Dear Joan: In the past few years, three or four hummingbirds have fought over my feeders. This year, at least eight young cubs who share their feeding space. How long will it take? I replenish my feeders every day. I don’t mind – it’s fun to watch.
Carmella Pugh, San Jose
The way of caramel: It depends on the type of Hummers you visit. Anna’s hummingbirds are permanent residents of the Bay Area, which doesn’t mean they’ll be in your backyard all the time. A lot of Allen’s and calliope’s hummers also remain.
Other species of hummers migrate through and out of the bay area but depart in stages. The last of the migrants should leave by mid-November.
Interest in your feeders should begin to decline in the coming weeks as Hummers leave the area and those that remain are looking for other sources of food. Hummingbirds eat a lot of insects, so as the number of insects decreases as the weather cools, birds may visit other areas where they find more insects.
You can leave your bird feeders outside, but remember to keep them clean. If you find that the birds are not coming, you can take them until January when the migrating hummingbirds start arriving. Migration is hard work and requires a lot of energy. Nectar will be welcome as there are not so many blooming flowers or insects around.
Dear Joan: Recently, we have noticed the growth of honey bees in our backyard. They covered two bird tubs that we used to fill for the little birds that used to visit our yard and now cover the hummingbird feeders, despite the bees.
Peggy, nice hill
PEGGY WAY: Mother Nature will take care of your bee problems soon. When temperatures drop to the 1950s, honeybees usually retreat to their hives and spend the winter there.
Until then, there are a few things you can do to keep them away from hummingbird feeders. First, take your feeders and clean them well. Then check for leaks. If nectar drips, this is what attracts the bees. You may need to replace your feeders – they will wear out over time.
As long as you get new feeders, buy a saucer type. Hummingbirds can easily reach nectar with their long beaks and tongues, but bees and wasps cannot. If they can’t eat the nectar, they probably won’t swarm the feeders.
Your feeders should also be mostly red, a color that attracts hummingbirds but doesn’t interest bees that much – they prefer yellow.
Often times, moving the feeders just a few feet away can solve the problem because bees, as ridiculous as it sounds, won’t want to look for them, although hummers will.
Feeders should be placed in the shade, which makes them less attractive to bees and wasps. This is important in the hot summer and those early fall weeks, as it gives the hummingbirds a slightly cooler place to eat.
It is a pity to deprive bees of food, so they can be lured from hummingbird feeders with several pots of autumn-blooming flowers and shallow vessels of water. Throw in a few small stones so they have safe perch.
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