Red Dye

gardengal55March 26, 2007

Please don't use red dye feeder mixes and here's why.

Please read this information.

Here is a link that might be useful: Red Dye Information

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I remember back a few years, there was a warning put out by the Canadian Government about RED DYE #2.....
was said by Canadian scientists that this particular red dye was a carcinaginic....and should be removed from the market.
In Canada it was.

Such information is readily given to other jurisdictions...including the U.S. Government's Food and Drug Administration.

The U.S. authorities took the news about it and put out a notice they were going to ban it as well.
Evidently, this dye has other purposes in industry and somehow a U.S. Congressman got into the act and stood up in the House and suggested "RED DYE #2...kills CANADIAN RATS ONLY....and therefore need not be removed from the U.S. marketplace.

One week later, the F & D did ban the dye.

A #3 dye has replaced it....and is the one on the market at this time.

The congressman did look foolish when he was asked to comment on the Canadian test and having the U.S. Food and Drug people concur.

As for a hummer being attracted to the color RED.
Comments are made every season that the red coloring is not needed and doesn't influence the bird to come to the liquid.

This is a true account:
I was sitting in a lounger in my backyard one fine sunny day...I had just finished...within seconds, of painting my toenails...a nice vivid red.
Suddenly I heard a whirring.....looked up from my putting the cap on the bottle...and here was a hummer within an inch of my toenails...and it stayed there for a couple seconds...I froze my foot so as to not scare him.

So much for RED.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 5:55PM
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I can't understand why anyone would use that mixture with the red dye.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 7:08PM
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There are plenty of red plastic parts on most feeders to attract them. The red dye has NEVER been proven safe for the hummingbirds to consume. Every expert I've ever read has said the same thing.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 7:31PM
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I live in Utah and have hummingbirds on the patio every year. We have a couple of feeders out each season Id heard about the red dye and sugar water is bad and not what they need and how it harms them in the long run.
With that in mind Ill tell you a few things.
a feeder we havw with a red bottom and yellow flowers with no red dye in the juice got far fewer birds than the one with red dye in it.
I was concerned about the wrong stuff for the birds and stopped using teh sugar water and red food coloring. I put it away and in preperation for this summer I was recently at wal mart buying some stuff for the garden season coming up and thought abuot the birds. Got a new feeder and was looking into buying the food for it.
Every package there has sugar listed as the main ingredient!
Why shuold I spend more money to buy that when I have a bag of suger I use in my coffee that I paid 2 bucks for instead of 8?
Not a single food source commercial available (atleast @ wally world) had any ingredients to benifit the over all health ofthe birds compared to the sugar water I mixed myself for the last several years.
Im not against putting out somethign that costs me more for the little buggers, but not if its the same stuff I make for less.
Anyone have any idea what brand and where to buy it for something thats got the nutrients in it instead of jsut packaged dye included sugar mix?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 8:33PM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

There is NOTHING on the retail market that is as safe as using plain granulated pure cane sugar and water and there is NOTHING on the makket that is even comparable in price to using plain granulated pure cane sugar. There are companies that are putting out a clear nectar but I believe it costs 2 or 3 dollars for an 8 ounce bottle. I can buy a 5 lb. bag of sugar for around 2.00 that will make many many gallons of nectar.

We do not need to supply hummers with additional nutrients. They get their proteins from aphids and other tiny insects. The get amino acids and other nutrients from the plants they visit. The sugar water mainly provides entertainment and interaction with and for us. The feeders also provide additional water which they get from the nectar and is an energy souce but that is about it. They can survive quite well without the feeders.


    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 5:21AM
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Pure cane sugar??? We must be very careful not to be misunderstood and to not unintentionally mislead people.

Pure cane sugar (has)... "five times as much iron as white sugar; since iron is essential but normally rare in hummingbird diets, their bodies hoard it, and even a modest excess of iron can poison them. If you have the choice, use only white sugar in hummingbird feeders."

Please DON'T tell people that "Pure Cane Sugar" is OK. It has not had the molasses removed and contains 5 times the iron as white refined sugar made from sugar cane. Too much iron can be poisonous to hummingbirds.

Only use white sugar made from sugar cane.

Here is a link that might be useful: Scroll down to the sugar part

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 10:37AM
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Cleaning feeders with dish soap or dishwashing detergent leaves a residue that changes the taste of the sugar water and the hummingbirds don't like it.

Use a very diluted water and bleach 15:1 mixture


Plain white vinegar at full strength to clean your feeders.

Be sure to rinse thoroughly in clean hot water.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 10:51AM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

I think you may have misunderstood me as I was referring to white granulated table sugar as opposed to beet sugar or raw sugar. In the States, Granulated cane sugar is differeniated from beet sugar or from sugar with fillers by labeling the packaging as pure cane sugar. If it doesn't say Pure Cane Sugar on the package it is generally beet sugar or a store brand sugar with corn starch fillers. Raw sugar is the one with molasses Sometimes packaging labels and info are a bit different on this side of the border.

I stand by my recommendation of using plain white granulated pure cane table sugar as opposed to raw sugar or even lesser brands of sugar that may use the corn starch fillers.


    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 11:18AM
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If you think there was potential for confusion in Penny's post, I'm glad that you clarified it. Language can be a tricky thing, but just wanted to say that I understood Penny exactly as she meant to be understood. I also use the term "raw" sugar to describe the brown, unrefined stuff. I agree that its high iron content could be harmful to the birds, and it's good to warn people about this. But as far as the term "pure cane sugar" goes, I have the same understanding as Penny. "Pure cane sugar" just means that it is derived only from sugar cane, with no fillers, and not from other sources like sugar beets. It does not in any way imply to me that it is brown and/or iron rich. "Pure cane sugar" is white, and refined, and generally believed to be palatable and non harmful to the hummingbirds. I know Penny clarified this herself, but I just wanted to say that there was no confusion here about her terminology or intention. I cannot speak for what others may have understood (or misunderstood!)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 5:30PM
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jeannie7 from Canada: Legislators looking foolish is a
common occurrence on this side of the border. :-)

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 1:11AM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

It's a common occurance on our side of the border too. LOL!


    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 7:21AM
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Pure / Raw ?

Please don't add to the confusion and dont assume every product is labelled the same in every jurisdiction. There are sugar products in our stores that go by both names and they both contain molasses. For future reference please just refer to the proper and ONLY sugar product for use in feeders as "White granulated Sugar". White Sugar from cane is very hard to find in Canada.

If you read these posts there are some who have this burning desire to add something else or buy some fancy sugar. They could get the wrong idea and buy pure / raw / untreated sugars, what have you. I've read posts from others that want to add "flavouring" or some special recipe. I even read a post from one guy that freezes his sugar water and lets it thaw outside thinking he's doing the HB a favour.

As we all know there are so many really strange and simple people out there. Just refer to the proper product one way and one ratio 4:1 and don't veer from that message. Once we start changing the ratio or the sugar it gives license to others to start "Experimenting".

KIS Â Keep It Simple. We should be advocating only one type of sugar, one ratio mixture, and one preparation method.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 10:03AM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

I was advocating only one kind of sugar and the terminology that is used in the States is what I posted. The term "White granulated sugar" here has constarch fillers and is not cane sugar. In all the years I have been on this forum and feeding hummingbirds, I have never had someone tell me what terminology I am to use to describe sugar. That may be the proper way of distinguishing the different sugars in Canada but it isn't here. I will continue to use the terms that are used here to describe the sugar and just for the record I don't stick to the 4:1 ratio all season either. I use a 3:1 ratio in early spring during migration and switch to 4:1 then back to 3:1 during the fall migration. I personally know master banders who use 3:1 all winter. I am not advocating that others use a 3:1 ratio, I am just stating that I do.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 10:48AM
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" That may be the proper way of distinguishing the different sugars in Canada but it isn't here."

Aren't Canadians welcome "here"? Wherever "here" is. That's not too arrogant, I mean really the nerve.

If anyone not from "Here" is interested this type of "Pure Cane Sugar" is absolutely NOT to be used in hummingbird feeder!

Not from "Here", Honestly. And what if some Canadian tells you that at the Hummingbird Festival in Burlington?

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 2:53PM
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Jimmyjojo, this is a friendly forum, your tone is not very becoming. Implying Penny is excluding Canadians from this forum is just obscene and offensive. IMO, Penny is right on track about how she is wording sugar that I would find in my grocery store. Looking at your website, I see you try to welcome other folks, similar to this forum. Maybe we could take things down a notch, and be informative and respectful of all posters. Peace :) Christy

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 3:45PM
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cindra(z5b Ont)

Well until now I always thought I knew what kind of sugar to use. After reading these post I am totally confused and worried that for the past 7 years I may have been using the wrong kind!

I have been using what I refer to as regular white granulated sugar that comes in the paper type bag, the kind we put in our coffee each morning. It states on the bag that it is 100 % Pure Cane Sugar. I was talking to my DH about all this sugar confusion so off to the store we went. We were not able to find any sugar that stated it was made from sugar beets. All of the stores we checked, Zehrs, Zellers, A&P to name a few were all selling sugar that stated on the bag that it was 100% Pure Cane Granulated Sugar. Of course we found the various types of brown sugar but I know NOT to use that in hummingbird feeders.

Soooooo, please tell me, here is a photo of what is commonly found in the grocery stores around me, is this the correct type of sugar to use?


    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 4:23PM
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jimmyjojo--You are really beginning to irritate me. In my opinion, you are making arguments out of nothing. That photograph of a bag of sugar that you show does not in any way prove your point. Notice, it does not say "Pure Cane Sugar" on the bag. It says "Pure Cane BROWN Sugar." Penny never said "brown" sugar in her description. When all of us English speaking people from North America (on both sides of the border) say "pure cane sugar," I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of Canadians and United States citizens alike understand that to be white sugar. I'm not Canadian, so I'm not 100% sure, but I have a feeling that is the case. Now if you can find me a bag of sugar sold in Canada that contains brown sugar, yet says "Pure Cane Sugar" on it, I'll be very surprised but will concede that a language adjustment is necessary. You haven't proven this, and your angry attitude makes me doubt your impressions of everything. I'll venture to say that most people in both Canada and the United States would understand "pure cane sugar" to be refined white sugar derived from sugar cane, with no fillers or additives. Penny's terminology was perfectly understandable to me, and I frankly don't understand your language issue or your attempt at an ugly American argument. It just isn't warranted. Knock it off!

I am completely in agreement with your concern that people not use raw or brown sugar, but I simply do not feel that Penny's use of the words "pure cane sugar" in any way implied brown, iron-rich sugar. If there are simple minded people out there that can't understand this, I don't think there's a whole lot that can be done about it. The correct language was used, and if people can't understand English, and insist on feeding brown sugar to hummingbirds, people like Penny who are using correct terminology cannot be blamed for it. To increase the clarity, the only words I can think that she could have added are "refined, white, pure cane sugar." That would have made it extra clear, but I hardly think it was necessary.

I also find it very difficult to believe that cane sugar is hard to find in Canada. Is Canada a huge sugar beet producer? I suppose it might be, but does that mean it has trade restrictions on cane sugar that comes from other countries? Sugar cane is such a huge source of sugar, and I'm sure it's exported all over the world, so it's hard to believe it can't easily be found in Canada. I find that very hard to believe, but I'm not Canadian, so would stand corrected if informed otherwise.

By the way, I don't think there's anything wrong with pure, white, refined, sugar beet sugar with no additives--if you can find it. It's still sucrose, and shouldn't be harmful to the hummingbirds. It's just that I did read somewhere that sugar from sugar beets may have a residual taste that is unappealling to hummingbirds. I don't know if this is really true, but I read it somewhere. I don't think it's harmful, but someone may know more about it than I. I use the cane derived sugar.

I do not think Penny was being arrogant about Canadians and I truly think you are overreacting. To the contrary, I think she was trying to be gracious in spite of your unwarranted attack on her use of the English language. I believe she was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt when she wrote "that may be the proper way of distinguishing the different sugars in Canada but it isn't here." You chose to focus on the "but it isn't here" part, but ignored the first half of the sentence. Note her use of the word "may." I think she was trying to cut you a break and allow for the fact that there might be language differences she didn't know about, but you don't even get it. You've chosen to focus on the "but it isn't here" part and make it a big ugly American issue. I don't really know Penny, but I find it hard to believe that she feels that way about Canadians, especially given her closeness to the Canadian border. Even if Canadian terms are different, Penny can't necessarily know all of the subtle differences between Canadian English, and the English spoken in the United States, and shouldn't be called on the carpet for it. She expressed herself as best she could, and I'll bet most Canadians as well as United States residents would have understood exactly what she meant. It is you that is making an issue of it. If I felt you were being insulted, I would stick up for you, but I think you're just looking for something to be angry about.

Don't use brown sugar. Fine. We get it. Can we drop this and enjoy the returning hummingbirds?

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 4:47PM
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cindra, That looks like the correct sugar to me. You're confirming that it is white, and the words on the bag tell me that it is derived from sugar cane. The words "100% pure" mean that it is only sugar, and not mixed with unwanted fillers. The white, refined, granulated sugar that I buy in the United States for the sugar bowl and for the hummers says "Sugar Premium Pure Cane Granulated." The only thing it doesn't say is the "100%!" Mine is definitely the right stuff, and I'm sure that yours is, too.

It would appear that you are having no trouble finding cane sugar in Canada. It would be a shame if you only had beet sugar, since it's not supposed to be as good for the hummingbirds. I think it's also cheaper and less desirable to humans, and that's why companies that offer cane sugar always brag about it on the package, and beet sugar suppliers neglect to mention it at all.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 7:06PM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

Of course Canadians are welcome here on this forum and "HERE" in the states. I was not being arrogant I I was just trying to explain to you that what you call it and what it is called "Here" in the States is two entirely different products. The picture you posted is not what Americans call pure cane sugar. That is brown sugar and I would never recommend using that in a hummingbiird feeder but you got so bent out of shape about it that I tried to put it in the simplest way I knew how. Now lets put it to rest. I do not use that stuff in the bag and I do not recommend that anyone else use it nor have I ever recommended it.

For our Canadian Hummergardeners, I apologize if I offended you as it was not my intention. I was only trying to explain that Canadians and Americans do use different terms and or descriptions for some things and obviously this was one of them.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 7:40PM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

Cindra, yes what you have is the proper kind of sugar....the kind of sugar you would put on your cereal, or in your coffee or tea. The sugar that is made from sugar beets will just say granulated sugar. It will not say granulated beet sugar. I have been told by some Canadians that the only kind of sugar they have where they live is beet sugar. It looks just like white granulated cane sugar and it is safe to use but the few times I had to buy it at a small local convenience store because I ran out and didn't have a car handy, the hummers didn't use it as well. Others have said the same thing so if you can get the cane sugar by all means do so but if not and you (or anyone) has to use beet sugar it isn't going to harm the hummers at all.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 7:54PM
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and I thought the hummers fight too much....

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 8:06PM
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cindra(z5b Ont)

kristin and penny1947 thank you for confirming that I am using the correct sugar. I haven't ever even thought of putting brown sugar in the hummers feeders.

I have never found that much difference between Canadians and Americans when it comes to talking about sugar and I have never yet found any sugar at the stores made from sugar beets around my area. Course, we only really started looking at it when we went to the store today after reading this thread. I just wanted to make sure I was using the right stuff. Now I feel lots better.

The only thing I am feeling sad about right now is that the hummers are not here yet. :-) Soon though, real soon!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 9:38PM
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My 3 cents on the topics running through this discussion. (inflation, ya know)

Every time we go to the market or I send my husband because I've run out of it, he always mutters the same sentence "I should be buying stock in C & H Pure Cane Sugar".

I am slowly eliminating red dye in my feeders, not because I'm afraid I'm going to kill my hummers but because none of the experts (maybe not certified experts but experts in my eyes) on this board tout any advantages for using it. Plus, I kept forgetting to buy it when I ran low and if the red is not essential to a hummer's diet, why spend the extra money.

Being a newbie at Hummer watching and feeding, after noticing my first two hummers last year I started looking for a web site with information and especially lingo that a newbie hummer lover like me could understand.

I found this board during my search but kept on looking.
After looking, at a minimum of at least fifty information web sites and message boards combined, I came back here and I've been here ever since (with the exception of going to sites when a poster from here has provided the link).

It's because of people like Kristin, Penny, Steve and several others here who give information generously in a clear and concise manner that keeps me at this board and no other.
(being somewhat computer lazy, why should I go clicking around all over the net when all information is right here in posts responded to or in Search)

Anyway, all this to say--- finding information and sharing-type boards like this are much like finding a good psychiatrist--- You have to find the perfect fit for your needs.
If you read a board a few times you'll know if you are in the company of similar-minded people, similar ideals.

A good debate over the best-loved flower or feeder is nice.
A poster taking words of other posters', out of context to incite, is not.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 12:07PM
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"For our Canadian Hummergardeners, I apologize if I offended you as it was not my intention."

Apology accepted! I am sorry as well, and I apologize. I guess I have got a thin skin when it comes to Canadians not being included in the "reindeer games". Truthfully, it's not much fun being excluded and not being given consideration. Actually most of us think that, but don't say it.

As for the sugar. Our "Canadian" packages do say "Pure Cane Sugar". Brown or white does need to be specified so that folks in Canada reading this won't make a mistake. That's all I was getting at, just a small accommodation for the neighbours to the North.

Can we agree on saying, "White Granulated Pure Cane Sugar"?

What do yah say, Still Friends? :)

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 12:18PM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

No problem and I am so sorry that we caused you to wonder. Don't worry they will be arriving before we know it. In fact you may see your first before I do. There are usually several Ont. reports ahead of mine.

'White Granulated Pure Cane Sugar' is. and just FYI, My grandmother is /was Canadian (now deceased) so I really have nothing against Canadians other than the fact that they can be very stubborn (I guess I come by it naturally LOL!) That is supposed to be my version of Humor! So now that we are all back on track and amicable again with a thicker coat of skin we ALL can get back to learning more about the wonderful little flying jewels that brought everyone here to begin with regardless of what side of the pond they are playing on.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 3:38PM
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I'm so glad this has all been settled amicably. I know that your passion was related to your concern for the hummingbirds, I just think there was some misunderstanding and tempers flaring on your part and my part. We all meant well. I feel a lot better now and I don't feel angry anymore.

You'll be pleased to know that I've written the words "white, granulated, pure cane sugar" on my monitor so that if I ever have cause to tell people what they should be using in their feeders, I'll hopefully be using the best possible terms that aren't confusing to anyone.

It's fortunate that the English speaking people in the British Isles don't have any need to understand what goes into a hummingbird nectar mix. Goodness gracious, who knows what words those "eccentric" English people might use to describe white cane sugar! I couldn't even hazard a guess. It seems to me that the potential for confusion would be even greater than with Canadians. Just out of curiosity, I'll have to ask my English friends what is printed on their packages of "white granulated pure cane sugar." Of course, now that the hummingbirds have populated Australia (see the Australia thread), we might really have a communication problem on our hands!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 4:18PM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

My mum is Welsh and I was born in London LOL! In fact all my family on my mum's side including an older brother still lives in Wales or in London. That's OK I didn't take offense and to tell you the truth I was going to email my niece and ask her what is printed on a package of sugar.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 4:38PM
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"I am slowly eliminating red dye in my feeders, not because I'm afraid I'm going to kill my hummers but because none of the experts (maybe not certified experts but experts in my eyes) on this board tout any advantages for using it."

Why slowly? I gave it up all at once. If you're looking for expert opinions, maybe this link will fill the bill.

Like a horror movie poster once said: Be afraid. Be very afraid. ;)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 2:44PM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

Stacy Jon is well know in the field of studying and mapping hummingbirds by all the master banders throughout North America. I wouldn't hesitate to take his recommendations regarding the elimination of red dye.


    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 6:35PM
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Wow, I haven't been on Gradenweb for ages! Actually for those who are wondering, sugar from sugar beet is produced in Canada and is the most widely available sugar. Pure white refined cane beet sugar is very hard to come by in Vancouver. I have a small stockpile of about about 6 kilograms that was purchased from Shoppers drug Mart Canada 2 years ago (larger purhase but I'm down on volume). In fact the store people and people in line commented I must have a sweet tooth! Actually quite the contrary, I explained why I needed to buy so much sugar. It seems it is only available on seasonable promotions and it seemed to coincide when I purchased it with the "average" canning season, you know like putting up preserves. Unfrefined cane sugar in golden blocks is available in Asian grocers( don't worry I'm not going to feed it to the hummers) To make a lonf story short on my part, suagr cane white refined is in short commodity here at leasat in Vancouver. I also live just blocks up the road from a darn sugar refinery(Rogers).
I did over many years notice that when I did finally change to the 'Cane' sugar I had many more birds use the feeder. Not very scientific but my strong impression. Having siad all that I am in an area where I mostly get fallout of adults and large numbers of hatchyears. I really on plantings more than feeders. For what it's worth I don't generally go lower than a 3:1 but that is based on my supply and I don't fill feeders to the max. Theres a lot of good reading about sugar percentages, but for me and my location and my supplies I generally keep it at 4:1. I've talked about this on this forum (can't find the link now). but for me personally sugar is an expensive commodity to produce both in labour and land usage. I prefer to see my hummbrats at flowers, but maybe that's just my preference.
Good hummbirding to all, who care and wonder at these incredible creatures!
(aka hummymummy, vancouver, b.c. canada z8)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 6:37PM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

Hey Cheri,
Thanks for your input from 'out west'. I am always amazed at the plants that you grow and I know that your hummers love you for it!!!!


    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 5:19AM
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Jimmyjojo....what in heavens are you talking about....
"there is no cane sugar in Canada".

Whoever, whatever gave you that idea?

The sugar you buy in the two kg bag...tha's cane sugar....from good ole sugarcane.
WE just don't buy enough of it from Cuba.....the U.S. has put an embargo on U.S, companies importing it....and since all the producers of sugar in this country are U.S. controlled....Cuba gets that much less trade from us.

Now....aside from what the subject was supposed to be about....hummingbirds....
there is a slight difference in the naming of sugar in U.S. supermarkets from those in Canada.

WE call refined sugar as ICING SUGAR....The States don't have ICING SUGAR, they have the same thing....but call it
FRUIT SUGAR. There is grades of granulated...but icing sugar is not thought of as something to put in our makes icing for cakes.

RED DYE has many purposes.....not just the little bottles we store up on the top shelf to come down once in a blue moon. Dye such as that is used in industry for a thousand purposes.....the U.S. politician was just leaving the thought that he was protecting maybe his constituents use of a product that did not merit consideration in the States.
It was just his untimely bad press notice that got him into trouble; he just was probably influenced by someone in his hometown who had much use for the dye.

Dyes of all colors have many uses in our kitchens....and red dye I gotta think is one of the most used.

Many hummingbird feeders are made of clear plastic....and the red dye ...believing it to be better sighted by the bird, will be used I think more commonly than not.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 5:43PM
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OK, now this is really getting confusing. From this page I think what you call icing sugar is what we call powdered sugar or confectioners sugar here in the US:

This is what we use to make icing for cakes. It's just as refined as granulated white sugar but ground fine and with corn starch added to keep it from caking in humid weather. You definitely DON'T want to put corn starch in your hummingbird feeder!

From that page it looks like what you call fruit sugar we call superfine sugar. It's more expensive than regular granulated sugar but it doesn't have any additives. It should be great for hummingbird feeders if you're willing to pay the price. What we call fruit sugar is fructose. This is a completely different kind of sugar from sucrose. It's expensive but you can find it in health food stores.

Pardon my being a typical ugly American and telling it like it is but red dye has just one purpose and that's to make products more appealing to people. Hummingbirds don't need it, it may be harmful to them, and it's pretty stupid to add some chemical to your sugar water just because your feeder doesn't have red on it. Any hummingbird feeder that doesn't have red on it was designed by someone who doesn't know anything about hummingbirds and should be chucked in the trash.

My two cents.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 8:14PM
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OTT, but, in keeping with misunderstanding of terms, I had a neighbour years ago that shared a wall with me in a townhouse complex. I was a relatively new mother (year old twins), and my neighbour had a newborn. I couldn't help but notice that her baby cried incessantly.
I asked her once, when she was outdoors.."Is your baby colicky?" "Yes", she replied. "Has you doctor given you any advice about it?" I inquired.

"Yes, he told me to give the baby cornstarch and water."
"Cornstarch?" I asked .."Are you sure he didn't say corn syrup?" "Nope..cornstarch!" was her reply.

Poor little tyke had tummy troubles already, and here Mom was adding to the gassy situation by giving the baby cornstarch!

I had regular visits from the Public Health Nurse (remember those?) to give me advice re: my twins, and I suggested she visit the new mum next door as well, with a warning about the cornstarch!

Being very specific about what you prescribe can be very useful, although sometimes people just hear what they want to hear!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 9:23PM
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My goodness. Now I'm also confused. I'm not at all confused about what to put in my feeders, just confused with all the different sugar terminology, and what we supposedly call the different types of sugar on each side of the border. I think it might be best if both sides don't presume to know what terms the other side uses for its various forms of sugar. We can do our best to clarify what we mean and try to use mutually understood terms, but shouldn't presume to know the customs and terminology in the other country, unless we've spent a good bit of time there or researched it.

I'm baffled by Jeannie7's list of terms that we supposedly use here in the US. It doesn't jibe with my sense of reality. My sense of reality is perfectly in tune with Sidk's.

I would agree with Sidk that the very fine white sugar that we use to make icing, and that contains cornstarch, is commonly called either Powdered sugar, or confectioner's sugar here in the states. I've never heard anyone call it fruit sugar. Although I'm not sure I've ever even heard the term, "fruit sugar," it would make sense to me that it would be fructose, the dominant sugar found in fruits. Fructose is also found in nectar, but is not the dominant sugar in nectars preferred by hummingbirds. Fructose and/or glucose can be present in hummingbird flower nectar, but they will generally be found in much smaller amounts than sucrose. This I do know from reading some field studies of hummingbird floral preferences. Hummingbirds just aren't all that crazy about fructose or glucose. These sugars are not harmful to them, they just don't like them very much. They prefer sucrose, and that is the sugar that comes from sugar cane (and also sugar beets.)

As far as I understand it, refined sugar just means that the darker impurities have been processed out of it. Why Canadians would call all refined sugar "icing sugar," is a mystery to me. Yes, "icing sugar" is refined, but then so is granulated white sugar, which isn't used to make icing. Perhaps Jeannie7 is confusing the word "refined," with "fine?" If this were so, then her statement would begin to make sense to me. Fine sugar = confectioner's sugar = powdered sugar, and is the sort of sugar used to make icing. It is not used in hummingbird feeders because of the cornstarch additive. As far as I know, it's never called "fruit sugar" in the United States.

These are all the terms that describe hummingbird sugar to me:

refined (not brown)
contains no additives such as cornstarch
preferably derived from sugar cane (pure sugar beet sugar not harmful, just less palatable)
white in color
Usually granulated, but could be finer as long as there are no additives.

I hope we all understand each other now. All I know is I'm sick of writing about sugar, and I imagine everyone else is probably sick of reading about it!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 9:43PM
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jeannie7, I don't know where you buy your sugar, BUT not all sugar in Canada is CANE sugar, most of it it is refined BEET sugar.And for the rest of your statement I personally do not confuse 'icing' sugar with 'fruit sugar'. Fruit sugar to me in the west of Canada would be called "fructose" .Icing sugar (here) is a powdered form of beet sugar, also referred to as confectioners sugar.
Refined sugar is really only a term to describe what has been removed. What i can rarely obtain as CANE sugar is a rare commodity in Western Canada, but is a pure(?) white granulated substance! Why not just plant some flowers?

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 12:14AM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

There are different grades of refined white cane sugar. Besides powerded or confectioners (icing) sugar, and granulated 'table' sugar there is also Bakers' sugar which is what I believe sidk referred to as superfine sugar. It is also white granulated but is much finer than regualar table sugar. It is used mostly by commercial bakers b/c it dissolved much faster than regular granulated sugar.

So for the sake of simplicity lets say that we should not use powdered, cofectioners or icing sugar. We should not use sugar that is brown. We should not use 'Raw" sugar, We should not use sugar substitutes of any kind. Natural plant nectar is clear or almost clear so there is no need to add red, pink, purple, blue, yellow, orange, green or any other color to feeder nectar. If you are concerned that there isn't enought red to attract a hummer paint the bottle red. I did do that one year with a feeder that had no red. I just brushed on a thin transparent coat of acrylic craft paint onto the bottle and let it dry.

According to studies done by Clemson University in South Carolina, natural plant nectar is a mix of sucrose, glucose, and fructose, with sucrose being the predominate sugar. The other simple sugars make up 1% or less of the total composition of natural nectar and is not necessary to add to the sugar and water nectar in our feeders.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 8:23AM
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Boy, I leave for a couple days and look what happens ;)

I say it's always best to get it straight from the horse's mouth.

"Although sugar beets have been successfully grown in Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba, the only remaining producer since 1997 was Alberta, reflecting the fact that the only sugar beet processing plant in Canada is located in that province. As a result of being inland from cane refineries, Alberta has enjoyed economic success from sugar beets.

Sugar beet harvested area has followed a downward trend over the last five years. The harvested area reached 17 thousand hectares in 1999 and remained at the level in 2000. In 2001, the area of production declined 30% to 12 thousand hectares, and continued to fall in 2002, down to 10 thousand hectares. Sugar beet area of production had a small rebound in 2003, when it rose back to the 2001 level of 12 thousand hectares."

It looks like since 2001, sugar beet production has been on a downward trend and we may not have to worry about this in the future.

"Sugar beet production in Canada is primarily used for domestic markets. Exports have played a very small role in the Canadian sugar beet industry, exporting sugar beets in only 3 of the last 10 years, with the last exports occurring in 1998. Although sugar beet production in Canada is relatively low, accounting for only 0.29% of total world production in 2003, the trade of refined sugar is present between Canada and the United States. Many changes in U.S. policy regarding refined sugar have restricted trade, and Mexico still enjoys greater access to U.S. refined sugar than Canada."

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 1:28PM
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I have intentionally stayed away from this continueing thread,[although I did follow it] which started out as red dye which as most of us know is not nessecary. As far as the sugar goes Im sure we all understand what should be used and I wont delve deeper into that again. As soon as the " red dye" was listed , I thought oh no , here we go again. It is sorta like politics or religion and I would just as soon keep my blood pressure at a normal rate.

Amity-- I appreciate your comments to and about some of us on this forum, thanks[hope im not being vain]

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 4:29PM
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Earlier in this thread, Penny referred to a Clemson study of nectar and she wrote the following:

"According to studies done by Clemson University in South Carolina, natural plant nectar is a mix of sucrose, glucose, and fructose, with sucrose being the predominate sugar. The other simple sugars make up 1% or less of the total composition of natural nectar and is not necessary to add to the sugar and water nectar in our feeders."

I remember thinking that the 1% or less figure for non-sucrose sugars seemed low, and just discovered this abstract of an article on nectar composition that shows much higher amounts of fructose and glucose in naturally occurring hummingbird nectar. Sucrose is still, by far, the dominant sugar, but the study I saw showed fructose and glucose in far greater amounts than 1%.

Since sucrose is the favorite sugar of hummingbirds, I still would assume that it is not necessary to add fructose or glucose to our nectar mixes. I just can't help but wonder if they get any benefit from these other sugars, or if they're just harmless, lesser additions to hummingbird flower nectar.
Here's the title and authors of the source that I saw:

Similarity and Apparent Convergence in the Nectar-Sugar Composition of Some Hummingbird-Pollinated Flowers
C. Edward Freeman, William H. Reid, James E. Becvar, Ron Scogin
Botanical Gazette, Vol. 145, No. 1 (Mar., 1984), pp. 132-135
This article consists of 4 page(s).

...and the abstract....

The nectar-sugar composition of 40 species of purportedly hummingbird- pollinated plants in 12 families was determined by high-performance liquid chromatography. The distribution of relative percentages by mass for the major sugars--fructose, glucose, and sucrose--was normal about their means. The means and 95% confidence limits were: fructose, 15% (3%-33%); glucose, 11% (0%-23%); and sucrose, 74% (55%-94%). One sample also contained a trace of maltose. Salvia spathacea contained only fructose and sucrose. The data, primarily from southwestern North America, define a range of nectar composition, possibly representing the preferences of hummingbirds. These data support assertions of adaptive convergence in the sugar composition of nectar in hummingbird-pollinated species.
So, put simply, according to this article's analysis, "average" hummingbird flower nectar is about 3/4 sucrose by weight, like that found in white, granulated, pure cane sugar, and is about 1/4 other sugars, chiefly fructose and glucose. Nectars from different flower species did vary quite a bit, but it looks like non-sucrose sugars were always at least 3-6% of the total sugar content.

I know, I know, very technical stuff, but thought someone might be interested.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 12:18PM
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