hummingbirdblackchinnedfemaletinneyA few weeks ago, I wrote a column with a question/answer format. I received a lot of positive feedback from that column and thought I would do another article along the same lines.

Question: Is it necessary to put red food coloring in my hummingbird solution?

Answer: No. In fact, it is recommended that you do not add any coloring. Most hummingbird feeders are red in color, so it is not necessary to color the nectar.

Question: Is it okay to use artificial sweetener or honey when making sugar water?

Answer: No! When making sugar water, use only granulated sugar – no substitutes, and definitely no honey.

Question: Ants have discovered my hummingbird feeder. How can I prevent them from getting into the sugar water?

Answer: First let me say whatever solution you settle on, make sure it is all natural and that you avoid the use of any pesticides to solve this problem. The easiest solution is to use a “nectar-protector,” which is a safe, non-toxic way to keep ants off of your hummingbird feeder. A nectar-protector is an open cup-shaped container that you fill with tap water. The water acts as a barrier and keeps ants away from the feeder. Problem solved!

Question: How do I get rid of honeybees at my feeders?

Answer: If you have bees swarming your hummingbird feeder, there is a reason: the nectar solution is accessible to them. As long as the bees can access the sugar water, they will continue to frequent the feeder. A short-term solution is use a light film of either vegetable oil or olive oil on the surface of the hummingbird feeder. Applying a film of oil every day all around each of the ports where the bees are accessing the sugar water is a pretty good deterrent to bees. Do not use any petroleum-based products, such as Vaseline, on your feeders.

The long-term solution is to replace your bee-plagued hummingbird feeder with a bee-proof feeder – there is such a thing! Also, when selecting a hummingbird feeder, avoid feeders with the color yellow. Feeders with the small yellow flowers and with the yellow “bee-guards” actually attract bees to the feeder.

Question: Is the sugar solution for hummingbird and oriole feeders the same or different?

Answer: It is okay to use the same recipe for both, which is four parts water to one part sugar.

Question: Is it normal to see a woodpecker at my hummingbird feeder?

Answer: Yes, that is actually a pretty common sight. A variety of woodpecker species frequent hummingbird feeders. Orioles, and sometimes even house finches, will also try to drink from hummingbird feeders.

Question: Why do hummingbirds fight so much at my feeders?

Answer: Hummingbirds are very territorial, and their territories are fairly small. If your feeding stations are within the boundaries of their territory, they will do their best to drive away their competition.

Question: How often should I change the sugar water solution in my hummingbird feeder?

Answer: Change it least once a week.

Question: My hummingbird numbers seem down this year from last year. Are there fewer hummers?

Answer: In my opinion, no. Overall, I think our hummingbird numbers in May of this year are comparable to May of last year. Keep in mind that the peak season for hummingbirds in our area is August. Hummingbird numbers will gradually increase throughout the summer months as breeding activity continues.