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hummerwatcher

Feeding Honey Solution to Hummingbirds

hummerwatcher
14 years ago

I found in the FAQ for this forum the following statement:

"A honey water solution served up in hummingbird feeders can quickly become toxic and deadly. Honey rapidly ferments and also cultures a deadly bacterium. Contrary to popular belief, honey is not "more natural" than the cane sugar that is sold as white sugar. Honey has been chemically altered by honey bees: it is flower nectar and whatever ever else the honey bee ingested, digested, and spit back out again. Honey is nothing like the sucrose found in flower nectar and white sugar."

I have fed a solution of pure honey/water in my hummingbird feeders for 12 of the 27 years I've maintained the feeders. I've noticed no ill effects on the apparently happy, healthy and certainly populous hummers who live, breed, nest, fight, flee, dipsy-dive, display, perch, torpor, twitter/screech and otherwise carry on as hummers do around here from April to October each year. I first started using dilute honey as hummer feed after I noticed hummers feeding from an open-source feeder I had placed near my garden beehives one Spring day (a modified chick feeder with an inverted quart jar of feed solution).

I have not observed any difference between the fermentation proclivities of honey/water as compared with cane or beet sugar/water solutions. Nor have I observed any greater tendency to culture bacteria or fungi... Of course, cleanliness of feeders and frequent sterilization are a given when feeding hummingbirds.

Is there a specific bacterium which a honey/water solution will culture and not refined white sugar/water?

I would like to know if anyone has any serious data on feeding honey solution to hummingbirds. Is there any scientific, physiological, biological chemical-analysis research to back-up the broad, generalized and somewhat inaccurate statements made in the FAQ quote shown above? (Honeybees neither 'digest' plant nectars, nor 'spit back out' the nectar... they do add certain enzymes to the nectar while carrying it in their 'honey stomach'... and, yes, the nectars are, therefore, chemically different from the pure plant nectars. But pure plant nectars -- the natural and best of hummer food -- are also quite different chemically from monosource and chemically-refined cane or beet sugars.)

I will appreciate any well-researched information which anyone here might offer on this subject. Even anecdotal observations...

If someone can show to me that feeding honey/water solution is harmful to the hummers, I will, naturally, have to re-assess what I have been doing these past 12 years... with no apparent ill effects.

Alicia

... a hummer feeder and watcher since 1981

... a beekeeper since 1970

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