Hummingbirds may enjoy eating SWD! An article in Good Produce, Berry Growers Sharing Great Ideas by Charlie O’Dell, published May 14, 2014, highlights “Unusual Way to Control SWD” one grower’s use of hummingbird feeders to attract these beautiful, pugnacious, and voracious birds. When feeding their young, hummingbirds will eat up to 2,000 small insects per day! “Robert Hays of Hays Berry Farms at Dumas, MS, installs 25 hummingbird feeders per acre in his six acres of blackberries and fills each with a plain, clear, sugar-water solution. He estimates there are more than 500 hummingbirds flying around his fields on picking days, some even landing briefly on pickers’ arms or hats. Between his beneficial insects and his hummingbirds, he has not had to spray.”
The diet of an average hummingbird consists mostly of flower nectar and insects. Flower nectar provides sugar to support their high metabolic rate… even higher during flight due to their rapid wing flapping rates. The insects hummingbirds eat provide them with protein, amino acids, and necessary vitamins and minerals. The insects must be small enough to swallow whole during flight – watch out, SWD! Hummingbird prey includes (but is not limited to) small beetles, flies and fruit flies, gnats, mosquitoes, and spiders.
The nectar that hummingbirds drink from flowers is simply a sugar solution. This can be easily replicated for a hummingbird feeder. The most common solution is 1 part table sugar to 4 parts water. The sugar solution should be boiled after mixing to drive off chlorine and kill yeast and bacteria, then cooled. This can then be put in a feeder. Feeders should be red or have red trim, because red is the best color for attracting hummingbirds. The feeder should be regularly cleaned of insects and the sugar solution replaced. The higher the temperatures, the more frequently the nectar will have to be changed.
To follow up on this idea for controlling SWD, I reviewed information from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Their FAQ’s have a wealth of information on hummingbirds – all of which supported the idea that attracting these birds into your late summer berry plantings of fall raspberry, blackberry, elderberry, etc. could prove highly beneficial in controlling SWD.
Attracting hummingbirds to your area
In May, hang your hummingbird feeders. Use fairly small feeders at first, and change sugar water at least every couple of days in hot weather or if feeders are in direct sunlight, and every 2-4 days when it’s cooler and feeders are shaded. Flowers in your garden, especially those with tubular red corollas, attract hummingbirds.
Q. What’s the best recipe for hummingbird nectar?
The sugar content of natural flower nectar varies, and is roughly comparable to sugar water mixtures ranging from a quarter to a third cup of sugar per cup of water. During hot, dry weather, when hummingbirds risk dehydration, it’s best to make your mixture no stronger than a quarter cup of sugar per cup of water. But during cold, rainy spells, making the mixture a bit stronger, up to about a third cup of sugar per cup of water, will not hurt your birds and may help them.
Q. Should I use red food coloring in hummingbird food?
There is absolutely no reason to add any red dyes to hummingbird sugar water. After all, natural flower nectar is clear, and hummingbird feeders have colorful parts that attract hummingbird regardless of the color of the sugar water.
Q. How do I keep ants out of my hummingbird feeder?
Many hummingbird feeders—especially the saucer variety—have a center “moat” separate from where the sugar water is placed. These feeders are easy to keep ants out of by filling that moat with water. The ants that do get down into it drown, but usually just don’t even try. If you have another kind of feeder, make sure it’s hanging by a simple rod rather than string, and coat a center spot all around, about an inch wide, with petroleum jelly. The ants won’t cross that.
Q. Should I stop feeding birds in fall so they can start their migration?
Keeping your feeders up has no influence on whether a bird will start its journey south. A number of factors trigger the urge for birds to migrate, and the most significant one is day length. As days grow shorter in late summer, birds get restless and start to head south, taking advantage of abundant natural food, and feeders where available, to fuel their flight. Hummingbirds are no different from others and will migrate regardless of whether feeders are kept up. However, we encourage people to keep feeders up for several weeks after the last hummingbird leaves the area, just in case a straggler shows up in need of additional energy before completing the long journey south.
Q. How much do birds eat each day?
This varies depending on the caloric value of the food, the bird’s activity levels, and the temperature of its environment. Hummingbirds can consume 100 percent of their body’s weight in sugar water or nectar every day, in addition to as many as 2,000 tiny insects! Before migration, it’s not unusual for a hummingbird to double its weight, adding a huge amount of fat to power the long journey.
Q. Why do hummingbirds fight so much?
Hummingbirds are aggressive for a good reason—they can’t afford to share flowers during times when not many blossoms are available because they may have to wander a long way after nectar is depleted. This aggression is so deeply ingrained that they just can’t figure out that feeders are different. Overall, you’ll feed far more hummingbirds by setting out four tiny one-port feeders than one giant eight-port one. Spread them out and the birds won’t have to see one another, arousing their territoriality. You’ll get to watch them through more windows, and they’ll be much happier, too. (25 feeders per acre)
Q. Why do I see fewer hummingbirds in midsummer?
Adult male hummingbirds aggressively defend their territory, and if your yard is within the territory of one, he may drive all other male hummingbirds away during the nesting season.
If you have a nesting female nearby, she will visit your feeder only periodically, spending most of her time incubating her eggs. After the eggs hatch, she usually concentrates her feeding at flowers that supply tiny insects as well as nectar—insects contain the protein that her nestlings need in order to grow. Once the young have fledged, she continues feeding them for several days until the fledglings have mastered getting their own food. At this time, she may bring them to your feeders to teach them how to take advantage of this easy food supply, too. This is also when males begin migrating, with adult females soon following. So many of the hummingbirds that suddenly appear are actually migrants from farther north, just passing through.
Q. Do hummingbirds migrate in flocks?
Hummingbirds migrate individually. When a late October straggler in the East is a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, it’s usually an immature bird from further north whose mother got a late start with that nest. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are strongly migratory, but their bodies need a high level of fat to fly long distances. As people bring in their feeders in fall and frosts kill nectar-bearing flowers, those hummingbirds remaining have to go long distances between feeders, so yours may remain for a week or two before its body is replenished enough to continue. Hummingbirds are surprisingly hardy as long as they can get enough food each day, and they need extra calories during cold spells. When it’s cold, it’s not a bad idea to up the concentration of sugar to 1/3 cup per cup of water to give it more calories, which they burn while shivering.
Tragically, some of these stragglers do end up dying, but your feeder really isn’t keeping your hummingbird from migrating. Rather, your feeder is giving it its best chance to restore its body to continue on.
Q. There’s a hummingbird at my feeder in the dead of winter. Will he be okay?
Hummingbirds are remarkably tolerant of cold weather, so it’s likely your bird will be fine if it can continue to find food. You can get an idea of where hummingbirds have been found in winter by looking at maps from eBird, like this one of Rufous Hummingbird.
SWD has arrived in New York and populations are building up. It is imperative to protect your late summer berry crops. Unfortunately, four county reports were skipped from the blog. First catch of SWD has occurred in Columbia, Tompkins, Livingston and Orange Counties.
Columbia County – first find One male SWD was caught in Columbia County the week ending July 28, 2014 in traps set in sweet cherry by Dan Donahue, Eastern NY Horticulture Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension. No subsequent trap catch was observed at this site; traps were pulled because the crop was harvested. At another site in raspberry in Columbia County, being monitored by Cara Fraver and Laura McDermott, E NY Horticulture Program, a first find SWD female was caught the week ending August 11, 2014, also with no subsequent catch the following week. (GDD = 1698, day length = 14:31)
Tompkins County – first find Three female SWD were caught in Tompkins County the week ending August 13, 2014 in traps set in blackberry by Jacob Robinson and Juliet Carroll, NYS IPM Program. The following week, August 19, 2014, 7 females and 1 male were caught at this site. (GDD = 1722, day length = 13:56)
Livingston County – first find Five female SWD were caught in Livingston County the week ending August 18, 2014 in traps set in fall raspberry by Dave Thorp, Livingston County Cornell Cooperative Extension. The following week (August 25) no SWD were caught, BUT 17 SWD were caught the week ending September 2. (GDD = 1978, day length = 13:44)
Orange County – first find Four female SWD were caught in Orange County the week ending August 19, 2014 in traps set in raspberry by Tim Lampasona and Peter Jentsch, Dept of Entomology, Hudson Valley Laboratory. No subsequent trap catch has been reported for this site. (GDD = 1975, day length = 13:36)
Check out the distribution map of SWD first catch in NY, woven into the NYS IPM SWD fact sheet.
Seven SWD, 2 males and 5 females, were caught in traps the week ending September 2, 2014 in Clinton County. The traps were set in blueberries and monitored by Lindsey Pashow and Amy Ivy, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County. Fruit samples checked with a salt water floatation test about 10 days prior were negative for SWD larvae. (GDD = 2030, day length = 13:08)
The Northeast IPM SWD Working Group invites fruit growers, extension specialists, and researchers dealing with SWD to participate in our yearly meeting. The focus of the meeting is for farmers and scientists to share field and research reports culminating in priorities to guide our work on spotted wing Drosophila.
We meet on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at the Cornell University Hudson Valley Lab, located at 3357 US Highway 9W, Highland, NY. We convene for an informal dinner the night before, Monday, September 15. Participants will gather at 7:45 AM and the meeting will start promptly at 8:15 AM. Your host, Lab Superintendent Peter Jentsch, says, “We’re looking forward to hosting the event here at the lab.”
The morning session includes fruit industry reports and an open floor for fruit growers to share their experiences with SWD. The Working Group benefits immensely from farmer input, opinions, and ideas. Please consider attending to help guide our work on SWD.
Field reports from states and provinces in Northeastern North America, research updates, and setting and ranking SWD priorities are also on the agenda. The meeting ends at 4:00 PM.
Interested in attending? Email Laura McDermott at firstname.lastname@example.org to let her know and tell her if you’ll join us for dinner. The group receives funding from the Northeast IPM Center for the meeting which helps defray travel costs for participants.
Need lodging for the 15th? Super 8 Highland, 3423 US Highway 9W, Highland, NY 12528. Call 1-845-691-6888 ASAP to secure your room; ask for the SWD Working Group rate.
A single female SWD was caught in a trap collected on August 25, 2014 by Paul Hetzler, St. Lawrence County Cornell Cooperative Extension. The trap was set in a berry field. (GDD = 1749, day length 13:31)
To date, most trapping sites in NY have caught SWD, reached sustained trap captures, and populations are climbing. Exceptions to this are three sites in Herkimer County, one site in Saratoga County, and one site in Clinton County, where SWD has not been caught. The tricky aspect of monitoring is that we think that once there is ample ripe fruit in the field and on the ground, the traps may not be as attractive to SWD, though research hasn’t verified this.
Traps in the sites I am monitoring in Central NY, the Finger Lakes, and eastern Lake Ontario regions are being pulled this week. The combined total number of SWD caught in the four traps per site at those locations is still low (less than 20) in most sites. However, we are seeing evidence of oviposition and infestation of fruit. SWD populations will continue to increase into the fall and early winter months placing late-season fruit crops at high risk of infestation.
If you are growing blackberries, fall raspberries, elderberries, day neutral strawberries, or late-season blueberries, an insecticide program should be initiated to protect fruit from infestation. The good news is that many of NY’s fruit crops escaped infestation this year because SWD arrived 2-4 weeks later than in 2013.
Four male SWD were caught the week ending August 14, 2014 in traps being monitored in red raspberry by Donald Gasiewicz, Wyoming County Cornell Cooperative Extension. One SWD was caught in a trap set on the edge of the planting; the other three were caught in one trap within the planting. Male SWD are quite distinctive, having a spot on each wing.
One male and one female SWD were caught the week ending August 8, 2014 in traps being monitored in blueberry by Cara Fraver and Laura McDermott, Eastern NY Horticulture Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension. The SWD were both caught in a trap set on the edge of the blueberry planting; the other three traps at the site had no SWD.
The SWD monitoring network anticipates an upswing in SWD numbers in the coming weeks. Please plan to protect your late summer berry crops from infestation. As fruit becomes ripe and there is lots of it, traps may compete poorly with fruit for SWD.
Consider attending a demonstration of the use of exclusion netting for SWD in blueberry on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 from 3:00 – 5:00 pm at The Berry Patch of Stonewall Hill Farm, 15589 NY Route 22, Stephentown, NY. The manufacturer of the netting will also be there.
A high tunnel raspberry planting outfitted with a fixed spray system will also be demonstrated.
Please register by calling Marcie at 518-272-4210 – there is no fee, but we need to have enough meeting materials prepared for you. Leave a voice mail with the number attending, your name and a phone number. This event will happen rain or shine. Questions? – call Laura McDermott, Eastern NY Horticulture Program at 518-791-5038.
This event is in Rensselaer County, so for those of you in Eastern NY and adjacent areas of Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, this may be a good opportunity to see how exclusion netting is applied over a blueberry planting and how a fixed spray system is engineered so you can decide if this might work on your farm.
One female SWD was caught the week ending August 6, 2014 in traps being monitored in blueberry by Jabe Warren, Chemung County Cornell Cooperative Extension. Most trap network locations now have first catch of SWD, though numbers are low. Counties where SWD has not been caught in the network, to date, include Clinton, Herkimer, Livingston, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Steuben, Tompkins, and Wyoming. Reports of fruit damage are also low to none, less than 15% of fruit with egg laying. (GDD = 1511, day length = 14:10)
Two SWD, one female and one male, were caught in two traps on August 6, 2014 in Tioga County. Traps are set in a blueberry planting and are being checked daily by the farmer who called in his findings to Juliet Carroll, NYS IPM Program. The four SWD traps are filtered daily to remove the caught fruit flies and the flies are checked microscopically. On a weekly basis, the apple cider vinegar drowning solution and the bait lures are replaced.
The farmer reports a lot more fruit flies being caught in the traps now. The number of SWD is still low (0.5/trap). Because the farm’s blueberry harvest will wind down early next week, this farmer will likely choose not to apply insecticide against SWD this year and will proactively explain to customers about SWD using the IPM invasives & exotics fact sheet.keep looking »