When creating a solution for a hummingbird feeder, you should add 1 cup of white sugar to 4 cups of boiling water, then boil the mixture for two minutes. Allow the solution to cool, then fill your feeder. This ratio approximates the sugar content of flower nectar. Boiling the water extends the life of the solution, but take care, as lengthy boiling will create syrup. The solution may be refrigerated for up to three weeks.
Hummingbirds must eat on a near-constant basis to fuel their rapid metabolisms. According to the University of Illinois Extension, the birds consume their body weight in nectar daily. The Extension notes that the birds live only a few hours away from starvation--except during the period of their migration--because they have limited bodily reserves, so your feeder will be a welcome sight if the birds don't have nectar-producing flowers from which to feed. Leave your feeders up for two weeks past the last date you see a hummingbird, to cover any stragglers.
The more food sources you offer, the more hummingbirds you may attract. Because hummingbirds also eat insects, you can place a ripe, peeled banana or banana peels near your feeder to attract fruit flies. Nectar-producing flowers, red flowers, and flowers with tube-shaped blooms are among the most appealing to the birds. Examples include honeysuckle, salvia, columbine and bee balm. Flowering trees and shrubs provide both cover and a source of food. Lilacs and butterfly bushes, black locust and hawthorn trees will all draw hummingbirds.
Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, so red feeders may see more hummingbird visitors. Hang your feeders in the shade, and change the solution once per week under cool conditions, or twice per week in hot weather. To clean your feeders, use water and a small amount of soap to wash, then rinse the feeders thoroughly. The National Audubon Society suggests cleaning feeders with a solution of one part vinegar to four parts water. Add dry rice during the wash if scouring is needed, then finish with a triple rinse.
Avoid using honey, as it may develop fungal growths. Avoid using artificial sweeteners, as they provide no calories. Additionally, the Hummingbird Society warns that you shouldn't use other forms of sugar, such as brown sugar, to create your solution. The society notes that hummingbirds prefer sucrose--as found in table sugar--to other sugars, such as fructose or glucose. Avoid formulations made with red dye or flavorings.