>Exactly. I've been wondering about this. I only have one hive and plan on doing crush and strain to harvest. But from what I read, it's much easier on the bees to not have to draw fresh comb each year. I DO want honey. I know I proably won't get any this year, but does that mean my production will be a lot lower than if I saved the comb?
It's no easier or harder on the bees. You will make more honey if there is somewhere for them to put the nectar when it's available instead of losing time building the comb first, but the bees make wax whether they use it or not. You are not torturing your bees by letting them make wax.
"Again, at all times of a heavy yield of honey, the bees secrete wax whether any combs are built or not; and if the sections are all supplied with foundation, and the hive filled with comb, this wax is wasted or else the foundation given is wasted; have it which way you please...To show that I am not alone in this matter regarding the waste of wax, I wish to quote from two or three of our best apiarists; the first is Prof. Cook, and no one will say that he is not good authority. he says on page 166 of the latest edition of his Manual 'But I find upon examination that the bees, even the most aged, while gathering, in the honey season, yield up the wax scales the same as those within the hive. During the active storing of the past season, especially when comb-building was in rapid progress, I found that nearly every bee taken from the flowers contained wax scales of varying size, in the wax pockets.'
"This is my experience during "active storing," and the wax scales are to be found on the bees just the same whether they are furnished with foundation or not; and I can arrive at no other conclusion than that arrived at by Mr. S.J. Youngman, when he says on page 108: 'The bees secrete wax during a honey flow, whether they are building comb or not; and if they are not employed in building comb, this wax is most certainly lost.'
"Once more on page 93, of the American Apiculturist, Mr. G.W. Demaree says: 'Observation has convinced me that swarms leave the parent colony better prepared to build comb than they ever are under other circumstances; and that if they are not allowed to utilize this accumulated force, by reason of having full sheets of foundation at hand to work out, there will necessarily be some loss; and I think that when the matter is computed, to find the loss and gain the result will show that the foundation really costs the apiarist double what he actually pays for it in cash'...Now, I have often noticed, and especially in looking back over the last year, after reading Mr. Mitchell's "Mistaken Economy," that swarms hived in June would fill their hives full of nice straight worker combs, and the combs would be filled with brood during the first two weeks after hiving; while a colony not casting a swarm would not make a gain of a single pound of honey; nor would a swarm having a full set of combs given them, or the frames filled with foundation, be a whit better off at the end of two weeks. Mr. P.H. Elwood has noted the same thing; thus proving that the theory that it takes 20 pounds of honey to produce one pound of comb, will not hold good in cases where bees desire comb and have free access to pollen. As most of my comb is built at this time, the reader will readily see that the combs cost me but little, save the looking after the colony once or twice while building comb, which is far cheaper than buying foundation, or fussing with a foundation mill."--G.M. Doolittle ABJ Vol 20 No 18 pg 276