9 Bugs That Hummingbirds Will Feast On

Written by Sofia Fantauzzo
Updated: November 4, 2023
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Hummingbirds are dainty little birds that catch the adoration of anyone lucky enough to gaze upon their beauty. But did you know they’re quite the predator? Hummingbirds don’t survive on nectar alone and often eat bugs when nectar is not available, which is usually the case for many months of the year. Below you’ll find a comprehensive list of the bugs that hummingbirds eat, along with more facts about their diet.

Bugs That Hummingbirds Feast On

selective image of hummingbird eating dragonfly on yellow flower

Hummingbirds require so much energy to stay alive that they can’t be picky about how they get it.

©K A STUDIO/Shutterstock.com

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  • Weevils
  • Ants
  • Aphids
  • Mosquitos
  • Beetles
  • Gnats
  • Fruit Flies
  • Mites

A few of the groups listed above consist of thousands of animals. For example, the group “beetles” comprises at least 350,000 species! Similarly, there are many thousands of types of mites, ants, and spiders that become a hummingbird’s dinner.

The catch is that the bug or spider has to be small enough for the hummingbird to catch and swallow it. This factor eliminates a lot of species within these larger groups. Ideally, the bug won’t pose much of a threat to the hummingbird either. Large, spiny, or heavily armored insects are probably pretty safe from a hummingbird’s insatiable appetite.

Hummingbirds are pretty crafty hunters and will often patrol a spider web for some entangled prey. They might even eat the spider itself. Their taste for insects can help gardeners who might be dealing with pests like aphids or beetles. Due to their high metabolism, they can digest a bug in about 10 minutes.

Can You Buy Bugs to Feed to Hummingbirds?

Rufous Hummingbird drinking nectar

A hummingbird is more likely to be interested in flowers or nectar than bugs.

©Keneva Photography/Shutterstock.com

It’s likely hummingbirds will not eat any bugs you offer. Afterall, many of the bugs in a hummingbird’s diet are so easily accessible to them. The best thing you can do is provide a healthy outdoor ecosystem that will naturally attract both birds and insects. Most flowers and herbs will do this.

A diverse garden will increase the number of different insects that come to check things out. This, combined with nectar producing plants, is key to creating a mini hummingbird sanctuary! Keeping some of that classic red nectar in a hummingbird feeder will also help.

What Predators Eat Hummingbirds?

red-tailed hawk

Hawks are one of the more common predators of hummingbirds.

©Richard G Smith/Shutterstock.com

Sometimes, what goes around comes around. Hummingbirds have been prey to critters like dragonflies, mantises, and orb-weaving spiders. Occasionally, dead hummingbirds are eaten by scavenging insects, though they do not kill the bird themselves. In the case of spiders, some set their webs up in paths hummingbirds are known to take to deliberately catch a sweet snack.

Other birds like hawks, kestrels, and roadrunners prey on these tiny creatures. But perhaps most surprising is that some amphibians have a taste for hummingbirds. Frogs and large lizards or snakes might lay in wait for these tasty morsels to cross their path. In the uncivilized world of animals, anything that can be caught is potentially on the menu.

And almost anything will eat a hummingbird’s eggs if it gets the chance. Their eggs are jellybean-sized, which makes them easy pickings for squirrels, rats, and smaller birds that wouldn’t necessarily be able to eat an adult hummingbird.

Nectar-Providing Plants for a Garden

Adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbird (rchilochus colubris) feeding on a cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis).

Despite the name, the cardinal flower is not a flower you should use to attract cardinals.

©Patrick Jennings/Shutterstock.com

Hummingbirds can get around 80% of their energy from eating bugs, but the other 20% comes from nectar. Many people put hummingbird feeders in their yards, offering a sugar-water mix that provides a lot of energy for these birds with a crazy high metabolism. However, you can provide them with some more natural sources by introducing hummingbird-friendly plants to your garden. As a bonus, you’ll attract some other pollinators too! Here are some good plants to include:

  • Beebalms
  • Salvia
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Honeysuckle
  • Zinnias
  • Cardinal Flower

There are many more flowers suitable for feeding these types of birds. You can tell if a flower is a good source of nectar by looking at its shape. Long, tubular flowers are suited to the long beak and tongue of a hummingbird. The shape helps to reduce competition from other pollinating birds and insects. Additionally, the color of the flower can work some magic in attracting hummingbirds. They love red!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © K A STUDIO/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Sofia is a lover of all things nature, and has completed a B.S. in Botany at the University of Florida (Go Gators!). Professionally, interests include everything plant and animal related, with a penchant for writing and bringing science topics to a wider audience. On the off-occasion she is not writing or playing with her cats or crested gecko, she can be found outside pointing out native and invasive plants while playing Pokemon Go.

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