Do Hummingbirds Eat Bugs? [13 Bugs On Their Menu!]

do hummingbirds eat bugs

Avid birdwatchers will probably be familiar with the importance of feeding hummingbird plenty of their favorite food – that is, nectar!

Yet, if you’ve managed to attract these most exquisite of feathered friends to your feeders, you may also be keen on offering something other than just nectar. The question is, what else can you feed a hummingbird?

The Hummingbird Diet Is Forever Offering up Some Surprises

Initially, it was believed by many that hummingbirds survived on nectar alone. Yet, with a record number of these species recorded in the most simplistic of back yard environments, more and more studies have been undertaken concerning what hummingbirds choose to eat and their habits.

As a result of such research, we’ve been able to understand and appreciate more about the life of a hummingbird, alongside gaining access to some crucial dietary information in the process.

While ornithologists still insist that nectar is a crucial food in a hummingbird’s diet, it has also been noted that these birds extend their menus to that of the bug world!

Though this may not come as a surprise to those fortunate enough to watch these stunning creatures at their bird feeders, what may be news to some is the extent of the hummingbird’s palate when it comes to insects!

Why Bugs Are Crucial in a Hummingbird Diet

With so much emphasis placed on nectar, it’s often easy to forget the vital role bugs play in a hummingbird diet. Insects are, in fact, a crucial food source that hummingbirds regularly consume, almost as much as they do nectar. Therefore, they boast of those essential elements, including:

  • Minerals
  • Vitamins
  • Proteins
  • Amino Acids
  • Fiber
  • Oils
  • Fats

The Bug Selection Preferred by Hummingbirds

Not that we know the hummingbird’s preference for the bug delicacy, you may be wondering just what insects get their attention and help then fuel up.

The most commonly eaten bugs by hummingbirds include:

Hummingbirds 13 Favourite Bugs
  • Flies
  • Gnats
  • Aphids
  • Mites
  • Flying ants
  • Small beetles
  • Spiders
  • True bugs
  • Weevils
  • Mosquitoes
  • Leafhoppers
  • Parasitic wasps
  • Harvestmen

Furthermore, expert bird watchers have discovered that out of all the bugs and insects they consume, hummingbirds prefer that of the spider and harvestmen. In fact, many claim between a staggering 60% to 80% of the hummingbird’s diet will consist of spiders!

How Hummingbirds Consume Insects in the Wild

Most hummingbirds consume anywhere in the region of several dozen to as much as several thousand bugs in just one day.  So, it’s certainly a huge food source worth investigating further if you want to make the most of utilizing insects to attract hummingbirds to your yard.

In general, hummingbirds will acquire their insects through the most natural of means. This includes:

  • Extracting the insect from the flower when searching for nectar
  • Using their acute vision to deter and identify their insect prey
  • Hovering around tree bark, leaves, branches, walls, and corners for cobwebs (indicating both bugs and spiders!)
  • Catching insects in flight, a term referred to as hawking
  • Frequenting tree sap-holes
  • Selecting fruits that insects are attracted to

Offering Bugs to Your Hummingbird Visitors

Now you know more about the bug preference of a hummingbird, you may be wondering how you can help promote their love of this select food type?

While a hummingbird’s insect needs are primarily naturally accessed, there are many ways you, too, can help them with their daily bug intake.

However, one thing many hummingbird experts will agree on – and one worth noting before you make a financial outlay – is that hummingbirds will not accept insects from feeders! This includes mealworms, crickets, and other dried insect types.

For those who’ve tried to provide mealworms inside of bird feeders, this may be obvious from the lack of response such a feeder has had from nearby hummingbirds. The simple reason for this is that they prefer this food type in its most natural form! Thus, anything you can do to emulate the most natural of insect feasts is greatly favored here!

We’ve talked before on this site about the importance of offering an appropriate hummingbird feeder that caters to the specifics of this bird type. But, you can also make the same provisions when it comes to offering bugs and insects.

Fortunately, there are two ways considered the most effective, including:

Fruit Plates

A most simple bird feeding option, food plates can either be hung off a perch or placed on a bird tray feeder. The idea is to watch as insects become attracted to the sickly sweet food source and immediately investigate it. Then, hummingbirds will have a plentiful supply of natural and, more likely, live source of bugs at their disposal. The best fruit types to place out her include the more coarsely chopped of sweet fruits. This means oranges, melons, and bananas. As long as you keep the fruit plate elevated and at a good distance above the ground, you’ll encourage hummingbirds to visit in abundance.

Fruit Slurries

Moving away slightly from the idea of a fruit plate, a fruit slurry can be made up and spread on those areas in your yard, such as tree branches or logs and boards that you can hang up in place as impromptu feeders. A fruit slurry involves a selection of sweet canned fruit syrups along with mashed bananas, a spoonful of sugar, cake batter, and a final splash of hummingbird nectar. Once you mix this all together to form a thick batter consistency, it can be spread out. Fruit slurries encourage insects to swarm to it, feeding on the slurry – while visiting hummingbirds feed on them!

Final Thoughts on Feeding Hummingbirds Insects

The idea here is not to head out and purchase those many dried insect combinations sold in most pet stores. Rather, cultivate a succession of insects in the most natural of environments, therefore mimicking how hummingbirds themselves select and feed on bugs.

Ultimately, the more you can offer a varied diet, you not only ensure better all-round health for your hummingbirds but, most importantly keep them coming back to your yard time and time again.

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