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Sugar water...boil or not?? Cloudy sugar water! (1 Viewer)

hennygal

New member
I have always boiled my sugar water and have never had it cloudy, but this year it turns cloudy as soon as I put the sugar in the water. I usually boil for one minute, but since it was cloudy I boiled it for two, but it is still cloudy. I have not seen any hummers yet and I wonder if it is because my sugar water is cloudy??? I have seen a downy at the feeder, but no hummers. I put some sugar in cold water and stirred it up and it did not turn cloudy. I know my pan is rinsed free of soap so I have no idea why I have this problem. Anyone have any ideas???
 

KC Foggin

Super Moderator
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Nah, that shouldn't make any difference. Even though it's been proven that boiling the water is unnecessary as the minute the hummer puts their beak in the feeder hole, it has become contaminated but I still boil the water separately and then add the sugar in and stir. I've never boiled it with the sugar in the water.
 

Bird_Bill

Well-known member
Have a water softener added recently by chance?
Wouldnt want to drink or use for nectare. Usually has excessive sodium and could result in cloudiness.
 

KC Foggin

Super Moderator
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United States
No, it doesn't but like I mentioned earlier, I don't boil the water with the sugar in it.
 

SqlGuy

Member
Here is a simple test: let the jar stand, in the room or in the refrigerator. If it clears up after 15 minutes or so, it's just the air bubbles in the water from the dissolved sugar. Are you mixing at the recommended 4 parts water, 1 part granulated white sugar, by volume? If so, and your water is drinkable, it's not a problem.


If your nectar gets cloudy a few days after mixing, that would be mold, and it should be thrown away, and cleaned better and more frequently. Mold can develop even in refrigerated nectar.

Boiling is necessary only if it's necessary to boil your own drinking water.
 

hummer520

Member
This is very interesting. It does sounds as though you need to be careful not to hard the birds. If I were you I would get my water tested for personal health reasons. If you are doing everything the way you always do them, the problem might be your water.
 

Backyard Sanctuary

Well-known member
I find boiling the water makes it easier to dissolve the sugar granules. I add boiling water to to sugar. I then add cold water to cool it down before adding to a one gallon plastic container that I place in the refrig until a few hours before use. It is only when I add the cold water to the hot nectar solution do I get clouding, but it soon clears leaving a very faint brownish yellow tint to the solution which I am told is due to the sugar not being ultra refined.
 

alexpk321

New member
On this question of boiling the nectar I would be very interested if anyone has any scientific evidence that this is necessary. From reading forums here and elsewhere it seems some people boil the nectar, some people just boil the water but not with the sugar in it, and some people don't boil anything. I personally boil the water but not with the sugar in it, and i keep the water stored in a plastic container on my counter for a few weeks and use that to make nectar with. I'd hate to think anything i'm doing could harm a bird but if someone thinks so, i'd like to know why. Nectar you prepare contains some bacterial right from the start because bacteria are all over the place, including in the air, so you don't need the bird's tongue to touch it to be "contaminated" it already was. As for bacterial spores, some types need to be boiled more than 2 minutes to kill them, that's why to can food there are particular time schedules. So i'm doubting any boiling is necessary, I just do it because i read you're "supposed to." i'm also doubting the prepared nectars are bad for birds. But again, if anyone has any evidence i'd like to hear it. thanks :)
 
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Tz'unun

Featherless Biped
One reason that people swear by boiling as a means of slowing spoilage might be that boiling a sugar solution for the recommended two minutes is going to make it more concentrated, and sweeter solutions retard the growth of microorganisms. Of course, making it too concentrated (>25% sugar by weight) creates a new set of problems, including crystallization, inefficient feeding due to increased viscosity, and potential dehydration of the birds in very hot weather (hummingbirds need lots of water to stay cool just like we do).

I boil mainly to dissolve the sugar dissolve more quickly - just a couple of minutes in the microwave - but have recommended boiling the solution when problems with premature spoilage were not remedied by thorough cleaning and disinfection of the feeder and/or switching to name-brand sugar from store-brand/generic (which often contains more dust and other impurities than the name brands).

Skeptics about potential harm from commercial "nectars" (the colored ones, at least) should read this article, complete with citations from the medical literature:

Should I Add Red Dye to My Hummingbird Food?

The colorless products are mainly bad for your bank account and the environment, being outrageously overpriced and overpackaged.
 

Backyard Sanctuary

Well-known member
Anyone having trouble getting to the website in Tz'unun's post?

I am one of those who believes red dye is not necessary as nature's nectar is clear. Why add something that adds no value to the hummingbirds diet? We humans know all to well about useless and harmful additives in our foods. No sense doing the same to our feathered friends diet. If you are looking to attract hummingbirds and you want more red to advertise your feeder tie a big red bow or ribbon near your feeder. I would remove it once the hummingbirds have discovered your feeder. Funny thing is hummingbirds seem to find feeders no matter the color.
 

Tz'unun

Featherless Biped
Apologies to anyone having problems with the link. The original site is gone, so I have to link to an archived version of it (which may take a few seconds to load).

In talking to people about feeder solutions, I used to repeat Nancy Newfield's anti-dye mantra "unnatural and unnecessary," but I found that people who like the look of a colored solution tend to interpret "unnecessary" as "optional." That's when I went searching for scientific evidence on the issue. There turned out to be quite a lot, much of it scarier than I had imagined. At the link, my friend and colleague Stacy Jon Peterson summarizes the ramifications for hummingbirds and cites the relevant peer-reviewed articles for those who prefer to form their own opinions.
 

crewl1

Active member
I do not boil my water any longer and rely instead on more frequent feeder changes and cleanings. The water I use comes from the tap via a PUR water filter and appears clear after the 4/1 mix process. I run 4 small feeders and only fill to about half (one cup) and once in a while one will turn cloudy possibly due to contamination from insects. I just quickly clean and replace the mix. Boiling seems like unnecessary overhead since my feeders empty rather quickly here in Southern California.
 

dubaron

getting started
one of my varied interests is beekeeping. as such, i have to mix up a good amount of sugar syrup for my hives. the goal is to dissolve all the sugar in the water without making rock candy starter. to do that, i bring the required amount of water to a very light boil, remove it from the heat, and then slowly mix in the required amount of sugar stirring until fully dissolved. it's a slow process when you are using a 5 pound bag of sugar making a thick winter syrup, but for hummingbirds it shouldn't take more than a few minutes to get the sugar fully dissolved. you have to make sure you get all the sugar dissolved, otherwise as the water evaporates out, crystals will form and that is no good for the birds.

i filled up my hummingbird plate feeder this morning with a 1/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water ratio and it seems to have been popular.
 
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KC Foggin

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I do not boil my water any longer and rely instead on more frequent feeder changes and cleanings. The water I use comes from the tap via a PUR water filter and appears clear after the 4/1 mix process. I run 4 small feeders and only fill to about half (one cup) and once in a while one will turn cloudy possibly due to contamination from insects. I just quickly clean and replace the mix. Boiling seems like unnecessary overhead since my feeders empty rather quickly here in Southern California.

Actually, the minute a hummer inserts it's beak into the feeder the solution is somewhat contaminated. Another argument for not boiling. ;)
 

allamericanbird

Active member
Don't Use Artificial Red Dye

FD&C Red #40 is 2-naphthalenesulfonic acid, 6-hydroxy-5-((2-methoxy-5-methyl-4-sulfophenyl)azo)-, disodium salt, and disodium 6-hydroxy-5-((2-methoxy-5-methyl-4-sulfophenyl)azo)-2-naphthalenesulfonate.

Yummmm! (Lots of sarcasm there!)

It's no longer made from Coal Tar, now just from Petroleum.
Not suitable for bird or human.

If you want a red color, then use beet juice or another natural food color.
 

JMomOhio

Well-known member
Me and my stepdaughters are having the same problem! I've been making my nectar the same way as I have for years...........hottest tap water I can get, no boiling, but our nectar is still clouding up. I wonder if a chemical has been added to the sugar that is causing this???
 

PumaMan

Well-known member
I just mix up sugar (the cheapest generic store brand pure cane sugar) and water, at approx 1:4 ratio. I make it a bit stronger in the winter so that the freezing point is a tad lower. The final solution is never crystal clear but I can easily see thru a half gallon container of it. I'm no hummingbird expert but I've been feeding them for quite a few years now, religiously, and I've never boiled the solution. The hummers don't seem to mind. But I also refill and clean the feeders every 2-4 days (depending on the season). The Aspect Hummzinger feeders are so easy to clean that I do that every time I refill.
 

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