For new beehives, that are building up their brood frames and their own honey reserves (and not yet producing honey for us to harvest), we feed them a 2:1 mix of sugar and water, that I call bee juice.
This is the bee equivalent of fast food: rather than flying to harvest nectar from flowers, and arduously converting it into honey, they can just sip up the sugar water from a convenient feeder right in front of the hive, and store that away for later.
(Fun fact: an average worker bee will produce only about 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. And yes, the workers are all female.)
Of course, bee juice isn’t as good for them, and we certainly don’t want to feed this to bees producing honey for us (we want real honey, not sugar water), but it really helps young hives get off the ground.
I refilled the dispensers on our two new hives this morning. With the plastic jar removed, you can see several bees sipping at the sugar water (the wooden base is hollow, so they can crawl from the hive to under the feeder):
Here’s the feeder with the jar in place:
Each hive will typically go through a jar of juice in about a week. Each jar contains 4 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water, which takes quite a while to dissolve in a pot on the oven hob. (For comparison, hummingbird juice is 1:4, i.e. 1 cup of sugar and 4 cups of water, which I can dissolve just using hot water from the tap.)