Apr 24, 2019 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, April 2018

Ask Birdsquatch: Mold and Hummingbird Nectar

Ruby-throated hummingbird at feeder. Photo by Bill Thompson, III.
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Dear Birdsquatch:

I have a question about hummingbird nectar. When making the sugar water (in the proper 4:1 ratio, of course), I usually make a big pot—enough to fill 10 16-ounce Mason jars, which I keep in the garage fridge. Today, when I was filling the backyard feeder, I noticed black fungi floating in ALL of the jars. I always clean with soap and water and even bleach the jars a bit. But I still occasionally get mold. Do I need to make fresh solution each time I clean the feeders? I'll do it, if necessary, but it's easier to do a big batch.

Thanking you in advance. And my local hummers in northern California thank you, as well.

—Barbara Redding, California

Dear Barbara:

Is your middle name Ann, by chance? Because I'm a huge Beach Boys fan (Ba-ba-ba-ba-babra-Ann) and, well, you all live in California. Were you the inspiration for that song? I have some relatives in northern California that I've always wanted to visit, but they are really hard to find.

Anyway, I will now focus on your very interesting question. I believe that somewhere in your process, bacteria are doing what they do: grow into icky black stuff. Boiling the solution and letting it cool kills off nasties in the water and sugar. Washing your jars (and lids!) on high heat in your dishwasher should sanitize them well enough. Is your garage refrigerator's temperature set too warm? If so, and if the lids on your solution jars aren't tightened fully, that could be the problem.

Some hummer fans make concentrated solution in a 1:1 ratio, store that in a single jar in the fridge, then add 3 parts boiled water to reach the suggested 4:1 ratio. The 1:1 concentration takes up less room and is less prone to spoiling. It's worth trying.

Now, about that garage fridge of yours... do you ever store blueberry pies in it? I'm asking for a friend.



About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.


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