Do Hummingbirds Eat Bugs?

do-hummingbirds-eat-bugs

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Each spring, anticipation for hummingbird activity ramps up across the nation. When you fill your hummingbird feeder with nectar, you are helping these birds receive the proper nutrition they need. But hummingbirds do eat other things apart from nectar, so do hummingbirds eat bugs?

Yes, hummingbirds do feed on certain bugs. Insects such as flies, beetles, and aphids provide hummingbirds with select nutrients that cannot be met by feeding on nectar alone. Hummingbirds eat insects to supplement nectar, which is their main energy source, yet certain kinds of protein provided by insect consumption help regulate their bodies at optimal levels. Spiders are also consumed by hummingbirds if insect populations are low in a certain area. 

Do Hummingbirds Eat Anything Other Than Nectar?

Nectar is an important feature of a hummingbird’s overall diet. This sweet and sticky substance from flowers is responsible for fueling a hummingbird’s metabolism. But protein and certain minerals from insects or arachnids are also essential to a hummingbird’s diet

So while your honeysuckles or azaleas are important to a hummingbird’s nectar needs, a yard with plentiful insects or spiders is also important. 

You may have observed hummingbirds picking at bushes and trees. This is a behavioral pattern known as gleaning, and this is done quickly so insects cannot fly or jump away. Gleaning can also be observed by hummingbirds sticking their beaks into bodies of water or even sand and dirt. If hummingbirds cannot find insects out in the open, they will burrow to find them. 

Apart from nectar, insects, and spiders, hummingbirds have been known to eat grains or certain fruits like tomatoes, but this is rare. This bird species can extract all of its required nutrients from nectar and bugs. If you happen to notice hummingbirds eating grains, fruits, or vegetables, this could be a sign that nectar or insects are in short supply across a large area. 

With this in mind, you may be wondering what specific bugs hummingbirds prefer to eat?

What Bugs Do Hummingbirds Prefer To Eat?

Hummingbirds are very small and delicate birds. This means that smaller insects or spiders are most preferred over larger ones. 

Hummingbirds can easily eat their entire weight within a day, which granted, is not much. So when you account for all the plant nectar consumed or sugar water the birds drink from feeders, only a small amount of insects or spiders are needed. 

Insects such as flies, mosquitoes, gnats, and small beetles are all ideal hummingbird food. Small spider species are also on the menu, with crab spiders and jumping spiders being just small and plentiful enough in yards to fit the bill. 

How Do You Feed Insects To Hummingbirds?

You may be wondering how you can feed insects to hummingbirds. After all, we all want to ensure our yard-dwelling hummingbirds have everything they need. But there is no need to do this since the birds will actively hunt for insects. 

To ambush insects, hummingbirds typically prefer to glean while hovering in the air. The birds will hover over plant leaves or tree limbs and quickly snatch insects or spiders when the bugs appear. 

But gleaning for insects on or within flowers is not part of hummingbird behavior as these plants are only providing nectar to these birds. Therefore, you may find it difficult to spot hummingbirds gleaning for insects since they only use flowers for nectar. This is why you may be wondering if you should feed insects to hummingbirds. 

Can Insects Be Added To a Hummingbird Feeder?

It’s a messy prospect, but it makes sense to want to add insects to a hummingbird feeder. This is not advisable. This can quickly cause hummingbird nectar to go bad. Hummingbirds prefer to hunt for insects or spiders, so one way to help is to attract more small insects to your yard. 

During spring and summer, you may not need to attract more bugs to your yard at all. But if this is the case, there are some things you can do to attract insects that hummingbirds like to eat. 

To attract flies of any variety, you can place sliced or overripe fruit and vegetables in your yard. Just try to keep this far away from your doors and windows! 

As the fruit or vegetables ripen in the sun, flies will begin to swarm the organic matter. Not long after, you can expect to spot hummingbirds feeding on the insects. This will also bring in other smaller insects depending on your location. 

Additionally, the more insects your yard has will also attract spiders to feed on the insects. Hummingbirds can also feast on the spiders as well. These birds also use spider webs to construct their nests. So it’s a dual benefit for hummingbirds. 

In summary, avoid feeding insects to hummingbirds, and instead, draw more insects to your yard. 

Do Hummingbirds Eat Bugs at Night?

Since it is sometimes hard to spot hummingbirds eating insects during the day, you may be wondering if they do so at night? 

Hummingbirds are not nocturnal, even though many species of insects and spiders are. So do not expect to find these birds feasting on insects at night. 

With this in mind, there have been reports of hummingbirds feeding on nectar during the evening hours. But this is usually due to porch lights or artificial lighting near feeders or flowers. 

There is no concrete studies or data to support hummingbird feeding activity on bugs at night. Again, this has much to do with hummingbirds being a daytime active bird species. 

What Insect Kills Hummingbirds?

It may sound unbelievable, but due to their small size, there are in fact some insects that can kill hummingbirds. 

Although some insects can kill hummingbirds, there is truly only one variety that eats them as well, and that is the praying mantis. Some species of spiders will also trap hummingbirds in their web and consume them. Let’s take a closer look at the main insects and spiders that kill hummingbirds. 

Praying Mantis

There are numerous documented sightings and studies that suggest the praying mantis kills and eats hummingbirds. 

The praying mantis is an insect that camouflages itself amongst its surroundings and then strikes quickly to kill prey. For hummingbirds, this is typically done to eat their brain matter. It is very gruesome, but occurs often in areas that harbor praying mantis’. 

A praying mantis usually ambushes hummingbirds eating nectar from flowers, however, the insects can also suspend themselves from hummingbird feeders as well.  

Robber Fly

The robber fly is a large species of fly that has been known to attack and kill hummingbirds. Although studies are inconclusive, it is believed robber flies may also feed on the birds once dead. 

Spiders

Another major concern for hummingbirds are certain species of spiders. The orb-weaver spider, also commonly known as the garden spider, has been known to cocoon and feed on hummingbirds that become trapped in their webs. 

You may commonly find these colorful spiders in your yard during spring and summer. While these spiders do help to reduce insect populations, this can also be true for hummingbirds as well. 

If you ever notice these spiders killing hummingbirds, you can always take steps to knock down their nests to ensure your yard’s hummingbird population is protected.

About author
Robert has been an avid birdwatcher pretty much his entire life. Living in the suburbs he does his best to bring wild birds into his backyard. He currently has 13+ bird feeders in his yard and also raises and races homing pigeons. Robert writes part-time for Wild Yards, mostly about the subject he cares most about - birds.

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