Over the past few weeks, I have become the “sugar daddy” for several hummingbirds, bumblebees and yellow jackets.
Up to at least 10 hummingbirds have been observed sipping and squabbling at the feeders.
Most likely the uptick in activity was because the juvenile hummers have taken wing and were also searching for food.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds nest from April to September.
Most sources said the little birds could have up to two broods a year with a clutch size of one to three eggs.
Other internet sites said that up to three broods a year were possible, but rare.
“Male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds aggressively defend flowers and feeders, leading to spectacular chases and dogfights, and occasional jabs with the beak,” said Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds in an informational post on the site.
I’m not sure that all the aggressive offenders were necessarily male, because it was hard to tell the juvenile males from the females. The juvenile males had not yet developed the blazing red throat of the adults.
Despite the fighting and appeared desperation at the feeders, nectar isn’t the only thing they eat.
“Hummingbirds also catch insects in midair or pull them out of spider webs,” said All About Birds.
An article by Jack Connor titled “Not All Sweetness And Light: The Real Diet Of Hummingbirds” also posted on All About Birds investigated hummingbird diets further.
Connor heavily referred to the work of German ornithologist Helmuth O. Wagner.
Wagner studied the foraging behaviors of more than a dozen species in Mexico during the 1940s, according to Connor.
“Based on his field observations, his work with captive hummingbirds, and the stomach contents of collected specimens, Wagner concluded that insects and spiders were far more important in hummingbird diets than is generally understood and that nectar was not as essential as many authorities believed,” Connor posted.
Connor quoted Wagner as writing, “The food of hummingbirds is determined primarily by habitat and season. A given species may feed mainly on nectar or mainly on insects, depending on the time of year. ...”
“By July in the Northeast, many flowers and gardens are finally reaching full blooming capacity. Like a kid in a candy store, hummingbirds are busying themselves buzzing from flower-to-flower to suck up as much sugary nectar as they can. … hummingbirds need to eat a lot - almost constantly during daylight hours.”, the post said.
The park service also went on to add that the insect part of their diet was very important for fuel for their migration south.
Area folks only have about a month and a half left to enjoy the aerial acrobatics of the hummingbirds.
Local birder and author Gary Edwards in his book "Birds of Venango County" listed the birds’ late departure date as October 9.
Bumblebees and yellow jackets were swarming the hummingbird feeders. In an attempt to keep the bees from chasing away the hummingbirds, I provided the insects some feeders of their own.
They drained them on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. While I have had bee issues at the hummingbird feeders before, I don’t remember them being this persistent. Facebook memories from 2020 showed my bee feeders being swarmed with honeybees and a few yellow jackets. This year it seemed to be equal numbers of bumblebees and yellow jackets.
A nectar dearth could be responsible for the flow of bees to the feeders.
In late July, Lazy S Bees Apiary posted on its Facebook page about signs to look for in honeybees during a nectar dearth.
“Another sign of nectar dearth is the change in foraging behavior. They forage on plants they usually ignore … They also forage close to the ground, looking for any type of opportunity for nectar. Also, you may have noticed that this time of year, honeybees and other pollinators are scavenging hummingbird feeders, trash cans, or even the local community recycling bins. The sweetness of the pop (cola) leftover in the trash is a resource when they cannot find nectar,” the post continued.