A Different Kind of Sugar Syrup
by Donald Ray Burger

Beekeepers are used to making a 1:1 sugar syrup for feeding their bees. In that ratio, the syrup has equal parts by weight of sugar and water. However, beginning in August of each year one may find a different kind of sugar syrup in area gardens.

Each fall hummingbirds migrate through Houston on their way to their summer homes south of the border. This migration starts about the second week of August and lasts until the end of October. We also have a spring migration in late March, but the hummers only pause for a few weeks on their northern flight. To maximize the enjoyment of these winged jewels, local gardeners place feeders with a different kind of sugar syrup in the garden as treats for the hummers.

The most accepted ratio of sugar to water for hummingbird feeders is one part sugar to four parts water by volume. Thus, one would heat up four cups of water and add one cup of sugar just before the water comes to a boil. As in making sugar syrup for bees, one does not want the water to boil because caramelized sugar is harmful to the hummers. After the sugar syrup cools, I add it to a container and store it in the refrigerator until needed.

After we make the sugar syrup, the next problem is what kind of feeder to use. I have found two types of feeders to be favored by hummingbirds. One is called the “Four Fountain Feeder” by Perky-Pet (also known as the “Pinch Waist Glass 8oz.”). Get one with a glass jar. They are widely available at Target, Wal-Mart, and garden centers. The other feeder I recommend is called the “Best-1 32oz. Hummingbird Feeder.” It also comes with a glass jar and is widely available in area stores. As usual, both feeders are also available from Amazon.com.

There is no need to fill these feeders anywhere near their capacity. I usually just add two or three ounces of sugar syrup per feeding. In our heat, you will have to clean the feeder every three or four days anyway. No need to add more syrup than the hummers can drink in that time period.

The most commonly seen hummingbirds in our area are the Ruby-throated hummingbird and the Rufous hummingbird. The Ruby-throated hummer just appears during its northern and southern migrations. The Rufous hummer sometimes stays around all year. The Ruby-throated hummer is by far the more colorful of the two. Popular plants for hummers include Hummingbird Bush and Spicy Jatropha. Add a new feeder to your garden!

Written August 15, 2012

First published in The Skep, August, 2012

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