Boiling the water

nbby40(7)May 27, 2007

Every year we have more and more hummingbirds at our feeders. At some point, I stopped boiling the water when I make the sugar solution, since I have to re-fill three one quart feeders several times a day.

I haven't noticed any change in the numbers of birds or in their activity, but since all directions for making nectar specify boiling the water first, I wonder if there is a specific reason for doing so, other than to simply dissolve the sugar.


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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

I expect that the recommendations from the past may have to do with certain water sources. Certainly boiling will more quickly evaporate off any chlorine that many municipalities often use, although more and more treatment plants are using chloramine instead, which is harder to get rid of and boiling won't necessarily work in that case. Otherwise, boiling can kill some bacteria present before adding sugar, however more will get into the feeder once it is outside and the birds use it, so the purpose is defeated to a degree. But not introducing any extra microbes from the outset might help reduce how quickly the solution may turn cloudy if it is not changed often.

I usually use my teakettle water not long after I've used it for making coffee so the water is already warm and will dissolve the sugar faster.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2007 at 12:12PM
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IM sure it would be a good thing to boil the water to get rid of impurities and make sure all sugar is dissolved although I dont boil or use soap for cleaning. I use hot water and bottle brushes for cleaning. As of last night I decided to change to bottled water to see if they like the taste better and they have drained one , mind you I just had a couple oz in it. I use sams choice which I got at walmart for $3.99 a case.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 12:04PM
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Thanks for the thoughts on this.
We have a well, so chlorine is not a factor. We use a house water filter, so I think the water is relatively pure. (We have been drinking for 25 years and so far are okay!)
The hummers drain the feeders within a few hours this time of year (we put out fewer feeders when they slow down), so bacteria can't really build up. We scrub/rinse with plain water when we re-fill, and about once a week soak with white vinegar.
What are your thoughts about high mineral content in the water? (The bottled water idea sounds like a good way to solve this problem) I know hummers are sensitive to iron, we have a water softener which removes a lot of the iron, and we use potassium instead of salt. Probably not the best for them, but perhaps better than the high calcium/iron in the untreated water?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 10:31AM
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I like the white vinegar too for cleaning it works great, way better than bleach and water. And way safer too.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 12:23PM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

Water needs to be boiled to keep the suger supersaturated ("in solution")?

Boiling should also have the advantage of sterilizing the nectar solution, allowing it to remain safe for hummers for a week.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2007 at 3:35PM
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Hummers use all my feeders but seem more preferrable to my window feeders maybe because they are higher up. It might be a good test to try one feeder boiled the other not as an experiment.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 12:53PM
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Water doesn't need to be boiled or even heated for the 4/1 ratio recommended for feeders. The sugar will dissolve just fine in water directly from the tap. I've always heard you should not use distilled water because the hummers need some of the minerals found in tap water. Any thoughts on the tap water vs bottled water issue?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 3:22PM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

yardenman - If a truly super-saturated solution of sugar/water were made, once the water cooled, the excess sugar would come right back out of solution (that is part of the process of making "rock candy").

With respect to tap water vs bottled water - it's hard to make a judgment because every municipality or well will be different with a different selection of minerals or other chemicals in the water (eg., fluoride is usually added to municipal supplies, etc) and bottled waters vary with respect to mineral content (note that "bottled water" can be distilled, from a spring with various amounts of natural minerals and even natural carbonation, etc. If anything, cost would be the major factor.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 7:27PM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

Solstice98 - I had always read that the water should be boiling to dissolve the sugar and keep in in solution, so I've never tried NOT boiling the water.

I'll try just stirring it to dissolve the sugar next time. It sure would save a lot of time! Live and learn...

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 7:32PM
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I boil...just can't quit boiling...old habits die hard.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 10:01PM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

Well, OK, the hummers seem quite happy with the simply dissolved sugar. Oh wow, is this ever going to make things a LOT easier!

I made enough nectar for 4 feeders a few days ago. 2 went outside, 2 went into the fridge with caps. Yesterday, I noticed one feeder was almost empty, so I set one fridge bottle on the counter to warm up.

It was so easy thast I am going to make enough for all 4 feeders and keep them outside in places where it is impossible for any hummer to "guard" all at once. And I can just dissolve more sugar to refill them in a couple of minutes.

This changes everything for me...

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 3:20AM
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nicknackhummer(Zone 7)

Here's a link from The Hummingbird Society. Go down the page, and it talks about feeders--says no need to boil the water and never use distilled water. (I realize bottled water is not distilled water.)

Here's more info. This also says no need to boil the water, and has more info on distilled water. Go to the "recipe."

Carol R

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 3:38PM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

LOL! I've been NOT boiling the water the past few days and it is ever so much easier!

I've got all my feeders hanging around now and it is a treat seeing the hummers in different places.

My thanks to those who corrected me on my mis-knowledge. It's not what you don't know that gets you in trouble, it's what you think you know that ain't so... :)

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 1:59PM
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Glad I could help! Whatever makes it easier for us to cater to these little birds is a good thing.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 9:20PM
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This is the first year I've actually HAD Hummers and I didnt boil, my mother was up for a visit and about had a stroke, "WHAT?? You dont boil your water for the nectar?!!" No mom, I dont, then she sat at the picture window where the window feeder is and was amazed. They came and fed and I didnt need to boil!! Of course since she left I havent seen them :( I cant quite figure out why. I've changed the nectar and cleaned the feeders. We dont spray or use any kind of pesticides.... I'm hoping they come back, to that end I'm making sure the feeders have fresh nectar. Otherwise I dont know what else to do.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 8:56AM
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Just got to boil. Keep the Hummers happy & safe.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 11:23PM
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