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Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

Posted by lori68 6--Southern Indiana (My Page) on
Wed, Aug 20, 08 at 11:57

Hi, my question is...Can u give a Hummingbird too much sugar in the mix? I have an 8oz Hummingbird feeder and i mix 6oz of sugar to about 3oz of water. Is that too much sugar for them?? They really seem to love it. I only have 3 Hummers and i have to refill it every 5 days....but i don't want to hurt 'em in any way.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

The standard mix is about 1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup water, or, 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. I believe this most closely equates to the sugar concentration in flower nectar.

BN


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

  • Posted by lori68 6--Southern Indiana (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 20, 08 at 13:48

Thanks for replying..but will i hurt my Hummers by giving them too much sugar?


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

There aren't many studies that prove that a high sugar concentration is NOT harmful. If you google "sugar concentration for hummingbird" many sites will be listed, most suggesting a 1-to-4 ratio. There was one person who postulated that too much sugar may cause crystallization which attracted bacteria on their beaks which could lead to "bill rot", but I'm not sure if that theory is well-accepted.

Until you know for SURE, it is safest to keep your sugar mix close to the naturally-occuring concentrations in flowering plants. The 1-to-4 ratio does this.

BTW, refilling every 5 days may be too long. In the heat of summer, the sugar mixture may go bad in less than 2 days.


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

If I understand your mix ratio correctly, instead of 1:4 sugar/water, you are using 2:1 sugar/water. That's 8 times the concentration that most folks use. I just mixed a batch using 2:1 - it looks like white Karo corn syrup! Why gamble with your little hummers?


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

I didn't mean to gamble...i know they love the sugar water..and i just thought if i added more sugar they would love it even more..but i guess i was wrong :(


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

Lori68...the hummers will not love a more concentrated sugar nectar, more than the recommended 4 to 1 ratio of water and sugar. I've been feeding the hummers for many years and have never changed the ratio. Just stick with this and your hummers will be very happy!

Donna


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

Lori68-- What everyone is telling you is true. Dont know if you know this, but hummers have a sense that tells them that flower nectar is perfect for them, in fact they will sample flower nectar and if it is not they will make a note of it and come back later to get that nectar. In that same note feeder nectar needs to be be in that same quality. Most of the time the ratio should be 1:4 but I do stray from that ratio two times of the year, when they first arrive and just before they leave for good, at that point I give them 1:3 , at those times I feel the need is there for a little extra. There is a big difference between that ratio and the 2:1 you have been giving. The feeder nectar should be refreshed every 2-3 days. So you can adjust the amount you give them to that , to save nectar and keep it fresh for them.


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

Yes, you can harm the hummer by giving too much sugar. I've gone to many hummingbird programs, presented by hummingbird experts, and it is always said to give them only the 1:4 ratio otherwise harm can be done.


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

lori,
Please don't think that we're 'piling on'. I can't speak for anyone else, but I tend to panic when I think harm is coming to a little hummer anywhere, they're so fragile and defenseless. Stick with our little group, we're really very nice. How 'bout it, buds?

Photobucket


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

thanks alot for all ur help! LUUUUV the pic!


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

One of my first gardening blunders was along these same lines..."if some is good, more is better!" Seems logical at first thought. Well, my lawn did not appreciate the quadruple helping of Weed and Feed it received, and promptly died on me. That was many years ago, but I've followed the directions for fertilizing, cooking recipes, etc. to the T from then on! =)

That being said, I do give my hummers a little more sugar at the start of the season, not exceeding 1:3 sugar to water. But I switch to the good old 1:4 soon after, and the hummers are happy and healthy.


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

Oh no! I hope I'm not hurting my sweet little hummers! :( I have a confession~~~~
I've been giving them a 1:3 ratio. Whenever I use the 1:4 ratio, they don't come around but as soon as I go back to the 1:3, I end up having more hummers around than I can handle.

In fact, I have so many on a daily basis, I'm going to have to set up feeders on each side of my house and maybe in the front yard. I must have counted about 15 flying around at the same time every single day!


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

You're fine. Both the 1:3 and 1:4 ratios are within the range of naturally occurring concentrations in flowering plants. Here's some data from the Lousiana Ornithological Society Newsletter, March 2003, written by Dennis Demcheck. The 3rd number is the average percentage. The higher percentage may be preferred by birds but the number of total visits to a feeder may be higher with the lower percentage.

Sugar concentrations for selected plants, May 2001-November 2002
Plant Minimum % sugar Maximum. % sugar Average % sugar Number of Samples
Forsythia Sage: Salvia madrensis 28.2 33.6 *31.4 16
Anise Salvia: Salvia guaranitica 20.0 33.5 29.0 23
Remsens Sage: Salvia guaranitica hybrid 22.8 35.8 *29.1 24
Orange Mountain Sage: Salvia regla 26.6 >35 *32.0 11
Mexican Bush Sage: Salvia leucantha 27.2 >32 *31.2 10
Mexican Bush Sage, "Waverly" Salvia leucantha 26.6 29.0 27.7 4
Belize Sage: Salvia miniata 21.8 >32 *27.1 7
Lady in Red Salvia: Salvia coccinea 30.4 38.7 33.2 3
Red Hot Sally Salvia: Salvia splendens 16.5 18.9 17.6 4
Van Houttii Salvia: Salvia splendens 18.6 28.6 22.3 16
Winter-blooming Shrimp plant: Justicia sp. 23.0 >32 *27.3 9
Summer-blooming Shrimp plant: Justicia brandegeana 23.5 >35 *29.7 11
Trumpet vine: Campsis radicans 27.8 34.3 *31.2 10
Giant Turks Cap: Malvaviscus pendulaflora 17.0 24.6 20.5 14
Sultans Turban: Malvaviscus drummondii 16.0 >32 *22.2 7
Chinese Lantern, Orange variety: Abutilon pictum 14.9 26.0 21.7 23
Chinese Lantern, Pink variety: Abutilon pictum 19.5 40.1 *29.4 6
Cigar Plant: Cuphea ignea "David Verity" 24.6 28.0 26.8 6
Mexican Cigar: Cuphea micropetala 27.1 29.6 28.1 6
Yellow Justicia: Justicia aurea 22.3 25.8 24.5 3
Firespike: Odontonema stricta 15.6 21.0 19.2 10
Coral honeysuckle: Lonicera sempervirens 18.5 24.0 20.6 13
Firecracker vine: Manettia cordifolia 13.1 29.4 21.7 8
Firebush: Hamelia patens 20.2 22.4 21.3 4
Lions ear: Leonotus leonurus 15.3 19.2 16.9 3
Crybaby tree: Erythrina bidwillii 18.2 22.5 20.2 3

Note: * indicates that Greater Than (>) values were used in computing the average.
> 32% was averaged as 32%; >35% was averaged as 35%


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

Great info rita, thanks for posting it!! Now I see why they like the Lady in Red so much.


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

Okay, I agree with the others 1:4 is the appropriate, but I admit I often add a little extra...full, not level cups of sugar. If they're still around, then I doubt any harm has come to them, simply adjust your recipe and enjoy the birds.

I also wanted to write about the picture of the three birds feeding at one time...amazing!!!! I have only four birds and they fight like cats and dogs at the feeder.


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

Whew! Thanks rita! That was reassuring!


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

I put in a little extra sugar last week when I got the 20 instead of my usual 3 after Hurricane Gustav. I knew they had not been able to eat during the hurricane because even before the feeder flew across the yard the wind was blowing too hard for them to stay hovering. They probably got a few mosquitoes but that is it. No nectar. Plus, they probably came up from the swamp which is somewhere in this parish (county) but a few miles away. It was still thin enough to dissolve and not be syrupy. I just felt that a little extra help was a good idea since an awful lot of flowers got blown away. It is no where near winter yet here, probably won't freeze until December or January and not at all if you are in New Orleans, which is only 60 miles.


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

Going along with the too much sugar idea. I have had a bad wasp problem and so I bought 3 plastic wasp traps and I make the ratio 1-1 and add chunks of overripe fruit to that. Well all summer I didnt have a problem, caught a couple hundred wasps. But since migration was heavy under way I caught some hummers able to get into the traps thru small vent holes , remember not intentionally. They would stick their beaks thru these tiny holes.

Photobucket


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

Hi everyone- I am new to this forum but I have had the exact same question about sugar formulas.
I am sure many of you are familiar with Sheri Williamson who wrote "Attracting and feeding hummingbirds" a few years ago.
I went to her website and I asked her that very question via email. Following I will quote her answer and a link to a site with research that has been done on nectar content of flowers. You may all be surprised to know that most hummingbird favored flowers contain more nectar than any of us thought.

Quote from Sheri
"Some hummingbird experts do (or did) insist on a feeder solution no stronger than 4:1, but I've never been a member of that camp. On page 40 of Attracting and Feeding you'll find that I recommend a solution of three to five parts water to one part sugar - a pretty wide range. Hummingbird-pollinated flowers produce nectar that ranges in sugar content from as weak as 10:1 to as strong as 1:1.
Both of the extremes are rare, and the average sugar content is close to 3:1.
Studies of the birds' physiology suggest that solutions stronger than 3:1 may not provide sufficient water in extremely hot, dry conditions and that solutions
weaker than 4:1 may not provide enough sugar for the birds to maintain their body weight when the weather is cold (stronger solutions also freeze at lower temperatures, which is very useful for people lucky enough to host hummingbirds year round). A 5:1 solution can be useful in discouraging bees or helping the
birds through extreme heat and drought.

When I wrote Attracting and Feeding eight years ago, I was deliberately
conservative in my recommendations to avoid upsetting a handful of my colleagues
in the hummingbird community who were adamantly opposed to solutions stronger
than 4:1. Since then most of them have changed their minds, thanks in large part
to the article that begins on page 7 of this issue of the Louisiana
Ornithological Society News:

http://losbird.org/news/0326_201_news.pdf

I now feed 3:1 most of the year, except during the very hot, dry days of late
spring and early summer, and I do think it helps the southbound migrants and
overwintering birds. Using a slightly stronger solution may not be as important
to your feeding strategy with all the good natural food you're providing, but it
isn't going to do the birds any harm."
End of quote from Sheri

http://losbird.org/news/0326_201_news.pdf --please copy and paste this link and read and copy the article for the benefit of your birds. The nectar article begins on page 7.
Vicki


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

I just noticed that Rita has referenced that article above in her comments.
Because of Sherri's email and that article I have been feeding 3:1 all summer. For the last couple days I have been feeding 2:1 to the last remaining migrating youngsters. Even though my yard is still full of natural food they LOVE the feeders.
I had too may birds to count all summer at my feeders here in Delaware using the 3:1 formula.
I kept 7 feeders up all over the yard and many times I have had six feeders at a time being used.
Several hot days when we were in drought I went back to a 4:1-- but only temporarily.
I plan on feeding 3:1 as my usual formula next year.
Please read the article and just use common sense. I am convinced 3:1 is very safe. That is the content of Trumpet Creeper and that was my hummingbirds favorite flower in the yard this summer.
Vicki


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

Hi, Vicki. I'm one of those lucky enough to have hummers year-round. The resident Annas' are ever-present beautiful neighbors -- they nest in the arbor-vitae around the yard. I also switch to the stronger 3:1 mix in the cooler months, about Oct to May. When night temps dip below freezing, this ratio seems to stay liquid to about 28 degrees.

(I switch back to 4:1 mix in the warmer months so the 10 lb bags of sugar last longer! Doesn't it seem like the price of sugar is rising faster than other stuff? )


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

Yes, Rita the price of sugar does seems to be rising FAST--especially when I change my feeders almost daily!
I think I may have seen my last hummers of the season though.
I had two young migrating birds here through Oct.4 I have not seen any hummer since Saturday. I will keep my feeders up till November just in case!
I live in southern Delaware and only have the Ruby Throat from March through October.
Makes me sad but I guess I won't have to buy so much sugar from now till March.


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

I'm sorry but I don't understand people. I've read horror stories about what people give hummers. Can you give them too much sugar? Why take the chance? Be safe and don't cause them any harm. I've read too much sugar can DAMAGE their little KIDNEYS, I did not hear anything about this on this thread. Does anyone mention that "sugar" is not natural like flowers and giving them extra "sugar" may hurt them. Of course they are going to want it. Just like kids, they will eat all the extra sugar they can if you give it too them. Too much is bad for them. People are concerned about eating healthy, why not make sure the hummers are too. I personally will only do the 1 to 4 ratio because I do not want to harm them or damage their kidneys in any way shape or form. People who use red food coloring or use premixed stuff should be reading labels. Why give them anything with chemicals in it. Please people be concerned about their health, why take chances??!! Please keep their feeders clean and hang them only in the SHADE.


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

Hi Nancy-
please go to the site that I have given the web address for above and please read the article. Scientific studies have been done and cane sugar almost exactly matches what hummers get in flowers---and the sugar concentration in very many of their flowers is at least 33%. Some flowers actually have a 50% ratio of sugar. I would never use that in my feeders but rehabilitators sometimes use that formula for sick birds.

I know you are looking out for the birds but I think if you read that article it will give you peace of mind.
I really believe that dirty feeders are a much greater danger to our hummers.
Vicki


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

stronger solutions help mama hummingbird
Posted by carolreese z7 TN (My Page) on Tue, Apr 21, 09 at 14:44

I meet with lots of resistance on this topic, but let me stress that I have read many scientific papers on hummingbird feeding and metabolism before I began making my solution 1 part sugar to 2 parts water. I will mention the scientific studies throughout, so that you may do your own investigations.
First of all, make it easy on yourself, you do not need to boil the water. The sugar will melt with a little extra stirring, and the solution will not be prevented from spoiling by boiling it. The first hummer to stick his tongue in it introduces microbes. Of course, the feeders should be cleaned and refilled anytime you see cloudiness, usually every few days.

If you read the studies, you will find that many of the flowers that hummingbirds prefer have nectar concentrations anywhere from thirty percent sugar to an astounding forty-three percent (jewelweed). Some of the desert salvias have even higher concentrations. Here is a link that will list a number of studies on this topic. http://www.springerlink.com/content/r12612v82625n115/

Researchers found that some of the "hummingbird flowers" that have lower sugar concentrations, are that way in order to discourage bees, which on certain floral structures are NOT good pollinators. Apparently the flower needs hummingbird business but not bees. If you average the sugar concentrations of the flowers a hummingbird visits, it runs around 31-33%.

For starters, I recommend reading a report by two scientists, Hainsworth and Wolf, biologists with Syracuse University. They studied the feeding habits of hummingbirds presented with different sugar solutions. They found that a hummingbird takes in about the same amount of calories per hour. If the solution is strong, they visit the feeder just a few times an hour. If the solution is weak, the birds visit much more often to take in the same number of calories. Here is the link. http://www.hummingbirds.net/hainsworth.html

Hummingbirds are actually insectivores, but require a lot of sugar to fuel their search, and fuel is the operative word. A hummingbird must take in an enormous amount of nectar, several times its body its body weight each day. The feeding day is a balance between energy expended for the calories gained. Thats one reason hummingbirds prefer feeders with perches. In fact, hummingbirds spend as much as 80% of the day perched, conserving their energy.

After learning this, I began making my solutions stronger, two parts water to one part sugar, or about 33%. Those who insist a solution this strong is dangerous, must be unaware of this study, or arent thinking it through. The little birds are eating the SAME AMOUNT of sugar per hour, they just dont have to work so hard to get it. I feel entirely comfortable making my sugar solutions stronger after reading that hummingbirds take in about the same amount of calories per hour regardless of the strength of the sugar solution. Weaker solutions just make the hummingbird visit the feeder more often, making it work harder, burn more fuel...and no, a thicker syrup is NOT hard for the hummers to lap up, this is another of those silly unfounded claims.

I want to make the case for a stronger solution helping out the mama hummer. She is a single mom, getting absolutely no help from the male. She alone incubates the eggs, and has only a few minutes away from them each hour to feed. Once the eggs hatch, she must struggle to keep the hatchlings fed as well, regurgitating nectar and small insects, as well as meet her own needs. A stronger solution means she has to work a little less hard.

Also realize that all hummingbirds actually need to put on weight later in the summer to bulk up for the coming migratory flight. Hummingbirds drop about 40% of their body weight during the flight south to Central America.

Speaking at a conference in Pennsylvania a few years ago, I made my case for stronger sugar solutions to an audience that apparently did not take it well.

A few days after returning home, I received a scolding email stating that my recommendations were dangerous for hummingbirds. One of the claims made in the email was that the hummingbirds might become diabetic. Apparently this person did not know about the study done by Dr. James Hargrove in Georgia that explored the reasons hummingbirds were able to take in so much sugar without becoming diabetic. You can read about it here. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1325055

Another claim made in the email was that the hummingbirds would need straight water after drinking such a rich mixture and would sip from puddles that might contain pesticides or radiator fluid, poisoning the thirsty little birds. Apparently they did not know about the studies by Drs. Hiebert and Calder, among others, that discussed the problems created by too much water intake. It seems that maintaining a balance of necessary minerals and salts is difficult for a bird that must drink so much fluid throughout the feeding day. Dilute nectar results in more frequent urination which results in loss of minerals and salts, just as you would lose electrolytes if you drank excessive amounts of water. Hummingbirds have occasionally been observed (Adams and Des Lauriers) licking soil, that was later tested and found to have high levels of phosphorous, potassium and calcium. Hmm, seems like a weaker solution is more likely to have birds licking up dangerous compounds, rather than the opposite - though that claim was ludicrous from the start.

I was also scolded for using more sugar since that might cause more land to go into sugar production. This is where I realize this person did not even understand the first study I recommended she read - where Hainsworth's research showed that the hummingbird will take in the same amount, I repeat, the same amount of sugar each hour, it is just that it takes fewer visits if the sugar mixture is richer. Maybe she can't understand that means that I am not using more sugar, I am just making the hummers caloric needs easier to satisfy. Of course the amount of sugar I use in my feeders compared to the sugar in the soft drinks, candy and cookies in this country is miniscule, so that objection was laughable to start with.

Its astonishing how some people react to new information, especially information that may question long held beliefs. When I asked the person who wrote the email for references to back her claims, she quoted several "hummingbird experts", people who had written books, for example. When I pressed her for the science that supported their recommendations, there was no response. I supplied her with my references, and hoped to hear that shed learned from their research. Im still holding my breath.


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

Thank you so much Carol for your info.--after much reading and a personal email from Sheri Williamson --I too began feeding a stronger sugar solution as I have stated above.
I have a 33% solution out now for the depleted and exhausted new arrivers.
I really wish people would do more research before they scold so loudly.
All new research is indicating that Hummers get more than a 20% ratio in many of their favorite flowers. I have a lot of trumpet vine on my property and it is a favorite for my hummers-Trumpet vine is about a 33% ratio and that is about all my Hummers will eat (other than my feeders)when it is in bloom!


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

I'm a little uncertain about the ratios involved here...is 33% necessarily equal to 2:1 water to sugar? The reason I ask is that I seem to recall that solids are not dissolved in equal parts into liquids. That is to say, if you were to convert sugar to a liquid form of equal viscosity BEFORE combining it with the water, you could use equal parts. But taking a solid form of sugar--as I think I can safely assume we all do--will result in a different percentage of sugar to water ratio, I think. It's the old "weight vs. volume" issue that culinary experts struggle with.

I'm speaking in generalities and with no expert knowledge...any chemists or chefs out there who can help with this? Very interesting discussion.


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

Hi mbuckmaster-
the formula I am referring to was given to me by Sheri Williamson and it is 1 cup of sugar to 3 cups of water. According to my understanding we do not have to be worried if we are a little over or a little under. Sheri is not some much referring to ratio, as to what the everyday unscientific person(like me) would understand.
I am only using 1 cup of sugar to 2 cups of water very temporarily for the exhausted migraters. So my solution is based on cups of water to cups of sugar and therefore not technically exact.
I am sorry to be confusing--the best way to say it is 3:1 or 2:1 water then sugar.

I am going to repost Her email to me below

Quote from Sheri
"Some hummingbird experts do (or did) insist on a feeder solution no stronger than 4:1, but I've never been a member of that camp. On page 40 of Attracting and Feeding you'll find that I recommend a solution of three to five parts water to one part sugar - a pretty wide range. Hummingbird-pollinated flowers produce nectar that ranges in sugar content from as weak as 10:1 to as strong as 1:1.
Both of the extremes are rare, and the average sugar content is close to 3:1.
Studies of the birds' physiology suggest that solutions stronger than 3:1 may not provide sufficient water in extremely hot, dry conditions and that solutions
weaker than 4:1 may not provide enough sugar for the birds to maintain their body weight when the weather is cold (stronger solutions also freeze at lower temperatures, which is very useful for people lucky enough to host hummingbirds year round). A 5:1 solution can be useful in discouraging bees or helping the
birds through extreme heat and drought.

When I wrote Attracting and Feeding eight years ago, I was deliberately
conservative in my recommendations to avoid upsetting a handful of my colleagues
in the hummingbird community who were adamantly opposed to solutions stronger
than 4:1. Since then most of them have changed their minds, thanks in large part
to the article that begins on page 7 of this issue of the Louisiana
Ornithological Society News:

http://losbird.org/news/0326_201_news.pdf

I now feed 3:1 most of the year, except during the very hot, dry days of late
spring and early summer, and I do think it helps the southbound migrants and
overwintering birds. Using a slightly stronger solution may not be as important
to your feeding strategy with all the good natural food you're providing, but it
isn't going to do the birds any harm."
End of quote from Sheri

http://losbird.org/news/0326_201_news.pdf --please copy and paste this link and read and copy the article for the benefit of your birds. The nectar article begins on page 7.

Carol above uses a 2 water 1 sugar formula for everyday-- I am really going to think about that. I really believe it does no harm to the birds since much of their natural nectar is that formula.I also believe it is very beneficial to migrating birds, and I use that formula in spring and fall. The rest of the time I use 3 water 1 sugar.


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

It is NOT possible to give a hummer "too much sugar". Hummers only consume the necessary calories to survive - if you give higher concentration nectar (like 2:1 vs the "standard" 4:1), all it means is that the hummers have to visit the feeder half as much, allowing more time for rest and/or eating protein (bugs) or feeding their young.

I've been feeding my hummers 2:1 (water to sugar) for years. I go thru ~700 lbs of sugar a year, so using higher concentration nectar has been a god send - fewer refills and fewer cleanings, but the hummers get all the calories they need.

That said, I still have to fill my 48 oz Perky Pet "Grand Master" model 220's every day during the summer.


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

I saw on hummingbirds.net with a video on how a hummingbird drinks, they reported that a hummer will usually go for a sugar source 20 to 40 percent more than the regular recommended. It sustains there flight longer. Just reporting what the experts said. If they come back for more to your feeder, I don't think it is harming them.


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

My yard is quite small but I have many feeders up, including two in the middle of the empty bedroom upstairs which they seem to really enjoy.
I fill the feeders with different nectar ratios (3:1 ~ 5:1) and let the hummers decide which feeders they want to drink from.
Unfortunately, because they seem to prefer different feeder styles or its locations as well as the different nectar sweetness, I haven't figured out what their favorite might be.


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RE: Can u give a Hummer too much sugar??

Thanks for a very informative post, vicki. I've been using 3:1 this fall. They don't have to come back to the feeder as often, and can spend their time hunting bugs. They need the little extra for their long trip.


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