, sweet sugar water.

If only getting rid of the hornets was as easy...
I got tired of filling the ant moat on my hummingbird feeders--now I use petroleum jelly as an ant barrier.
I looked at that, but the problem with petroleum jelly is that if it gets on the feathers, it doesn't come off easily and may impede the bird's ability to fly or keep warm. The birds bounce around a lot when they fight over the feeders so it worried me.
You could put petroleum jelly on the inside of your ant moat. I imagine that would make getting contaminants on the bird's wings less of an actual issue.
Also, with the volume of this moat, it only needs to be topped up every week or so. Since the feeders get filled daily, it's not a big deal.
Really cool! :)

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