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What is an Ant Moat?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2016
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An ant moat keeps ants from crossing on to a surface, most often used on hummingbird feeders to keep the insects away from the sugar water where the birds feed. There are different kinds of ant moats and each is effective in doing its job. An ant moat can be ornate in design to disguise its function while adding beauty to the garden and feeder, or the ant moat can be homemade.

Ant moats available from retailers offer whimsical design coupled with functionality. One popular ant moat is a small, powder-coated metal, upturned parasol which can be filled with water. The parasol handle ends in a hook for hanging, while the bottom of the parasol also has a hook for attaching the bird feeder. Ants will smell the sugar water and start down the parasol’s handle, only to encounter the water-filled ant moat. There are several variations on this design, but the basic idea is the same. The ant moat sits between the hook and feeder, blocking passage to the feeder.

For non-hanging hummingbird feeders that attach to a grounded post, another type of any moat is available. This ant moat is cup-shaped with a central walled hole to allow passage of the ground post. The cup forms an ant moat around the post, and once filled with water, blocks passage to the upper end of the post where the feeder attaches.

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A water-filled ant moat is 100% effective as long as the water isn’t allowed to evaporate away. Birds also enjoy taking drinks from ant moats, so do not add insecticides or harmful chemicals to the water. You won’t need this for your ant moat anyway, as the water itself will keep the ants from entering the moat.

As an alternative, some people prefer to smear the inside the ant moat with a petroleum jelly like Vaseline, rather than fill it with water. Ants do not voluntarily pass over certain substances, so Vaseline works as well as water in keeping the ants from crossing the moat. This has the added advantage of lasting longer than water, which will need to be refilled regularly—an easy job but one you might forget from time to time.

Petroleum jelly has another advantage over a water-filled ant moat—you can smear it liberally on the lower portions of a grounded post or on the hook of a hanging feeder, and it will keep ants at bay without the need of an official ant moat. Just check it occasionally and replenish it when necessary. Do not smear petroleum jelly on the feeder itself or it could contaminate the birds feeding there. Place it above or below the feeder as necessary.

Whether you opt for a beautifully designed ant moat, or the simple petroleum jelly solution, you can easily keep ants at bay without the use of chemicals or sprays. Before deciding which solution you prefer, you might take a look at some ant moats, available wherever bird feeders are sold.

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