It’s fun to watch hummingbirds, but if your feeder isn’t clean with healthy nectar, you could be killing the hummingbirds you’re attracting. A dirty feeder can host a deadly fungus that leaves them unable to consume nectar—that cute, little bird now faces starvation. A mother hummingbird can also pass this infection to her babies.
Clean the feeder with hot water and scrub it. Don’t use soap that will leave residue. If you see mold, soak the feeder in a quarter cup of bleach in one gallon of water for an hour, rinse with vinegar and water.
For a healthy nectar, mix one cup cane sugar in four cups water. Boil, stir and cool. Boiling slows the fermentation so the nectar won’t spoil as fast. If your nectar turns cloudy, it’s gone bad. Keep any feeder in shade and put out enough nectar for the birds to consume in two or three days.
If you don’t want all this fuss, plant flowers hummingbirds love: bee-balm, fire pink, scarlet petunia, red buckeye, scarlet morning glory, scarlet paintbrush, and scarlet salvia.
Bright flowers will also attract butterflies. Plant zinnias, marigolds, milkweeds, verbenas, and mint in clusters. This will also help feed local bees. (And put out a flat dish with exposed colored glass or colorful rocks to water the bees.)
Some native plants to feed hummingbirds, butterflies and bees include: mountain mint, dwarf desert peony, chokecherry, fireweed, globe mallows and blanket flower.
You might also want to plant to feed other wild birds—it’s far cheaper than buying seed. Lupine, sunflowers, blue columbine, and goldenrod will pull in a variety of birds.
Don’t use harmful pesticides that will end up harming the birds, butterflies and bees. Make a natural pesticide with a cut up onion soaked in a gallon of water for three days. Spray the water on your herbs and vegetable plants.