Thom Smith: Why do hummingbirds ignore feeders?


I have lived at my current residence for over 40 years and I have never noticed this ever. In the last week or so I have seen numerous bees laden with pollen in the throes of death on the ground in and around our house. Have any of your readers noticed or experienced any of these issues?

— Alan G.

A: I have not personally received any similar reports recently. My feeling is the unfortunate bees were poisoned by pesticides. I welcome any comments or other like reports.

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Q: We have just hung a lovely hummingbird feeder complete with a pre-mixed food. It isn't far from a hanging basket of flowers that a hummingbird has been visiting. Why won't it go to my feeder?

— Linda, North Adams, Mass.

A: My guess is that content with the live flowers, it has not yet discovered the feeder. That is just as well, as it has been a long and difficult journey, and especially now, the hummingbird may find needed protein by ingesting small insects also attracted to the flowers. Give the bird time, if it picks your yard as its own territory, I am sure that it will eventually try out the feeder; they are such inquisitive little birds.

Q: We have carpenter bees in our boys' swing and slide set and are amazed at how they drill such perfectly round holes. Can you shed some light on this?

— Patrick, Holyoke, Mass.

A: While the hole a carpenter bee drills is nearly perfect, look more closely. I believe it is the female that does the work by vibrating her body as she reaps her mandibles against the wood, reminding me of work I have done with a wood rasp. Often the bee seen near the opening is a male and will fly quite close to people, perhaps for closer examination, but will not (repeat not) sting. They can't. Females are docile and may sting if caught and held in the hand. They are valuable as they pollinate flowers. It is easy to distinguish a bumble bee (also a pollinator) as it often nests in or near the ground and has an abdomen fully clothed with hairs, while the carpenter bee has an abdomen without hairs (on the top at least), and shiny black. One final thought is if you see a large bee milling about a wooden structure it probably isn't a bumblebee, but a carpenter with wings.

Q: We have a male red-wing blackbird coming to our feeder. Isn't it time to be in the swamps raising a family? We don't live anywhere near wate

—Nancy, Lenox, Mass.

A: It is hard to say, but my thought is the lone blackbird is a male without a mate that has found a good source of food. I doubt it will stay with you through the summer.

Thom Smith welcomes your questions and comments. Email him at or write him care of The Berkshire Eagle, 75 S. Church St., Pittsfield, MA 01201.


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