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Feeding hummingbirds
August 04, 2008

Here we are in the first full week of August already.

Set sets here are now before 9:00 PM :-(

Here in SW Michigan we will lose an hour and 18 minutes of sunlight this month.

These are for sure the dog days of Summer.

For us, the dog days is the hot spell from Early July to about mid August.

In ancient times, the dog days were named for the dog star Sirius.

Sirius would appear in the Eastern sky just before sunrise so the name dog days came about.

Ancient Rome, Greece and other civilizations blamed Sirius for the hot days.

Some civilizations would sacrifice a live dog, curse the star and other such follies.

Sirius is the brightest star in our night sky and follows Orion the hunter. Sirius is part of a few stars that makes up the hunters dog.

Thus the name dog star.

For us, the dog days are the hot sometimes lethargic days that drag on.

I'll take our meaning anytime.

This week, the resident red-tail hawk parents are giving their fledgling soaring lessons.

They start low and gradually circle higher and higher, and like some children I know, screaming every step or wing beat of the way.

Sometimes it is both parents, but most of the time, I see mom with her daughter.

I know the fledgling is female by her size.

As with most birds of prey, she is every bit as large as her mom and much larger than pops.

It is a joy to watch these large birds care for and train their young.

The wrenletts are making some big time noise now. I expect fledging to be by next weekend.

For a small bird, House wrens can chatter up a storm.

Hey, it's the first part of the month, it is time to give your feeders and baths a good cleaning. I pick the first of the month, because it is easy to remember and a good habit to get into.

Any time may work for you, just get into a good habit of cleaning.

Are your hanging baskets and pots of annuals looking a bit worn out?

You have plenty of time to enjoy them still.

Give them a good hair cut, daily watering and a weekly feeding if you use water soluble fertilizer.

A lack of water and food makes for a beat-up and beat-down looking pot.

Pots are small and need water daily.

Not only do the plants drink, but evaporation is multiplied in pots and baskets.

Every time you water, nutrients from the soil and plant food runs out the bottom of your pots and baskets.

This is why you need to feed them more often.

For more blooms on all your annuals, look for a plant food that has a high middle number. Something like 15-30-15. Phosphorus is the middle number and promotes more blooms and more veggies.

I realize you may know all of this, but we continue to get new readers and not everyone knows.

This week Thursday, We are taking our oldest daughter and grandkids up North to See the "Mackinaw Bridge and Soo Locks" The kids have never seen the sights and my nine year old grand son is really looking forward to it.

The bridge may not have the glamour of the Golden Gate Bridge, but as a five mile long suspension bridge, it is still the longest bridge in the Western hemisphere and for decades was the longest bridge in the world. (For now I think their are three longer and a fourth being built.)

The Soo Locks is one of, if not the busiest locks in the world.

You may not care about these facts, but I'm looking forward to spending time with the kids.

I think we'll be back Saturday evening. Any unanswered mail from those days will get a response upon our return.

Let's get to the task at hand for this week,

Feeding Hummingbirds.

We all love hummers and some of you may wish for more of them.

Where you live is a huge factor.

In most regions, if you live in a rural area and have proper habitat, getting hummers to visit isn't a big problem if you keep feeders maintained.

Us suburban dwellers and city folk may have a more difficult time attracting one or two hummers.

Decent feeders, planting for hummingbirds and other issues come into play when it comes to attracting and keeping these tiny marvels of the avian world.

This past week a customer told me her neighbor was using "Sevin" dust on her hummingbird feeder and she didn't have any problem with ants at her feeders.

She than asked if it was okay for her to use the insecticide for the same reason.

Seeing RED, and taking a deep breathe and trying to calm down, I mentioned to never use an insecticide on hummer feeders or any feeder for that matter.

Having to remind some people that this stuff is a toxin to birds and small mammals as well if they ingest enough of it.

Now, I know you would never use an insecticide on your feeders like that, but maybe you have a friend or neighbor that uses toxins or oil based products on their feeders.

Well, Let's try to set things straight.

WAKE UP PEOPLE............................

I'm kidding :-)

Did I get your attention though?


We all know that hummers are small birds.

On average, a person can mail 10 Ruby-throated hummingbirds with a single 42 cent postage stamp (U.S.).

It wouldn't take much of any insecticide to kill off one of your hummers.

Okay, the insecticide isn't in the water, but on the feeder.

Birds to preen and they do return to the nest to brood babies and feed them.

Just think, mom and her babies gone just like that.

But I use petroleum jelly or "Vicks" and cooking oil on my feeders and hanger to keep ants a bay, a person may tell you.

Wrong again.

While these items are harmless to you and me, we don't enjoy wearing the greasy products. For birds, it is lethal.

Gumming up feathers takes away the freedom of flight and ultimately death. Even a little on these little birds is harmful.

Now if mom can't fly and feed, what about the eggs or babies?

The graphic photos of man made disasters and oil spills give you an idea or what oils and oil based products can do to birds.

Greasing up poles to keep squirrels etc. away isn't healthy for the mammals either as fur mats up and the critter loses the ability to keep warm or cool.

So what is a person to do?

Look no farther than your pantry or spice cabinet, or your garden.

Ants, wasps, other insects hunt by smell.

If you mess with their sniffer...........................

Catmint, Monarda, Spearmint, Peppermint will deter ants as long as their is a smell.

Clip and hang sprigs of these aromatic plants with your hummer feeders.

What spices do you cook or bake with?

Even hot pepper powders will work.

Hang some mint tea bags with your feeders. This will work as long as the mint smell is there.You may have to change it every 2 or 3 weeks.

Get creative to find out what works for you.

The recently updated, Feeding Hummingbirds page on the web site I share some ideas with you.

There is more than the basic stuff, I went a step further to help you learn a few things on hummers, and pest insects.


Dabs of mint oil will keep wasps away.

Citrus extract kills fleas, see if it works to keep other insects away (I haven't tried citrus yet).

Keeping your feeders cleaned and filled every few days is important for your hummingbirds health.

Feeders can make a difference in the health of your hummingbirds, do you have the right feeders?

A refresher course is a good thing from time to time.

To attract hummingbirds is one thing, to keep them year after year is another thing.

By offering fresh sugar water and plenty of nectar producing flowers and tiny insects (pesticide free) you may attract a few strangers that may stay the season. Be sure to read Tips for feeding hummingbirds Be the expert when you tell your friends about folic acid in ants.

Well, it's time to fly for now.

Before I go, this is something I do from time to time to get you involved in this newsletter.

Send me a short bit on your favorite part of your garden, nature walks, favorite birds or anything else that pertains to "Gardening for Wildlife" and the wildlife around you.

Come on all you old time readers.

Come on Newbies.

Let's have some fun. I enjoy reading about your special favorites and I know readers do as well.

Share some common bonds we all have.

Send me your snippets with your,


I'm gonna need your help just to get a letter out next week.

Here is your thought of the week

Man is happy only as he finds work worth doing -- and does it well.

E. Merrill Root (1895-1973) American Writer

I can't say that only work worth doing makes a man happy, but I do know that when a person is doing work they don't like,

That is one unhappy person.

A body could be making a million a year and still be under paid if he/she hates their work.

Try to get that individual to smile.

Well, you smile at them first and continue to smile.

You share with them positive feelings and thoughts.

And keep smiling.

Find your passion and go for it.

Help them find their passion.

Until next time my friend, a very blessed week to you.

Now don't forget your snippet.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers. Better yet, have them sign up so they can recieve their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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