Hummingbird Sugar Water: A Complete DIY Step-By-Step Guide

When I first began making homemade hummingbird sugar water for my feeders, I followed the instructions I found on the internet.

Over time, I discovered I was not making it correctly because some instructional steps on the internet were not made perfectly clear, causing me to be unaware of my mistakes.

This article is a step-by-step process for how to make hummingbird sugar water for feeders and answers some of the questions that are not even obvious to ask.

How Do You Make Hummingbird Food Out of Sugar and Water?

To make hummingbird food from sugar and water, mix a ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts warm water (1:4) and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.

Making hummingbird food with two simple ingredients, sugar and water, is easy and a great way to attract hummingbirds to your garden. Below is a step-by-step guide:


  1. Refined plain white sugar
  2. Water


  1. Heat the water.
    a. Although not required, boiling the water is an optional step. Some people favor boiling the water to make it pure and uncontaminated and to help the sugar dissolve when it is added.
    b. If you elect to boil the water, boil more water than your desired water quantity, then measure out your desired water quantity before adding your sugar as some of the water being heated will evaporate.
    c. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, and then let it cool to room temperature.
    d. If you choose to not boil your water before adding the sugar, make sure the water is warm enough to completely dissolve the sugar.
  2. Measure the quantity of warm water desired into a glass Pyrex measuring cup.
    a. A ratio of 1:4 sugar-to-water is the goal. If 1 cup of sugar water is the quantity desired, warm 1 cup of water in a glass Pyrex measuring cup and then dissolve a 1/4 cup of sugar into the water.
    b. Always remember to warm your desired water quantity first before stirring in your sugar. Do not add your sugar first then the water.
    c. If the quantity of sugar water desired for a larger batch is 1 quart, add 4 cups of warm water to a Pyrex measuring cup and then dissolve 1 cup of sugar into the water.
  3. Measure the quantity of sugar to be added to the warm water to make the sugar water.
    a. 1/4 cup of sugar to make 1 cup of hummingbird feeder sugar water.
    b. 1 cup of sugar to make 1 quart (4 cups) of hummingbird feeder sugar water.
  4. Dissolve the sugar in the warm water.
  5. Let the warm sugar water cool to room temperature.
    a. Adding hot sugar water to a feeder may warp any plastic components on the feeder.
    b. Sugar water that is too hot may burn a hummingbird’s tongue.
  6. Do not use artificial red dye, honey, brown sugar, or sugars that are raw or unprocessed when making your homemade hummingbird nectar. Natural nectar is not red. Artificial red dyes can be harmful to hummingbirds.

See my article: The One Thing You Need to Eliminate From a Hummingbird’s Diet.

Leftover homemade hummingbird nectar can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week; however, it is recommended to make smaller batches of nectar to reduce the need for long-term storage. This provides the freshest nectar possible for the hummingbirds.

Homemade hummingbird nectar is simple and easy to make.

The feeder must be routinely cleaned and maintained to prevent fermentation and the growth of dangerous bacteria. Nectar must be regularly changed every 3-5 days during cool weather, or every 1-2 days during hot weather.

This ensures the hummingbirds are provided with a continuous supply of clean, fresh, healthy, and safe nectar to support their high metabolism.
See my article: What is the Black Stuff on My Hummingbird Feeder?

hummingbird diseases and pathogens WATERMARK 2
Notice the black mold on the yellow part of the feeder port.
A disaster waiting to happen!

Do I Need to Boil Sugar Water for Hummingbirds?

Boiling water to make homemade hummingbird nectar is optional and not necessary.
Boiling water after sugar has been added is not acceptable as it changes the sugar concentration through water evaporation.

Boiling water to make homemade hummingbird nectar is not necessary or a requirement, according to a Smithsonian National Zoo article.

Water does not have to come to a boil as long as it is warm enough to dissolve the sugar crystals.

Boiling the water to sterilize the homemade hummingbird nectar before filling the feeders is unnecessary, as it will not block contamination or inhibit bacteria from spreading once it is in the feeder.

As soon as the nectar is outside and exposed, it will come into contact with the air, which includes fungus and mold spores.

Contamination from the hummingbirds’ beak is always a concern since they use it to preen. The beak can also carry debris from flowers, branches, bugs, and pollen.

Making homemade nectar for hummingbirds is simple and easy, using only two ingredients without having to boil the water.
Dissolve plain white table sugar into water at a (1:4) ratio.
See my article: Forget Commercial Hummingbird Food, Try Making Homemade Nectar

It is not necessary to boil water to make hummingbird sugar water, however, never boil the sugar water after the sugar has been added since it changes the sugar to water ratio and boiling will evaporate some of the water.

Completely dissolve the sugar in the heated water before filling the feeders.

Both tap and purified water are safe for hummingbirds to consume as long as the water content is also safe for humans. If the tap water is safe to drink, then it is also safe for hummingbirds.

However, some hummingbird enthusiasts prefer to use bottled or filtered water over tap water to ensure the purest flavor, mimicking natural nectar without mineral impurities.

Others advocate for using tap water for its mineral content, as hummingbirds need minerals to remain healthy.
However, tap water contains chlorine, which should be eliminated by boiling the water or allowing the tap water to sit in sunlight for 24 hours.

The idea that boiling water can sterilize the nectar and prevent fermentation is true to help eliminate microorganisms and dissipate chlorine if using tap water, but it will not remove much else, nor will it stop the contamination process once the feeders are filled and exposed to sunlight.

For peace of mind, the decision to boil the water before adding table sugar is acceptable, as long as you remember to maintain the right sugar-to-water ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water while letting the nectar completely cool to room temperature before filling your feeders.

How Long Does Hummingbird Sugar Water Last?

Hummingbird sugar water that is outside lasts 3-5 days in the shade, 1-2 days outside in hot weather, and in the refrigerator, it will last up to one week.

The individual components of hummingbird sugar water is water and granulated sugar.

Table sugar does not have a shelf life if it is not exposed to moisture, and purified water will last for 6 months under normal conditions. However, when the two are mixed and the environment is unclear, the table sugar and purified water will ferment quickly in hot weather, where the moisture creates a perfect place for bacteria to thrive.

In cooler climates, the fermentation process slows down, necessitating one to change the feeder less frequently.
The coldness of a refrigerator significantly reduces bacterial growth; however, homemade hummingbird nectar needs to be used or new nectar needs to be made as it still has a shelf life of up to a week in the refrigerator.

Keeping feeders clean is crucial to preventing mold and bacterial growth. Even if there is still nectar left in the feeder, be safe and change the nectar.

See my article: What is that Black Stuff on My Hummingbird Feeder?

Frequently change the homemade hummingbird nectar and thoroughly clean the feeders using a bottle brush, warm water, and vinegar.
Avoid dish soaps, as they leave behind unsafe residue.

See my article: Forget Commercial Hummingbird Food, Try Making Homemade Nectar

If hummingbird nectar is left in the feeder for an excessive amount of time, it may ferment and turn into a haven for mold and germs. If the water dehydrates, it will produce a sticky syrup that contains more sugar-to-water liquid and will not be healthy for the hummingbirds.

Check out my other posts on Hummingbird Questions

Happy Hummingbird Feeding!

Backyard Visitors

Hi Everyone! I have always loved our backyard and have been fascinated with all the wildlife living there. I am especially amazed by the skill, strength, and beauty of hummingbirds. I hope this article answered your questions.

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