During the summer when hummingbirds come to visit your garden, one of the great joys is watching them enjoy the nectar you have made.
Homemade nectar is very quick and easy to make and can be stored for future use. All recipes for nectar involve boiling the water and although this helps it is not essential. The reason for boiling water is to assist the sugar to dissolve. The lower the water temperature the longer this will take. You can make your nectar with cold water but you will need to spend quite a while stirring the mixture until the sugar is fully dissolved.
The most important thing about homemade nectar is using the right ingredients at the correct ratio.
The perfect recipe involves
- one cup sugar
- 4 cups of water
When making your nectar make sure you use refined white sugar and nothing else. Although you think you may be giving the hummingbird a treat if you use honey or molasses, these can actually be harmful to them. The same applies to artificial sweeteners particularly as the birds are looking to build up vital energy.
Most people use water straight from the tap to make their nectar and this generally causes the birds no problems. Ideally you should try to use purified water so that all chemicals and impurities have been removed.
The right ratio
The nectar you make needs to resemble the nectar of flowers as closely as possible. For this reason the ratio of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar is very important.
If you use too much sugar or too little water, this can actually have the effect of causing dehydration in the hummingbirds and possible weakness in the muscles. The physiology of the hummingbird is very finely tuned and any changes to their natural diet can have an adverse effect on their health.
Non Boil Nectar Recipe
- If you are heating the water, put it in a pan on the stove. You don’t have to heat the water until it’s boiling as any rise in temperature will help to dissolve the sugar.
- Slowly add the sugar to the water, stirring as you go to make sure it is completely dissolved. If you are using cold water this can take quite some time, as it is very important that the sugar is properly dissolved.
- If you have used boiling water allow the mixture to cool thoroughly before pouring into the feeder. Don’t be tempted to put boiling water into your feeder as this could damage it. If the hummingbirds come straight down to feed the hot water could also be harmful to them.
The cold nectar can be put into the feeder and any excess can be stored in the fridge. Nectar will keep in the fridge for up to a week and if you make a big batch then it makes it much easier for you to top up the feeder.
Keep the feeder clean
Keeping the feeder clean is an important factor in encouraging the hummers to use it.
- Top the feeder up regularly and don’t leave unused nectar in it for too long as it can start to go moldy or even ferment. This can be harmful to the birds.
- Any drips around the feeder can attract ants and bees and these will then try to find a way to get into the feeder. Hummingbirds won’t appreciate nectar which is full of dead ants.
- It is okay to simply top up the nectar as long as the existing nectar is still fresh but you should make sure you change it completely at least once a week or more often if the weather is extremely warm.
One of the great things about producing your own homemade nectar is that all the family can join in. If you have small children and prefer not to use boiling water they can take it in turns to stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. You can then turn maintaining the feeder into a fun family activity.