Product Review: Nectar Aid

 

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Feeding and attracting hummingbirds each season is a favorite gardener and birder activity. I use a combination of native plants and a hummingbird feeder.  I used to find refilling the feeder a tedious and messy task. Now, a New Mexico entrepreneur, Arnold Klein, has patented a one-step system for mixing hummingbird and oriole nectar that is easy and clean.

Before I go further, I want to emphasize why you should mix your own nectar. First, it costs less than purchasing a mix. Second, it is fresh. And finally, you should not add red food coloring like commercial nectars do. Hummers will find the feeder, since all have some degree of red on them. And the dyes can be harmful.

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Last year’s feeder before the bees took over, filled with nectar I mixed up in my Nectar Aid.

Nectar Aid

Klein’s product, Nectar Aid, makes it easy to mix two simple ingredients—sugar and water—by providing all the tools and steps you need for making nectar in your kitchen. The Nectar Aid comes with a handled plastic pitcher, a lid, and a divider for separating sugar and water while measuring (that doubles as a stirring paddle). The pitcher is microwave safe in case you want to warm or boil your water.

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A view from the top shows the lid, grooves in the pitcher for measuring and the easy-pour spout.

How Nectar Aid Works

The product comes with easy instructions. Place the mixing paddle/divider into one of the grooved slots – one is for oriole nectar, and the other for hummingbird nectar. Fill it with water. I only make two batches at a time, so after several uses, I have learned to fill mine about one-fourth up or less. But if you have several feeders or go through lots of nectar, fill it as full as necessary. You can boil the water right in the pitcher. Or you can use warm tap water – warmed water dissolves the sugar faster.

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Just fill the Nectar Aid with equal parts sugar and water by viewing whether it is level. So simple!

The top time-saving feature of Nectar Aid for me is that you need no formula. I always forget ratios and recipes and have to go look them up again. The Nectar Aid pitcher already has that figured out.

As soon as you have put in both sugar and water to the same level, lift the separating spoon out and use it to stir your mix. It easily scrapes sugar out of corners and drags the bottom of the pitcher. Then, place the lid on and you are ready pour your nectar, assuming it has cooled enough to avoid burning you and especially your hummers.

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Just lift the paddle so the sugar and water come together, then stir.

Easy Pouring and Storage

I also love that the Nectar Aid makes pouring the sticky water easier. I have spilled nectar in the past and had ants all over where it landed. This makes it super easy to fill nearly any size or shape of feeder without a funnel.

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The lid controls the flow to pour into small spaces if necessary. My new feeder (bee and ant proof) is easy to fill from the Nectar Aid pitcher.

The pitcher stores well in the fridge with the lid on, so all you have to do when you refill your feeder (which you should do every few days after a quick clean) is pour it in; your batch is ready and safe. It will keep for 7 to 10 days in the refrigerator, so only make what you usually need for a week. You won’t mind mixing more if you run out, because Nectar Aid makes it so easy.

Notes on Use

Another great feature of the Nectar Aid is the paddle holder on the side of the pitcher’s lid. That makes it easy to store your Nectar Aid without misplacing just the lid or stirring paddle. I have found I prefer to put sugar in first, just because the water sometimes runs under the paddle and into the sugar side. But it doesn’t affect the mix unless you stop in the middle of filling.

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The lid also holds your mixing paddle between uses.

Overall, this is a clever and useful product. I have had mine for a year and use it regularly each summer. It stores easily in winter in a pantry along with other pitchers.

Where to Buy Nectar Aid

Buy Nectar Aid from Hummingbird Guide and even view a video on how it works.  It costs $19.99 plus shipping. I know hummingbird season is winding down in some areas of the country, but you can be ready next spring with a Nectar Aid or give it as a gift this holiday season to a bird lover.

 

 

 

 

Low-water Plants that Hummingbirds Love

As soon as hummingbirds start buzzing around the garden, many locals put out their feeders. I have tried one this year, only because I had few plants blooming when the hummers arrived. I prefer to feed the hummingbirds with natural plants because of time, mess and the fact that native plants seem healthier for the birds and way more fun for us!

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Hummingbird on agastache in our garden in 2013. Photo by David Higgins.

There are many rules about hummingbird food safety, and I worry I will forget, be gone, etc. But there are so many plants hummingbirds love that we already have in our garden or can add to attract more birds. We especially love to watch the male hummers’ courtship dives from our back patio, and I am certain that a few male birds have claimed our rock garden, or some portion of it, as their territory each summer.

To naturally attract hummingbirds and enjoy the same plants they use as nourishment, choose plants with brightly colored and tubular flowers. Hummingbirds are attracted by color, not scent. Red is their favorite, but purple, yellow, orange and pink also bring them to plants. And in addition to tubular flowers, try plants with blooms that nod, or bend downward slightly. Of course, continuous blooming also helps.

Here are a few xeric hummingbird favorites:

Agastache (Agastache cana). This xeric rare wildflower has bright pink flowers on upright stems all summer, and some, such as Texas hummingbird mint, are aromatic as a bonus for humans. There are other many variations of agastache, also called hyssop, in varying purples, oranges, pinks and reds, that attract hummingbirds with their slender, tubular flowers.

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Agasatache cana Sinning, also called Sunset Sonora Hyssop is a compact Agastache cana from Plant Select. Image is by Diana Reavis and from Plant Select.

Butterfly bush (Buddleia). Butterflies share this purple-flowered favorite with hummingbirds. The spiked flowers appear at the end of the branches and can be from eight to more than 12 inches long.

Autumn or cherry sage (Salvia gregii). The salvia has bright pink, raspberry-colored flowers on a low bush all summer long. The low- to medium- water plant can grow in nearly any soil.

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Two cherry or autumn sages in a rock garden, just coming into bloom. Hummingbirds love the bright pink flowers.

Desert willow (Chilopsis linearis). This is the tree I miss the most since moving to a colder zone, although I might try it here soon. The beautiful xeric tree can be trained to grow wild and bushy or more tree-like. But its charm to hummingbirds and humans is the large tubular flowers that come in light and dark pink colors.

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Hummingbirds love the orchid-like flowers of the xeric Desert willow, or Chilopsis. Image by R.A. Howard © Smithsonian Institution, Richard A. Howard Photograph Collection.

Other hummingbird favorites that might grow in the mountains, high deserts and xeric landscape that attract hummingbirds are some types of columbine, some bulbs, such as Crocosmia, and every variety of penstemon. And I imagine you can’t go wrong with a plant I have never tried, but is aptly named “Hummingbird Plant” (Zauschneria Californica), a medium-water, full-sun plant that has scarlet-orange flowers. It will require extra watering for a year or two until established, but grows to more than two feet in height.