Does Hummingbird Nectar Go Bad?

Are you a hummingbird enthusiast dreading the thought of your precious nectar going bad? It’s important to know that just like other bird foods, hummingbird nectar can spoil.

This article provides in-depth information about how to recognize spoiled nectar and prevent it from happening.

Keep reading for some insightful tips on maintaining fresh and healthy nectar to keep those vibrant birds buzzing around!

Key Takeaways

  • Hummingbird nectar can go bad if not properly maintained and replaced.
  • Signs of spoiled nectar include cloudy or milky color, sour or moldy smell, and the presence of mold, fungus, bacteria, or pests.
  • Proper storage techniques such as using airtight containers in cool areas and regular replacement can help keep hummingbird nectar fresh and safe for the birds.
  • Store – bought nectar has a longer shelf life compared to homemade versions but may contain artificial ingredients and attract pests. Making your own nectar with plain white sugar and water is a safe and nutritious option.


Understanding Hummingbird Nectar

Hummingbird nectar is a sweet liquid that serves as the primary source of nutrition for these small birds.

What is Hummingbird Nectar Made Of?

Hummingbird nectar is a simple mix. It has sugar and water only. The recipe uses one part white sugar to four parts water. The two are mixed together until the sugar dissolves. This makes a clear liquid like the sweet sap found in flowers.

No food coloring or other stuff gets added to this mix. Natural nectar from flowers is best, but this mixture helps when food is hard to find for hummingbirds.

How Long Does Hummingbird Nectar Last?

Hummingbird nectar does not stay good forever. If it sits outside in a feeder, it can go bad in about five days if the weather is hot. In cooler times, it may last up to two weeks.

Fresh nectar that you keep in your fridge will be good for about one week. Nectar left at room temperature spoils quickly.

You should change the nectar often even if birds are not drinking all of it. This keeps the food safe and healthy for them to eat. Also, clean feeders well before adding new nectar to stop mold from growing.

Cleaning helps hummingbirds keep away from sickness caused by bad or spoiled nectar.

Can Hummingbird Nectar Go Bad?

Hummingbird nectar can indeed go bad if not properly maintained and replaced.

Signs of Spoilage

You can tell hummingbird nectar has gone bad by these signs:


  1. The color changes to cloudy or milky.
  2. It smells sweet, sour, or moldy.
  3. You see mold, fungus, or bacteria growth.
  4. Pests like insects or rats show up.
  5. It gets sticky and thick.


Dangers of Bad Nectar

Spoiled nectar can be dangerous for hummingbirds. When nectar goes bad, mold, fungus, and bacteria can grow in it. These harmful substances can make the birds sick. It’s also important to note that pests like insects, rats, raccoons, or bears may be attracted to spoiled nectar which poses a threat to the hummingbirds.

Bad nectar can thicken and crystallize, making it difficult for the birds to drink. Hummingbirds will avoid drinking spoiled nectar if they have other food sources available. Using smaller feeders and replacing the nectar more frequently can help prevent spoilage and keep the hummingbirds safe and healthy.

How to Keep Hummingbird Nectar Fresh

Properly store hummingbird nectar by keeping it in an airtight container in a cool, dry area.

Proper Storage Techniques

To keep hummingbird nectar fresh, follow these storage techniques:


  1. Store the nectar in an airtight container to prevent exposure to air and moisture.
  2. Keep the container in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight, which can cause fermentation.
  3. If unopened, the nectar can be stored at room temperature until its expiration date.
  4. Once opened but not heated, store the nectar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
  5. If you have heated the nectar once, it can be stored at room temperature for about a week.
  6. For longer storage, freeze unused nectar in small portions and thaw as needed.


Frequency of Nectar Replacement

To keep hummingbird nectar fresh, it’s important to replace it regularly. How often you should replace the nectar depends on the temperature and weather conditions. In hot weather, the nectar can spoil quickly, so it’s best to change it every 2-3 days.

In cooler temperatures, you can let it stay for up to a week before replacing it. By regularly changing the nectar, you ensure that the hummingbirds have access to fresh and safe food without any risks of spoilage or contamination.

Store-Bought Hummingbird Nectar vs. Homemade

Store-bought hummingbird nectar has a shelf life and comes with benefits and risks, while homemade nectar allows for control over ingredients and freshness.

Shelf Life of Store-Bought Hummingbird Nectar

Store-bought hummingbird nectar usually lasts for 1-2 years if it’s unopened and stored in a cool, dry place. Once you open the container, it’s best to use the nectar within two weeks to ensure its freshness.

If you store the opened nectar properly in an airtight container in a cool area, you can extend its shelf life and keep it fresh for a longer time. It’s important to check for signs of spoilage like cloudiness, visible mold, or a sour smell.

If you notice any of these signs, it means that the nectar has gone bad and should be thrown away. Remember that store-bought hummingbird nectar tends to last longer than homemade versions.

Benefits and Risks of Store-Bought Nectar

Store-bought hummingbird nectar provides a convenient option for those who may not have the time or ingredients to create their own at home. However, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons before making a purchase.


Benefits Risks
Convenience: Store-bought nectar is ready for immediate use, no need to prepare. Potential Spoilage: If not properly stored, store-bought nectar can spoil, becoming less nutritious and less easily digestible for the hummingbirds.
Longer Shelf Life: Most store-bought nectars have added preservatives which extend their shelf life. Attracts Pests: Spoiled nectar can attract pests like insects, rats, raccoons, or bears.
Standardized Formula: The nectar mix is consistent every time, providing a stable food source for the hummingbirds. Potential for Mold: Mold or fungus may grow inside the feeder or around the feeding ports if the nectar is bad.
Variety of Flavors: Store-bought nectar may be available in different flavors to attract different species of hummingbirds. Artificial Ingredients: Some store-bought nectars may contain artificial colorings or sweeteners that are not beneficial for the birds.


Remember to always check the ingredients and expiration date of store-bought nectar before purchase to ensure it’s safe and healthy for your feathered friends.

Making Your Own Hummingbird Nectar

You can make your own hummingbird nectar easily. Just follow these steps:


  1. Boil water: Start by boiling four parts water. This helps to kill any bacteria or contaminants in the water.
  2. Add sugar: While the water is still hot, stir in one part white granulated sugar. Stir until the sugar completely dissolves.
  3. Cool the mixture: Allow the nectar to cool down to room temperature before using it. Hot nectar can harm hummingbirds.
  4. Fill feeders: Pour the homemade nectar into clean hummingbird feeders, leaving some space at the top for expansion.
  5. Refrigerate leftovers: If you have leftover nectar, store it in a clean and airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.



In conclusion, hummingbird nectar can go bad and it’s important to keep it fresh. Spoiled nectar can be harmful to hummingbirds and attract pests. By following proper storage techniques and regularly replacing the nectar, you can ensure that your hummingbird feeders stay inviting for these beautiful birds.


1. How long does hummingbird nectar last before it goes bad?

Hummingbird nectar can spoil quickly, usually within 2-5 days, especially in hot weather.

2. How can I tell if hummingbird nectar has gone bad?

You can tell if hummingbird nectar has gone bad by looking for signs such as cloudiness, mold, or a sour smell.

3. Can I still use expired hummingbird nectar?

No, it’s best not to use expired hummingbird nectar as it may cause harm to the birds and attract insects. It’s important to regularly replace the nectar with fresh batches.

4. What should I do with leftover or unused hummingbird nectar?

If you have leftover or unused hummingbird nectar, it is recommended to discard it and make a fresh batch when needed. Proper disposal helps ensure the health of the birds visiting your feeders.

Julian Goldie - Owner of

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.