3 Lessons from the Birds and the Bees

Posted by martin.parnell |

Last week, my wife, Sue decided that she would like to attract bees and hummingbirds to our back garden. Her first step was to invest in a hummingbird feeder, in the hope that it would attract some of these colourful little birds.

The sales assistant told her that she should fill it with a mixture of sugar, water and red food dye, as the latter will attract the birds.

However, on reading an article on the subject by Penny Eliston, a licensed hummingbird rehabilitator, Sue learned that one should  “not put honey, Jell-O, brown sugar, fruit, or red dye (also known as food coloring) in your feeder!" Honey ferments rapidly when diluted with water and can kill hummingbirds. The effects of red dye have not been not scientifically tested, and it is not necessary to colour the water to attract birds to your feeder. Further, there are unverified reports that red dye can cause tumours in hummingbirds; this may or may not be true, but why take the chance?’

Why, indeed? Sue read more articles and found that this opinion was supported by other experts. After doing some further research, on the Internet, into which colour plants most attract hummingbirds, Sue discovered that apart from some red-flowering plants, delphiniums, foxgloves, columbines and several other blue, purple and yellow- flowering plants come near the top of the list.

Interestingly, these are the same plants which will attract bees. Also, if you want to attract native bees, you plant native plants and, to attract honeybees, you plant exotic plants. You could go to even further lengths and build a bee house or provide a bee bath, but I think Sue will be sticking to choosing appropriate flowers, for now.

So, how does one decide when information is accurate, valuable and relevant? First, it’s always worth listening to the experts, but do check out their credentials. Look at a variety of sources and ask yourself “What appears to be the general consensus?” When deciding which approach to take, look at the various options. Maybe there’s more than one idea to consider, when choosing a plan of action. Perhaps one idea is more practical, cost effective or quicker to implement.

Is there a plan that will satisfy more than one need? Which approach best suits the conditions, your time allowance and the needs of who you are doing this for. Sue’s really looking forward to sitting at the window, as she writes her journal and observes the comings and goings of her little visitors.

And, if they don’t come? Well, I guess that’s the time to review her approach and formulate a new plan of action!

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