If you live in the south western states, you will be familiar with garden visitors such as hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are busy, little birds who, by all accounts, do not have a relatively long life; they need a constant supply of nectar (sugar) to keep them in the air. Many people try and attract hummingbirds to their gardens by planting hummingbird-friendly plants; however, if you don’t have the space for a large garden, you can still attract hummingbirds to your space by using a hummingbird feeder – and there are several natural solutions to make sure that your hummingbird feeder is hummingbird-friendly too.
Color of Your Hummingbird Feeder
Hummingbirds appear to be drawn to the color red, whether it is a flower or a feeder. Although opinion varies on the scientific reasoning for this, many ornithophilous flowers (those that require pollination by birds) are naturally red in color. Some scientific studies have concluded that the color red is not seen by insects and therefore hummingbirds are free to feed on red-colored flowers undisturbed; however, other scientific studies have disproved this theory (source). Either way, you will find that most hummingbird feeders are red in color.
Food to Put in Your Hummingbird Feeder
Hummingbirds naturally feed on the nectar found in certain flower species; nectar is rich in natural sugar, such as sucrose, glucose and fructose. It does not contain artificial colors or dyes and therefore you should not add the red food coloring that is sold in some retail outlets to your hummingbird feeder. Hummingbirds are attracted to the color of the feeder alone and it is not necessary to add red coloring to the food too. There have been no scientific studies carried out on the effects of red food coloring in hummingbird feeders but unverified reports indicate that it might possibly cause health problems for hummingbirds (source).
If you are buying commercial hummingbird food, make sure it contains only natural ingredients. Another alternative is to make your own hummingbird food from sugar and water. Add a quarter of a cup of natural cane sugar to one cup of warm water (source). Make enough so that it will be used up in a day or two; this way you will not have to boil the water.
How to Keep Ants Away From Your Hummingbird Feeder
Ants are attracted to the sugary content of hummingbird feeders. Once one ant finds the food, it seems like the entire ant workforce turns up! However, there is a natural way to keep ants from invading your hummingbird feeder through the use of an ant moat.
Ant moats provide a barrier between the hummingbird feeder and an ant’s ability to reach the feeder. The moat is filled with water to prevent the ants from negotiating their way across the barrier. Simply put, the moat is hung between the hanger and the feeder itself; you can buy ant moats in most hummingbird feeder supply stores. However, you will need to keep refilling the ant moat every few days as in hot weather the water will evaporate.
How to Keep Bees Away From Your Hummingbird Feeder
Bees are also attracted to hummingbird bird feeders by the sugary sweetness of the food. Too many bees swarming around the feeder will deter hummingbirds from using the feeder. You can buy “bee tips” that fit onto your hummingbird feeder to prevent bees from reaching the food, but only if you have a specific type of feeder. The following alternative tip was given to me by a local bird food supply store.
Use a vegetable based oil, such as that used in aromatherapy or in ordinary cooking, and dab a drop of oil on each feeder hole; although this will deter the bees, who do not like the stickiness on their feet, it does not deter the hummingbirds. You will need to keep applying the oil on a regular basis (particularly if it rains or drys out) and it will make cleaning your feeder a little harder, but I found that this solution worked for me throughout the summer months!
Natural Tips for Hummingbird Feeders
Although some hummingbird species migrate further south to Mexico and beyond for the winter months, certain species of hummingbirds are present in southern California and southern Arizona year round. You might find these natural tips useful for your hummingbird feeder next summer or, if you are lucky enough to have year-round visitors, give these natural solutions a go next time you fill up your feeder. You can then enjoy the activity around your hummingbird feeder knowing that it is completely natural!
Photo by AnnCam