Issue: June 8th, 1998

Attract hummingbirds to the garden


I can't get out much but enjoy watching my garden. One of my favorite pastimes is watching hummingbirds. What can I do to attract a lot of hummingbirds to my garden?


Since the hummingbirds are attracted to flowers for their nectar, be sure you have flowers blooming in your garden all summer long. Hummingbirds are especially attracted to red flowers but will visit any flowers producing quantities of nectar.

The following information is provided by Dr. Jon Boren, NMSU Extension Service Wildlife Specialist:

For the best success, hummingbird feeders should be placed in or near a flower garden to encourage feeding from natural sources. However, you may wish to place additional feeders near a window or porch in order to see and photograph the hummingbirds up close. When placing the feeders near the house, be sure to use several feeders and hang them far apart. Hummingbirds are extremely territorial and aggressive around a single food source.

Several types of hummingbird feeders are available on the market including class, plastic, or ceramic construction. All of these types of feeders work well, but a perch at the feeder will encourage hummingbirds to remain there for longer periods of time.

Although you can buy a commercial nectar solution, the fancy red-tinted formulas many people use in feeders are not necessary to attract hummingbirds. They will hover just as enthusiastically at a feeder with plain sugar water. The best solution is 80 percent boiling water to 20 percent sugar, a four to one mix. Be sure to allow the nectar to cool before filling the feeder. In fact, the use of red food coloring in your solution is both unnecessary and unhealthy for the birds, especially when your feeder already has the appropriate red plastic blossom.

Never use honey when making your own nectar mix. Honey will attract bees as well as a black fungus that will cause a fatal liver and tongue disease in hummingbirds. In addition, don't be compulsive about removing small insects found in the mouth of the feeder. They fulfill the protein requirements for hummingbirds and should not be removed from the feeder until cleaning.

Hummingbird feeders require cleaning every two to three days, especially in warm weather. Feeders should be washed with a solution of one tablespoon white vinegar and one cup water. Use a bottle brush to clean hardened debris on feeders, and rinse thoroughly with warm water.

Don't use icepick to "inject" insecticide


I was told that I could treat borers in my trees by punching holes in the tree with an ice pick and then pouring systemic insecticide into these holes. Won't that hurt the tree?


Yes, it will hurt the tree and is not what I would recommend to control the borers. Anything that penetrates the bark of the tree injures the tree permanently. Nails, wire or other material tied around a tree trunk, and even pruning are harmful to the tree. Pruning and staking are sometimes necessary, even though they can do harm. It is important to do these things in a manner which minimizes the harm and maximizes the benefits. Punching holes with an ice pick, definitely harms the tree and I know of no insecticide, systemic or not, which is labeled for application in this manner. Yes, there are "injection systems" for injecting insecticide into trees, but these also harm the tree. In some cases, where spraying cannot be accomplished and insects are causing major damage, a true injection system (used in accordance with the directions) may be the only recourse. In this case, the object is, again, to minimize the harm and maximize the benefits. Ice pick applications - no!

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!