Hummingbird Concentrate: Your Math is a little off

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Hummingbird Concentrate

By donnabking
May 26, 2016

Here is a fast and easy way to be prepared ahead of time for your favorite sweet charming guests without all of the fuss. Whether it's spring or fall, you want to be ready for them with an ample supply of food at a second's notice! Here's how you can be ready.

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Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Horntoad
May 27, 2016 12:11 PM CST
By my calculations if your concentrate is 1:1 then you should be filling the feeder with half concentrate and half water.
Example: If you put 1 part concentrate to 3 parts water. 4 ounces of concentrate would require 12 ounce of water, but your 4 ounces of concentrate only contains only 2 ounces of sugar, the other 2 ounces is water so you would have a feeder with 14 ounces of water and only 2 sugar. That's a 1:7 ratio of sugar to water.
Example: If you put 1 part concentrate to 1 part water. 4 ounces of concentrate would require 4 ounces of water. The concentrate contain two ounces of sugar leaving 6 ounces of water = 1:4 sugar to water.
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[Last edited by Horntoad - May 28, 2016 9:11 AM (+)]
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Name: Donna King
Selmer, TN (Southern West TN) (Zone 7b)
Hummingbirder Garden Ideas: Master Level
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donnabking
May 28, 2016 7:53 AM CST
Now I am confused Jay, lol. I am as lost as last years Easter Egg, ha ha, whew! You are cracking me up. That was such a wonderful scientific explanation of diluting my concentrate. I can hardly type, I'm laughing so hard, not at you, at me. Read my name again Jay, lol. The Hooterville Hillbilly, lol.

Now I will tell you, I have NEVER. Been good at math, it was not my subject. God knows I did try. This math, that math, Algebra, sheesh, I barely made it through algebra and to this day I cannot tell you one thing about it.

Anyway, I based my dilution calculation on my usual way of making nectar, which is I
1 cup sugar 4 cups water. So I figured if my 1 cup of sugar concentrate already had 1 cup of water in it, it needed 3 more cups more to make it right??? To make the 1-4 ratio that I normally use? I don't know Jay, that's hillbilly logic, lol??? Now I'm confused, and I'm laughing too hard to think.

Boy, I needed a good laugh honey, even if it was at me. You have no idea how I needed something to help me smile. It's been a really bad 6 weeks. Thank you.
The Hooterville Hillbilly @ Hummingbird Hill
Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Tip Photographer Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Hibiscus
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Horntoad
May 28, 2016 9:09 AM CST
I am not great in math either. When most of my friends took algebra in the 9th or 10th grade, I took it in the 12th. Then only because it was required.
Let me see if I can make this clearer. Let's say 1 part equals one cup. Your make the concentrate using 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water for a total of 2 cups. Now you want to make the final mix to put out for the birds. You use 1 cup of concentrate and 3 cup of water. The problem is your concentrate is only half sugar which means your 1 cup of concentrate only contains 1/2 cup of sugar, the other half is water. So your final 4 cup mix would contain 3 1/2 cups water and 1/2 cup sugar.
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[Last edited by Horntoad - May 28, 2016 9:11 AM (+)]
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Name: Ann
Ottawa, ON Canada (Zone 5a)
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ViolaAnn
May 28, 2016 9:22 AM CST
Seems to me that the big problem is the way the sugar dissolves. You may start with 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar, but when the sugar is dissolved, I don't think you actually end up with two full cups. Better to measure to make sure. But the logic above is correct. If you diluted as you recommended your final solution will be thinner than recommended.
Ann

Pictures of all my hostas, updated annually and tracked since 2008 begin at: https://violaann.smugmug.com/Garden/Hostas/Hostas-in-my-gard...
Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Tip Photographer Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Hibiscus
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Horntoad
May 28, 2016 9:31 AM CST
While it is true that when you boil the water and sugar some of the water will evaporate but the same would be true whether you are making the concentrate or mixing a whole batch of ready to use (3:1) so ultimately you should have the same outcome.
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Rosemary8
May 28, 2016 1:15 PM CST
I think I'm worse at figuring this than anyone! It sounded like a good idea and would save me from storing large bottles of prepared nectar in the fridge. But I can't figure it out, so I guess I'm back to mix necter, store in fridge.☺
Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Tip Photographer Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Hibiscus
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Horntoad
May 28, 2016 1:24 PM CST
Here is the condensed version. When making the concentrated mix to store, mix 1 part sugar with one part water. When making a batch to put in your feeder use 1 part of the concentrate with one part water. This should give you a final mix of 1 part sugar to 3 parts water which is supposed to the desired ratio. Sorry to have confused everyone but the ratio quoted in the original post would no have given the desired amount of sugar.
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[Last edited by Horntoad - May 28, 2016 1:28 PM (+)]
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Name: Tara
NE, Florida (Zone 9a)
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terrafirma
May 28, 2016 1:24 PM CST
I agree Rosemary8. I'm lost... Confused
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
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wildflowers
May 28, 2016 1:27 PM CST
Another not so good at math. That's why I have a 1/4 cup in my sugar container so I will know that is how much sugar I need for each cup of water, otherwise I might get confused. But, while considering doing this method, my thinking was right along with Donna's logic. If I put one forth cup of sugar in one cup of water, I pretty much still have one cup of nectar. So, if I mix all the sugar in one cup of water, I would need to add three more cups of water to get my regular mix ratio. I think...
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Tip Photographer Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Hibiscus
Image
Horntoad
May 28, 2016 1:41 PM CST
wildflowers said:Another not so good at math. That's why I have a 1/4 cup in my sugar container so I will know that is how much sugar I need for each cup of water, otherwise I might get confused. But, while considering doing this method, my thinking was right along with Donna's logic. If I put one forth cup of sugar in one cup of water, I pretty much still have one cup of nectar. So, if I mix all the sugar in one cup of water, I would need to add three more cups of water to get my regular mix ratio. I think...

Christine if you are make a fresh batch to put directly in your feeder then you are correct. 1/4 of sugar and 3/4 water or 1 full cup of sugar and 3 full cups of water is the same ratio. But that is not what Donna is trying to do here. What she is doing is creating what is called "simple syrup" which is basically pre-dissolved sugar. By making up large batches of simple syrup ahead of time saves you from have to boil and dissolve more sugar every time you refill your feeder.
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Name: Ron
Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Region: Florida Hummingbirder Butterflies Bromeliad Tropicals Foliage Fan
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rattlebox
May 28, 2016 6:10 PM CST
OK... here's the real skinny.

I don't have enough hummers here to bother with a feeder. But in the interest of science, I sacrificed some sugar and made up some concentrate.

As alluded to by ViolaAnn, when the sugar dissolves in the water it does not take up it's full volume in the final mix. However, it does add volume.

Turns out, with =my= brand/grade of granulated sugar, one cup of water plus one cup of sugar equals 1½ cups of concentrate.

This means for a "perfect" 1:4 ratio in final product, you would use 1½ cups of concentrate with 3 cups of water. Yes, that means 4½ cups of final mix, not 5, but the ratio is still 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.

So now, does this help clarify the situation or does it just make the confusion worse? Hilarious! Hilarious! Hilarious!
[He] decided that if a few quiet beers wouldn't allow him to see things in a different light, then a few more probably would. - Terry Pratchett
[Last edited by rattlebox - May 28, 2016 6:21 PM (+)]
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Name: Ron
Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
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rattlebox
May 28, 2016 6:26 PM CST
By the way, when adding 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water and ending up with 1½ cups concentrate, the loss in volume is not a result of boil-off.

I used plain granulated sugar and warm tap water. No boiling was involved.

Just read back through the posts and realized I should probably make that clear.

[He] decided that if a few quiet beers wouldn't allow him to see things in a different light, then a few more probably would. - Terry Pratchett
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
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wildflowers
May 28, 2016 7:08 PM CST
Very good, Ron. That makes it all clear for me. Thumbs up nodding
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
May 28, 2016 8:37 PM CST
Maybe I'm just a little out of focus tonight, but I can't seem to make sense of any of this...

I've always used 1/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water for my hummingbird nectar; for a quick fill-up of the feeder(s), I add 1 cup of water to my 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup and bring it to a boil in the microwave; stir in 1/2 cup of cane sugar until dissolved, then add ice cubes and stir until they melt (or just let it sit there for a few minutes) and add additional water to bring it up to 2 cups. By the time I get the feeder cleaned up the "nectar" is ready.
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GrammaChar
May 28, 2016 8:51 PM CST
?????? Totally confused. I'm lousy at math. If I need to double a recipe, I just make it twice. nodding
GrammaChar
Name: Ron
Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Region: Florida Hummingbirder Butterflies Bromeliad Tropicals Foliage Fan
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rattlebox
May 28, 2016 11:04 PM CST
Weedwacker, your mix is fine, but will be slightly more concentrated than 1:4. (It sounds like another good way to quickly make a sugar solution for a feeder.)

The reason? There is a difference between someone adding two cups of water to ½ cup of sugar and someone adding just enough water to ½ cup of sugar to end up with two cups of solution. The sugar exists, it takes up space.

To visualize: if you take a 2-cup container, add one cup of sugar to it, then start pouring one cup of water over the sugar, what happens? The water does not sit on top of the sugar to end up with two full cups. Some of the water will sink down into the dry sugar. However, the sugar will not absorb the full cup of water you are pouring. Once the sugar becomes waterlogged, the water level will rise above the level of the sugar. You end up with about 1½ cups total. This is the 1 part sugar to 1 part water concentrate Donna talks about in her article.

If you take this 1½ cups of 1:1 solution and add 3 cups of water to it, you will have a proper 1:4 solution with a total volume of 4½ cups.

On the other hand, if you take one cup of sugar and add just enough water to make 4 cups of solution, you still have one cup of sugar but it is dissolved in less water, because you end up with only 4 cups total instead of 4½ cups.

The difference between one cup of sugar in ~3½ cups of water versus one cup of sugar in 4 cups of water is not that big. The "ideal" 1:4 sugar to water ratio is recommended because1:4 is an approximate average sugar concentration of nectar from natural hummer plants. In other words, the nectar from some plants is somewhat more concentrated, while nectar from others is somewhat more dilute.

More importantly, if someone wants to use Donna's idea of storing a 1:1 concentrate in the freezer it will take 1½ parts of concentrate to 3 parts water to make a 1:4 solution.

If you only use 1 part concentrate to 3 parts water, you are cutting the sugar concentration by 1/3, which is likely significant to those hummers that use the feeder frequently.

I think Donna's idea of storing a sugar concentrate is a good one, and likely useful to many. I just wanted to reiterate Horntoad's point that 1 part concentrate to 3 parts water is not enough concentrate to make a 1:4 final solution.
[He] decided that if a few quiet beers wouldn't allow him to see things in a different light, then a few more probably would. - Terry Pratchett
[Last edited by rattlebox - May 29, 2016 7:36 PM (+)]
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Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
Region: Texas Region: Gulf Coast Charter ATP Member I helped beta test the first seed swap I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Tip Photographer Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Hibiscus
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Horntoad
May 28, 2016 11:31 PM CST
It seems my math was off also. For some reason, in my calculation I was thinking 4 parts total instead of 4 water to 1 sugar. I also did not consider the loss of volume of dissolved sugar. Ron's numbers are correct. So the correct measurements would be 1 1/2 parts concentrate to 3 parts water. If measuring by the cup it's 1 1/2 cup of concentrate to 3 cups water. Sorry for all the confusion, but I'm glad it eventually led to a more accurate formula than that of the original post. Donna's idea is a good one that I will likely use in the future. Thanks @rattlebox for fixing my mistake. Thumbs up
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Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
May 29, 2016 7:07 AM CST
Ron, thanks for your patience with trying to explain this to us!

"Weedwacker, your mix is fine, but will be slightly more concentrated than 1:4. It sounds like another good way to quickly make a sugar solution for a feeder."

You're right about my "quick method" coming out a little more concentrated; normally I would make it by bringing 2 cups of water to a boil and then adding 1/2 cup of sugar. At any rate, I don't think the slight difference is harmful -- my northern hummers probably can use the extra energy! Smiling
"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
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Name: Rosie
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MISSINGROSIE
May 29, 2016 1:05 PM CST
my son asked about a food for his feeder....
I figured I would go hunting here at ATP/GARDEN.ORG
After all the math homework battles I had with that kid...( he is 38 now) ....I would not refer him here!! Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing He might get flashbacks!!


The way I see it...when trying for a ratio.......the two elements...are what they are and the components aren't separated into parts.

like if I had to feed a baby bird one ounce water for every 4 ounces bird...I would not say..
Well...that bird is already partly comprised of water along with bird flesh...

So that concentrate once made is a new ' something " and should not be broken into its parts.
Maybe I should not have helped with that homework!!!


Don't squat with yer spurs on!

People try to turn back their "odometers." Not me. I want people to know 'why' I look this way. I've traveled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved
[Last edited by MISSINGROSIE - May 29, 2016 5:30 PM (+)]
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Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
May 29, 2016 4:38 PM CST
LOL, Rosie -- here's another article (where I first learned I could just mix up my own hummer feed): http://garden.org/ideas/view/wildflowers/936/Make-Your-Own-H...
"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
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