Homemade Hummingbird Syrup Recipe – How Much Sugar is Too Much?

Can Too Much Sugar in a Homemade Hummingbird Syrup Recipe
Be Harmful to Hummingbirds?

Hummingbird hovering above a syrup feederIn my previous post where I shared my Homemade Hummingbird Syrup Recipe, blog visitor Lorraine made a comment, saying she uses a ratio of 1-part sugar to 2-parts water. In my opinion, that’s a bit too much sugar.

To substantiate why I believe it is a little to high, I dug through the tons of research material I’ve accumulated over the years and pulled the following together to share with not only Lorraine, but the rest of you too.

I suggest you read the entire forum thread and the interesting research done on nectar levels in flowers published in the Louisiana Ornithological Society’s March 2003 newsletter I’ve mentioned below (links are provided).

I hope this information proves interesting and helpful. Happy Hummer-ing!! 🙂

Let’s Discuss the Sugar-to-Water Ratios for Homemade Hummingbird Syrup

Regarding the “right/best/healthiest/preferred/etc.” ratios of sugar to water to use when mixing up a batch of hummingbird syrup, I’d like to advise that in my option, 1-part sugar to 2-parts sugar is a little too much sugar to use. It is not recommended to make such a strong sugar-to-water ratio, as we are trying to replicate the sugar concentration Mother Nature provides in flower nectar when we make a batch of homemade hummingbird syrup.

As I posted previously, and will mention again,
the standard mix is 1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup water;
for making larger quantities, that works out to
1 part sugar to 4 parts water.

If you research this “how much sugar is needed” question online, you’ll find many articles. But here’s a very good GardenWeb Hummingbird forum thread that has valuable and interesting information on this subject: http://bit.ly/L7CB5r.

In reading through that entire thread, you’ll find some scientific based and very thorough information, mainly from research done by Dennis Demcheck in his article entitled “Sugar Content of Hummingbird Plants in Louisiana Gardens,” starting on page 7 in this online PDF bulletin: LOS News – March 2003.

If you look at his chart for nectar concentrations in the various plants listed (page 10), I am sure we would find the sugar content in one of the listed Louisiana flowers to be pretty darn close to the levels found in the same flower in another state. Thus … I’d wager we can use his chart as a good rule-of-thumb for nectar levels no matter where we live.

In the GardenWeb thread, there are many comments from hummer enthusiasts about the ratios they adhere to; however, you’ll find that a ratio of 1-part sugar to 3-parts water (that works out to 1 cup sugar to 3 cups water; or 1/3 cup sugar to 1 cup water) OR the more “standard” ratio of 1-part sugar to 4-parts water to be a very safe rule-of-thumb to follow. (Again, read over the research materials.)

You can save money on your sugar bill AND help out the hummers by feeding them a hummingbird syrup recipe that’s closer to the nectar concentrations found in most flowers if you cut back from using higher ratios of sugar-to-water, such as the 1-part sugar to 2-parts water syrup recipe.

But … read the thread and Mr. Demcheck’s article and decide for yourself. For my purposes, I can see reason to up the syrup content to 1-part sugar to 3-parts water in the very beginning and at the end of a hummingbird’s residency period, as mentioned in the forum thread. When hummingbirds first appear in your locale, they do need a little extra nourishment in the beginning to regain strength after their long migration, and also towards the end of their residency to give them an extra boost of nourishment to help get them ready to fly off to warmer climates – beginning their migration cycle once again.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dansphotoart/

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