Hummingbird Sugar Water 101

Attract hummingbirds (or increase their traffic) in your yard with these expert sugar water tips.

The Recipe
If you haven’t memorized the recipe yet, then now is the time. Combine four parts hot water to one part sugar. Mix it up until it’s completely dissolved. Once it cools to room temperature, it’s ready.

To Boil or Not to Boil
Using really hot water will usually suffice. However, if you plan on making extra sugar water to store in the fridge or you have so-so water quality, then it’s best to boil.

Hummingbird Sugar Water 101 | Birds & BloomsSTEVE AND DAVE MASLOWSKI
STEVE AND DAVE MASLOWSKI

Honey Do or Honey Don’t? 
Some people like to come up with creative ways to sweeten their sugar water without sugar, and the most common stand-in is honey. Not only is honey a bad idea in general, but it can also make your sugar-water mixture ferment more quickly. Skip the honey, and stick to sugar.

The Red Dye Debate
Even though every bird authority around the country seems to agree that you don’t need red dye, people still add it to their sugar water. You also see companies offering pre-made sugar water that is red. If this is you, don’t feel bad—but it’s time to break this habit once and for all. You don’t need red water to attract hummingbirds. In fact, it could be bad for the birds (scientists are still figuring this one out). Either way, it’s not worth the risk.

The Important Extras
Sugar water eventually goes bad, unless you’re lucky enough to have a busy feeder that the hummingbirds quickly empty. You should be in the habit of changing it every few days or even sooner if it’s really hot out. Also, don’t forget to clean your feeders occasionally. Mold can collect, so you want to make sure you’re offering hummingbirds clean, safe water.

Did You Know?
It’s always best to stick with real sugar in your mix. Say no to sugar substitutes.

Reader Advice

Need clever tips for cleaning the nooks and crannies of your sugar-water feeders? Our readers can help.

“I rinse my feeders with vinegar, and they stay clean. I rinse them every time I change the food. It’s so easy and works well.” —Mattie Stillwell Tenaha, Texas

“I keep a box of parakeet gravel on hand to clean my feeders. Put a couple teaspoons in the feeder with warm water, then swirl and rise. It cleans the toughest mold.” —Sally Brovold Kulm, North Dakota

“I don’t mind cleaning my hummingbird feeders except for all those little yellow bee guards. I found an easy way to do it, though. Take any juice bottle that has a wide opening and add 3 cups of water along with 1/8 cup of bleach. Add the bee guards, replace the cap and shake. Then let it sit for five minutes and shake again. Once you take them out and rinse them well, you’ll have clean bee guards.” —Marija Domijan St. Louis, Missouri