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©Beth Kingsley Hawkins

Feeding Hummingbirds


1 cup of white cane sugar 4 cups of spring water or purified water. No red food coloring!


Directions and Tips: Thoroughly mix to dissolve the sugar in the water. Boiling the water will help remove impurities, which is helpful if you are planning to store it.  Unused mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. If you are planning to use the mixture immediately boiling is not necessary. 


  • White granulated cane sugar is the #1 preferred for use in hummingbird feeders. White granulated sugar is the closest we can come to the natural nectar in flowers. 

  • Use purified or spring water.

  • If too many bees are being attracted, change the mixture to five cups of water for every one cup of sugar. But a bee problem is, in fact, a feeder design problem, and you need a different feeder--one which makes it impossible for the bees to access the mixture; usually this is by having an air gap between feeder port and the liquid below it.

  • Taking down the feeder: In the fall, wait until you haven't seen even one hummer for three weeks before taking your feeders down to reduce the risks to late migrants.

* If cane sugar is not PURE WHITE, it may not have been sufficiently purified to remove trace amounts of molasses. 

As we know, molasses is rich in iron; this is helpful to humans but is a toxin to hummingbirds in all but the tiniest, tightly monitored amounts.



Hummingbirds do not live on sugar water and nectar alone. They eat insects and tiny spiders to supply protein and other nutrients.  They also feed on tree sap (see this great video). A recent product that seems to be effective in providing fruit flies is the Humm-Bug Protein Feeder.


16 Tips for Hummingbird Feeders

Type & Size:

  • Choose a feeder that you are able and willing to clean.

  • Look for a feeder that has the ports above the pool of liquid to avoid drips, because drips will attract ants and bees.

  • Use feeder(s) whose size matches your population.

  • Don't fill the feeders all the way if they aren't being fully consumed between fillings.

  • More feeders will support more hummers and help reduce territoriality.


  • Change the mixture every three to five days - more frequently if temperatures are over 90° F.

  • If the liquid appears cloudy or you see mold, wash the feeder thoroughly right away.


  • Put your feeders at least four feet above the ground so they are beyond the reach of cats and other predators

  • Never place a feeder too close to a nest, because doing so may cause predation.

  • If possible, the feeder should be in a shady spot.

  • Placing the feeder where you can see them through the window is a good idea too!


  • Feeders must be cleaned between refilling - don't "top off" without cleaning.

  • Use white vinegar as a way to disinfect feeders and rinse thoroughly with water. Do this especially if you see black mold on any part of your feeder. You should not be able to smell vinegar if you have rinsed it well enough.

  • About once a month, soak the feeder in a solution of bleach and water (1 Tbsp. of bleach per quart of water); rinse very thoroughly! You should not be able to smell bleach if you have rinsed it well enough. 

  • Some feeders can be put in the dishwasher for sterilization.

  • If your feeder is attracting ants, use a moat or AntGuard® to stop them.

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