If you provide nectar for hummingbirds, there are two important things to keep in mind: the water to sugar ratio must be accurate and the nectar should be fresh at all times.
Does hummingbird nectar go bad?
It is not unusual for hummingbird nectar to go bad. And hummingbirds will most likely stop frequenting the feeder when that happens. But unfortunately, this is inevitable, after a while the nectar is bound to go bad. Therefore, it must be regularly replaced.
Hummingbird nectar can go bad for a few different reasons, mainly depending on how they are being stored and temperature also plays a huge role in keeping hummingbird nectar fresh.
We must also take into consideration that not all hummingbird nectars are the same in consistency or concentration and this can also cause them to go spoiled or stay fresh for a longer period of time or go bad quicker.
Concentrated nectar, just like regular nectar, will go bad after a couple of weeks but there are still ways to keep the freshness intact for longer.
Keeping the concentrated nectar in an airtight container and storing it in a dark, cool place will prevent it from going bad.
Ready to use nectar:
Hummingbird nectar, even the ready to use one, do not come with an exact expiration date. Sometimes, the ready-to-use nectar can go bad only days after opening it. It all comes down to how it was used and stored.
But ready to use nectar will have a greater possibility of staying fresh longer than homemade ones as they come with preservatives to prevent them from spoiling too quickly.
Nectar made at home scratch are prone to spoil quicker than readymade nectar from the store as they lack preservatives which prolongs the shelf life of nectars. So, it is best to change the nectar from the feeder every 4 to 7 days depending on the temperature.
Powdered nectar stays fresh and lasts for almost 3 to 6 months if stored in a dark, cool spot which is so much longer than the time liquid nectar stays fresh.
The preparation may take a little longer than the liquid version but the end result is the same nonetheless.
Kaytee nectar can last up to one year after opening and two years if it is left unopened. This makes it a great option for people living in countries or areas where hummingbird nectar isn’t readily available.
If it is possible, try to store nectars in the refrigerator. This will help keep the nectars fresher for a longer period of time. This rule applies to all different kinds of nectar.
How to tell if hummingbird nectar is spoiled?
It is fairly easy to spot when hummingbird nectar has spoiled if one knows what signs to look for. But naturally, it is harder to tell when it first begins to go bad because the signs will be less obvious.
This might cause you to wonder why hummingbirds avoid it even though the color and smell remain unchanged.
The color of the nectar is a great indicator, if it begins to discolor and starts to look cloudy or milky with black or white specks floating on top that means the nectar has spoiled. In worst cases, string-like structures will also begin to appear.
If the nectar has gone bad, it is common for it to begin emitting an overly sweet, sour, or moldy smell which will be very strong and pervasive.
Mold or fungus:
Mold or fungus will begin to grow inside the reservoir and around the feeding ports of the feeder. You might also begin to see lifeless insects floating in the feeder as well.
Sticky or crystalized residue:
If the feeder is left unattended with spoiled nectar sticky or crystalized residue will begin to form around the feeding ports. This mainly happens if the feeder is upside-down.
How long is bottled hummingbird nectar good for? Does more hummingbird nectar need to be refrigerated?
If you have made a large batch of hummingbird nectar, you can bottle them in airtight bottles and refrigerate them. This process will help the hummingbird nectar stay fresh and you will be able to use this for up to a month.
The same thing can be done with store-bought hummingbird nectar, after taking the quantity you need, close the bottle and let it stay in the fridge.
After that, all you need to do is take it out every week and pour some in the feeder after getting rid of the old nectar and giving the feeder a thorough cleaning. This process will make the nectar last longer and will cut down its chances of going bad.
5 reason why does hummingbird nectar go bad
There are a few things that cause hummingbird nectar to go bad or rather go bad too fast before the birds had even got the chance to drink from them. Identifying these reasons that cause the nectar to go bad quickly can help in solving the problem.
If the feeder is left in a spot where it receives direct sunlight then this will cause the nectar to ferment and spoil faster because of the heat.
The feeder isn’t cleaned:
Before a refill, if the feeder isn’t cleaned properly, the smallest debris leftover from the previous batch can cause instant fermentation in the new batch.
And once that happens the new batch will be completely spoiled even before any birds gets a chance to drink from it.
Wrong water to sugar ratio:
Another reason that causes the nectar to go bad is using the wrong water to sugar ratio while making the nectar; just like overly weak nectar will fail to attract hummingbirds.
Overly strong nectar can begin the fermentation process faster and before you know it, it is chasing the hummingbirds away instead of attracting and feeding them.
Sugar alternatives may seem like healthier options for the hummingbird but that isn’t always the case.
Honey, for instance, can become a breeding ground for fungus when diluted with water, and natural, raw sugars can come with high levels of iron which are known to harm birds.
Therefore, using honey, maple syrup, and molasses can cause the nectar to ferment and spoil faster than it would if refined sugar was used.
Not being changed regularly:
One simple reason behind hummingbird nectar going bad is, it isn’t being changed on a regular basis or at the right time. If the nectar is left in the feeder for weeks, it will go bad without a doubt.
How to keep hummingbird nectar fresh?
Even though there are quite a few ways hummingbird nectar can go bad, there are also many ways to ensure it stays fresh. And luckily following a procedure consisting of simple steps can help you in keeping the hummingbirds near you fed.
Decide and engage accordingly:
Begin by deciding whether you would like to make your own hummingbird nectar or buy it readymade from the store.
If you are making it at home, all you need to do is take one part sugar with four parts water and stir to dissolve the sugar completely.
Clean and sterilize before pouring:
Now, clean the feeder thoroughly. Do not miss any nooks or crannies. After cleaning it, sterilize it and then you can pour in the nectar. But it is best not to overfill it.
Now, find a nice and shady place in your garden and hang it up for the hummingbirds.
Replace the nectar regularly:
During winter, you should replace the nectar after 4 to 7 days, while in summer it is best to change it after 2 days as heat can cause the sugar to break down and ferment quicker.
While changing, make sure to clean the feeder again. Maintaining hygiene prevents the nectar from going bad too quickly.
Will hummingbirds drink moldy nectar? Does spoiled nectar hurt hummingbirds?
It is very unlikely that hummingbirds will continue to drink nectar after it has begun to develop mold. Once the nectar has gone bad, they will stop drinking it even if it still maintains its original clear color. Therefore, moldy nectar is avoided by them at all costs.
Spoiled nectar can cause hummingbirds and their babies to lose life.
As discussed above, the wrong sugar alternative or spoiled nectar can be, in the mild case, less nutritious for the birds and can cause slight digestive problems but in some cases, the spoiled nectar can act as poison and hurt the birds that drink it.
Hummingbird nectar is a great way to feed birds but they require maintenance, as the nectar can go bad and spoiled nectar is not going to attract or feed any birds. Practicing cleanliness and changing the nectar frequently will make it less likely for the nectar to go bad.