Organic Sugar & Hummingbird Feeders?

Hi all, I’m curious about organic sugar and hummingbird feeders - I recently changed to non-organic sugar because of hearing about the iron levels in brownish sugars being potentially harmful to hummingbirds over time…

So yea, or nay, should I use white sugars in my hummingbird feeders?

I believe most flower sugars are fructose, not sucrose. I don’t know that trace elements in a sucrose solution would be any more harmful than the sucrose itself; clearly, the little buzzers drink it up without too much worry about the chemistry. But a truly conscientious provider might look into a chemically correct solution using fructose instead.

I don’t know as I’d go so far as to conflate brown sugar with “organic” sugar. A bit of web searching quickly devolved into woo and “white sugar is evil”, so I gave up on it.

But yes, hummingbirds do just fine with pure sucrose. They are nature’s little junk food addicts. Any additional nutrients they need, they get by eating bugs.

Lucky little bassards. We have to go to McD’s!

I’m not so sure it devolves into woo - a search I did today turned up this paper from the proceedings of the Nutrition Advisory Group to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association:

The problem being the jump from nectar replacement products to unrefined sugar - which I’ve only heard or seen in blog posts like this one, and I don’t really know how much iron is in various types of sugar.

So, knowing that some products exist that shouldn’t be put in feeders for hummers [sub][insert double entendre here][/sub], how much iron is in unrefined sugar and is this an actual worry or just hype?

…and of course, the other problem being these were captive birds in an aviary and the birds at my feeder are definitively not. :wink:

One last bump - anyone know anything about iron levels in refined vs. unrefined sugar?

There’s about 13 mg of iron per kg of brown sugar, and none in refined sugar. There’s no reason to not use refined.

Don’t confuse brown sugar with unrefined sugar. They’re not the same thing. Unrefined sugar, also sometimes (incorrectly) called “raw” sugar, is sugar that has already been separated from the mother liquor but still has a few impurities in it. Brown sugar is what you get when you add a little of the mother liquor back in.

Incidentally, that same mother liquor is what’s used to make molasses. Some brown sugar is nothing but white refined sugar with some molasses added to it.
EDIT: And I believe that all of these products – brown sugar, molasses, unrefined “raw” sugar, and refined white sugar – can be either “organic” or conventional. The “organic” label only applies to the techniques used in farming the sugarcane or sugar beets.

That’s not the “woo” I was referring to. I have no doubts that raw sugar contains iron and that that might be bad for hummingbirds. I was trying to get a handle on what exactly was the difference between “organic” sugar and other types. It’s not clear that raw sugar is in any way organic in the usual sense of having been produced without pesticides and chemical processing.

There might be an “organic” white sugar with no iron impurities, for all I know. If you try googling those terms though, you get a lot of sites that are rich in “woo”, but no hard information.

“Organic” is not the same as “unrefined” or “brown” sugar.

You can have organic white sugar, just as you can have non-organic brown sugar.

“Organic” refers purely to how the sugar cane (or beets or whatever) was grown. It has nothing whatsoever to do with how the sugar was subsequently processed and refined.

“Organic” food and ingredients have a set of standards that are continually changing. Approved chemicals and ingredients are established By OMRI, the Organic Materials Review Institute, and FDA guidelines mostly follow these recommendations.

That is not to say that no chemicals were used to grow your organic crop, just that the chemicals were approved by OMRI.

One example is sulfate of potash, a mined chemical found in layers of ancient sea beds. It is about as chemical as you can get, but it is hard to grow crops without it so there are OMRI certified sources. Like here:

Most of the US sulfate of potash comes from the Great Salt Lake Chemical Co.

There is a similar company with deposits in Canada, and as I recall, they may all be owned by the same company now.

Organic is a much more defined regulatory term than “natural” which has almost no regulatory meaning, but there are still chemicals used in the production of organic food products. They are just approved chemicals.

You may conjure up an image of your organic produce being grown with free range chicken poop and composted leaves, but the demand for organic food has turned some factory farms into factory organic farms. Some of the true organic farming does happen on a local scale, but that isn’t what you are buying at Safeway.

I used to be the purchaser and production planner for an organic fertilizer manufacturer, and frankly I would not spend the extra money to buy organic, you are not getting what you think.

OK, thanks, I was confused by the earlier post and thought you meant something else, sorry about that. :frowning: No hard feelings, I hope. :slight_smile:

Turns out you’re right - the supermarket I go to usually carries both white & brown non-organic sugars, and only brown organic sugars, but yesterday I saw they started carrying a white organic sugar. Ignorance fought! :slight_smile:

This seems cryptically off-topic - are you saying that white or brown organic sugars have the same iron content as white or brown non-organic sugars? Colophon and tracer upthread have both made the point that it’s not the organic on the label that matters, but the refining process used. Can you comment on the iron content of any of the sugars, whether organic or not?