[Tweeters] new video from Sheri Williamson on hummer nectar

Rachel Lawson rwlawson5593 at outlook.com
Mon Jan 3 16:15:27 PST 2022

In case you still want to read more science about honey for nectar and nectar concentrations...

This is indeed an excellent video by Sheri Williamson. I found it interesting that she mentioned in passing a link between honey and tongue fungus, because in a previous Tweeter post, she was quoted as calling this "almost an urban myth". I asked a birding friend of mine, who has spent her entire professional life as a food scientist and food safety expert, about honey and hummingbirds, and her answer surprised me. She worries more about botulism than fungus. You may remember that it is not recommended to feed honey to babies because of the risk of botulism. Honey can contain small numbers of the spores of the anaerobic Clostridium bacteria that produce botulinum toxin, one of the most toxic substances known. Adults and older children usually have enough stomach acid to kill the spores, but babies may not. Botulism is now very rare, with an average of 110 cases reported in the US each year, most of them in infants. However, only 25% of all cases are linked to food of any kind, mostly from honey or corn syrup. A study in Poland found that only 2.1% of honey samples tested contained the bacteria. Does this mean that tiny amounts of Clostridium spores in honey, diluted even more for nectar, are a potential danger to hummingbirds? It sounds like the risk, though real, is very small. But as Williamson sensibly points out in the earlier quote, honey is a lot more expensive than sugar, so why bother?


I was talking to my ornithologist-evolutionary biologist daughter last night about sugar concentrations in flower nectar. To us, the interesting thing is how hummingbird-pollinated flowers settled on a 3 or 4 to 1 ratio. As hummingbirds and flowers co-evolved, they seem to have found a balance between the lowest concentration the hummingbirds are willing to accept for providing pollination services, and the highest that flowers are willing to provide to obtain that service. Other pollinators may have arrived at different bargains with flowers.

Rachel Lawson
rwlawson5593 at outlook.com

From: Tweeters <tweeters-bounces at mailman11.u.washington.edu> on behalf of canyoneagle at mycci.net <canyoneagle at mycci.net>
Sent: Monday, January 3, 2022 7:59 AM
To: 'TWEETERS tweeters' <tweeters at u.washington.edu>
Subject: [Tweeters] new video from Sheri Williamson on hummer nectar

In light of recent discussions on hummingbird nectar, I thought some of you might have interest in Sheri Williamson’s new video on the subject.


Happy humming in 2022,

Lori Markoff
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