During the past couple of fall seasons, I’ve been seeing numerous hummingbirds competing for nectar with our year-round friends, the butterflies. This is such a great thrill! It started a few years ago, with one or two hummingbirds arriving every once in a while. Today, there are many more.
These rare sightings used to take place in the morning or at dusk. Now it is an all-day occurrence. We sit and watch them go back and forth, from their two favorite nectar plants (Fire Bush and Fire Spike) to a perch on a nearby branch of a Jatropha tree, where they seem to be admiring or even guarding their favorite plants.
Most hummingbirds migrate to Mexico, but because of deforestation, they have been moving further southeast each year. This accounts for the increasing number of hummingbirds in our Florida gardens.
Gardeners tell me they’ve planted the right plants, but still never see hummingbirds. More often than not, because the plantings are located outside a room in their house or in an area where theydon’t spend much time, if any. Hummingbirds do not ring the doorbell when they arrive in your garden, so be sure to place your plants where they will be most visible to you. That’s preferably outside a window or doorway in your home where you spend a considerable amount of time, because you don’t want to miss any visual encounters with these little jewels.
Did you know that hummingbirds only weigh as much as a penny? And that they are attracted to plants by color. Their favorite color, like butterflies, is red, but they’re also partial to blue, yellow, orange, pink and probably many others. Tubular flowers are a plus for attracting hummingbirds but not a necessity.
Grouping your nectar plants together is also preferable, because hummingbirds flying high overhead can spot them more easily and possibly be prompted to zoom in to take a closer look. Better yet, take up residence in your garden.
If you plant hummingbird favorites, (again, Firebush and Firespike) they just may hang around until it’s time for them to migrate back up the east coast. Like Monarch butterflies many stay in South Florida year-round. If you’re lucky, they’ll remember where they vacationed and will return next year, maybe with some friends. I think that’s exactly what happened in my garden.
Another way to attract hummingbirds to your garden is to install hummingbird feedersin addition to the plants. Feeders containing sugar water are great in some cases, and can be purchased at most nurseries and box stores. To make your own nectar, mix one part granulated sugar to four parts water and boil the water so they blend into watery syrup.
Keep in mind; however, this is only a supplemental food source. Real nectar from plants cannot be replaced. Also, maintaining clean water in your hummingbird feeder is very important. You should change the sugar water every couple of days to reduce the bacterial buildup in the feeder, which might have a harmful effect on hummingbirds. One more thing: beware of ants in your feeders. Ants apparently think these feeders are hung in trees to feed them and their little buddies.
Most people I have talked to don’t think hummingbirds exist in Southwest Florida, and are surprised when I tell them of my experiences in the garden. Even though the number of hummingbirds here are growing, they’re still not as abundant as they are up north. My youngest daughter who lives in Ohio, always rubs it in that she has so many hummingbirds in her yard, she has to put out another feeder, because the four she already has are not enough. I just tell her it’s a sunny 85 degrees here in Naples, and then I ask her when they’re expecting the first snowfall.
KEEP BUTTERFLYING!! Or should I say KEEP HUMMINGBIRDING!!!