We’re here to help! Wild Yards is a completely free website that is 100% dedicated to helping you create a wildlife-friendly, sustainable yard. Read more
There are many reasons garden enthusiasts love a visit from hummingbirds. Not only are they stunning to look at, but they are also amazing pollinators. They also happen to be fantastic at helping tackle some of the critters which plague many a petunia! With that in mind, do hummingbirds eat aphids?
Hummingbirds love eating aphids. Although hummingbirds typically fill up on nectar, they need a rich balance of nutrients. Aphids are perfect for picky hummingbirds as they are both super sweet and high on protein – as are many other garden bugs.
Why do hummingbirds eat aphids?
Hummingbirds eat aphids as they are quick, easy sources of protein and calories, and they tend to buzz around some of their favorite plants and flowers. Although tiny, hummingbirds require huge amounts of energy to thrive, like most birds, they are omnivores. This means they need a balanced diet of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and fibers to meet their extreme metabolic needs.
Hummingbirds need roughly 1,600 calories per kg of weight per day – which they burn off easily by hovering almost constantly! While hummingbirds will stop flying when needed, they still require lots of energy to keep from starving. When attracting hummingbirds, it’s important to give them lots of opportunities to feed.
Due to their sap-rich diet, aphids are a fantastic food source for many birds. Young hummingbirds, in particular, benefit from aphids as a high-energy snack that’s easy to digest. They’re also very easy to catch and swallow down with their long beaks.
Hummingbirds are opportunistic feeders, meaning it stands to reason that any aphids nibbling on new growth near the flowers they love so much would make for an easy snack. Hummingbirds may not seek out aphids, but rather feast on them if they’re available.
This arrangement is perfect for gardeners as having an aphid infestation gnawing on new growth from your prize plants can be incredibly frustrating! As flowers bloom and plants grow strong in the warmer months, hummingbirds hatch, meaning mother birds will also be looking for reliable protein sources to help rear their young. Aphids, which propagate rapidly and are easy to catch, make for excellent baby hummingbird food.
What other insects do hummingbirds eat?
Likely due to their floral feeding habits, hummingbirds will happily prey on most insects found on or around the plants they prefer. While this means that aphids are a prime choice, it also covers a whole range of creepy-crawlies!
Some insects and arthropods hummingbirds are known to seek and feed on include beetles and weevils, gnats, and ants. If they can find them, hummingbirds will also happily consume any insect eggs and larvae they may come across.
As with fruit and flowers, hummingbirds also have a diverse sense of taste for insects. As they need to eat the equivalent of their own weight in food daily, they can’t be too picky about their menu options.
Thus, given their size, hummingbirds are more likely to feed on small insects – they’re easier to hunt, eat and digest. Depending on the availability of food sources and the bird’s needs, a hummingbird will consume well over a hundred insects a day.
As they are both sexual and asexual propagators, aphids reproduce multiple generations in a given year – and can even be born ‘pregnant’ – meaning there are always plenty to go around!
Hummingbirds hunt their prey in some surprising and creative ways – for example, they will pillage spider webs and even dig for their owners if preferred food is scarce.
Perhaps these ravenous little birds’ most surprising hunting method is their propensity for target-spotting. By hovering in mid-air, they can take time to spot targets at long distances. Then they use their blinding speed to dart back and forth to snatch insects such as mosquitos, mites, wasps, and even bees from mid-air!
What else will hummingbirds eat when there are no flowers?
Hummingbirds will chow down on any insects or liquid sugar they can find if flowers are scarce. For example, they may choose to drink the sap from local trees if desperate.
Often if you’ve had a visit from a woodpecker, you’ll find a hummingbird drinking sap from the hole left in the tree. Additionally, they will sometimes hover near active woodpeckers, drinking the sap as it drips down the tree trunk. Due to its adhesive nature, sap can trap insects, creating an even more nutrient-dense offering for our high-energy little friends!
Though unintentional, hummingbirds also consume lots of pollen. As birds cannot properly digest pollen, it’s probable hummingbirds don’t experience the full benefits of this natural superfood. Despite this, pollen is likely a useful protein boost for hummingbirds.
Ripe fruit is also perfect fodder for hummingbirds. Not only are they attracted to the color red, fruit contains much of the vitamins and fiber they need to thrive. Overripe fruit often attracts some of the hummer’s favorite insects – such as aphids.
Like all other birds, hummingbirds also need grit or sand in their diet. Superfine grit like ash not only helps with digestion but also provides many of the minerals essential to a balanced diet.
Are aphids hummingbirds’ favorite insects to eat?
Hummingbirds don’t tend to be fickle regarding insects, meaning they will happily eat aphids if present – but won’t always look for them outright.
Growing a plot rich in aphid-attracting plants and crops – such as tomatoes, strawberries, and cucumbers – will give your local hummingbirds an extra source of protein they can rely on. Of course, make sure to keep growing flowers hummingbirds love for regular sources of nectar. Jasmine, sunflowers, and impatiens are great places to start.