What Kinds of Hummingbirds Are THOSE?
Summer has grown long in the tooth, and I know that our hummingbirds will be leaving us soon. By mid to late September, ours will be gone. So I do my best to keep the feeders clean and full. The little birds need to pack on as much weight as they can so they can make their big migration to Mexico and Central America. That's a long, long way to fly!
I have two feeders that I bought a long time ago, and the holes for feeding the hummingbirds are large enough that yellow jackets can climb in them. Neither the hummingbirds nor I like that. The little birds fight with yellow jackets (very persistent bees) every day. When I go to clean and refill a feeder, I often find a bee or two inside. Call it a yellow jacket surprise, if you will.
My existing feeders have seen heavy use. One is on the deck. Another is in the meadow. About two or three weeks ago, I bought a new feeder at Walmart for $3.67, thinking it would be wise to have one for back-up. It is a little bit different than the prior feeders. The holes for feeding are much smaller, and they are slitted. (They say that yellow on feeders also attracts yellow jackets, so avoid buying a feeder with yellow on it!)
The yellow jackets have been very bad lately, and I thought I'd try out the new feeder to see if it's better for keeping them out. But before I filled and hung it, these guys wanted to play on it, pretending to be hummingbirds! T. Tiger put on his angel wings, and he found out it was harder than he thought to hang on! And say hello to his green buddy Quetzal! What a couple of swells.
The best food for hummingbirds is just very hot water (I heat mine in the microwave for a few minutes) mixed with regular white sugar, in a ratio of 4 to 1. They don't need red dye. They don't need honey or anything else unusual. Just straight water and white sugar!
And at these temperatures and humidity, the feeders should be emptied, washed thoroughly with very hot water, and refilled every few days, at least twice a week, as they mildew quickly. Mildew is very bad. Mildew can make the birds' tongues swell up - then they can't feed, and they can die.
So my advice is - if you don't feel you can handle cleaning and filling a feeder every few days, plant flowers for hummingbirds (just google it for a list) instead of putting out a feeder. Our birds adore red monarda and jewelweed, just to name a few.
So the new feeder is clean and full now, and the yellow jackets seem confused because they can't get inside the feeder anymore! Just based on one day's experience, this feeder seems to be doing much better at excluding the bees. Hooray!
Keeping feeders for the hummingbirds is an act of love on our part (and we also plant flowers they will like, to cover all bases), but it is a joyful responsibility. Here is my soundtrack song: the Bee Gees, with To Love Somebody.
Here are some bonus resources on hummingbirds. You will learn something new, I promise!
Nature Notes: Misconceptions About Hummingbirds
The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is Small But Important