Here’s some very compelling reasons why red dye should not be used in hummingbird nectar. I point these things out not to make you feel bad if you have mistakenly used it in the past but to help you understand why you should no longer do so now.
- Red Dye has no nutritional value and therefore it does not benefit the hummingbirds in any way whatsoever.
- All red dyes are categorized as "xenobiotics" the same as other pollutants, and therefore stresses the metabolism accordingly [Kuno & Mizutani, 2005].
- Red dye masks fermentation thus making it difficult to tell the freshness of a mixture. This may unknowingly cause users to keep the mixture beyond its safety margin since it appears safe to them.
- You will not attract a greater number of hummingbirds just because the nectar is colored. The hummingbirds are attracted to red flowers, not red nectar, so the feeder, not the food, should be red.
- Red dye is believed to cause a large number of potential problems to hummingbirds. Other mammals who received does of red40 in smaller amounts found in nectar powder had the following problems: DNA damage, lowered rates of fertility, increase in tumors, lethargy, and other health problems. Hummingbirds are such extremely tiny birds, so one can only assume that red40 would also be extremely harmful to the birds also.
It is just as easy to make nectar without dye in it so please do so. You will still attract the birds that you enjoy so much and you will know that you are doing your part to ensure their health.