Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?
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  1. #1
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    Question Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    Howdy. I'm new to beekeeping, and new to the forum here.

    It sounds reasonable to me that if honey is extracted without destroying the comb (i.e., via an extractor instead of crush'n'strain), then the bees can reuse the drawn comb, and spend their energy making honey instead of wax. But a friend said he heard that bees need to make wax, for some reason I forget.

    So my question: Is it advantageous, or not, to extract honey without destroying the comb, then place the comb back in the hive? Will the girls make more honey with reused comb than if they had to re-draw the comb?

    - djb
    The best things in life aren't things.
    2 hives, started 2018

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    Drawn comb is more valuable than gold. To a beekeeper anyway. Yes, using drawn comb allows the hive to concentrate on bringing in more nectar which equals more honey. Not sure what your friend was talking about, but they will still make wax to repair the damage from extracting and of course when capping it. Perhaps the friend was referring to swarms needing to make wax? They do, and quickly, because their lives depend on it. J

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fivej View Post
    Drawn comb is more valuable than gold. To a beekeeper anyway. Yes, using drawn comb allows the hive to concentrate on bringing in more nectar which equals more honey. Not sure what your friend was talking about, but they will still make wax to repair the damage from extracting and of course when capping it. Perhaps the friend was referring to swarms needing to make wax? They do, and quickly, because their lives depend on it. J
    Allrighty, that's what I wanted to know. Thanks. I harvested my first frame last weekend, used the crush and strain method, and it bothered me to destroy the comb. Seemed I was making extra work for the girls to replace the wax.

    - djb
    The best things in life aren't things.
    2 hives, started 2018

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    I think it is a good thing the bees do not know what molon labe means when it comes to honey harvesting.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    Quote Originally Posted by JWPalmer View Post
    I think it is a good thing the bees do not know what molon labe means when it comes to honey harvesting.
    Good'un.

    - djb
    The best things in life aren't things.
    2 hives, started 2018

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    Quote Originally Posted by genusCastor View Post
    Howdy. I'm new to beekeeping, and new to the forum here.

    It sounds reasonable to me that if honey is extracted without destroying the comb (i.e., via an extractor instead of crush'n'strain), then the bees can reuse the drawn comb, and spend their energy making honey instead of wax. But a friend said he heard that bees need to make wax, for some reason I forget.

    So my question: Is it advantageous, or not, to extract honey without destroying the comb, then place the comb back in the hive? Will the girls make more honey with reused comb than if they had to re-draw the comb?

    - djb
    A pound of drawn comb requires anywhere (depending on what 'authority' you quote) from 8 to 20 pounds of honey to produce.

    It is the most valuable product of a hive.

    Be glad you have it, protect it, re-use it (put it on the colony a couple weeks before you 'think they need it' in anticipation of the first honey flow), take off in an evening when full, extract, get it back on the hive the next morning.

    Add a super of foundation between the brood nest and the drawn comb when replacing it, that encourages production of MORE drawn comb.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sour Kraut View Post
    A pound of drawn comb requires anywhere (depending on what 'authority' you quote) from 8 to 20 pounds of honey to produce.
    I'd read 8, but 20(!)? Wowzers.

    Now to find (or build) a decent, cheap extractor.

    - djb
    The best things in life aren't things.
    2 hives, started 2018

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    Quote Originally Posted by genusCastor View Post
    I'd read 8, but 20(!)? Wowzers.

    - djb
    Some turn-of-the-century beekeeping books quote that much.

    I think anywhere from 8 to 12 is a more realistic figure.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    This thread has gotten me thinking, a dangerous pastime. Are the figures we use true loss of production, or are they metabolic equivalents? Would the bees have consumed that much whether they made comb or not? If you put bees in a hive with all drawn comb, what happens to the wax they do make? Wax production does not appear to be a choice. Young bees secrete the flakes and older bees do not. While this strays a little bit from the original question, I do wonder if this figure really represents honey not harvested.

    Like Fivej said though, drawn comb is more valuable than gold. When you are making splits, it is priceless.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    Quote Originally Posted by JWPalmer View Post

    1) Would the bees have consumed that much whether they made comb or not?

    2) If you put bees in a hive with all drawn comb, what happens to the wax they do make?

    3) Wax production does not appear to be a choice. Young bees secrete the flakes and older bees do not.
    IN ORDER

    1) I doubt it.....honey in = wax out; no wax out = no honey in

    2) Why would they make wax if not needed ? If they did that, there would be piles of wax flakes on the bottom board, wouldn't there ?

    3) See # 2........Young bees DO secrete it, but only when needed to build new/ repair old combs or cap honey.

    That's how I see it, your mileage may vary........

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    Edit... 2 pounds honey per deep frame
    http://scientificbeekeeping.com/ligh...ng-foundation/
    Last edited by msl; 11-08-2018 at 09:32 PM.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    Msl, thanks for the link. I was clearly out in left field with my thoughts. But (the big caveat), I think you misread the data. Randy says it takes approximately 2/10 of a gallon of 77% sugar to draw one deep frame at approx. 0.18# wax per frame. Still works out to about 8# of honey per pound of wax.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    The effect of the "lost opportunity" for not having drawn comb in a heavy flow would seem to suggest that the wax had a very high actual energy equivalency compared to honey. It is higher, pound for pound but nothing like the folklore seems to indicate.

    Calculated precisely on a molecular basis would show a much lower figure. The chemistry is a way above my pay scale but I think it is not too hard to spot the flawed logic.

    That is all quibbling though; the fact is that not having drawn comb will cost you a lot of honey production and quite possibly a lost swarm.
    Frank

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    good catch JW, I was miss reading Sour Kraut as frames, not pounds as we were talking reuseing frames

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    The real cost of not having drawn comb is time. While the bees are busy drawing comb they could have been busy filling the comb. Meanwhile while they are drawing comb the flow is running out of time...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    Agree with Michael Bush.

    Also, I don't think it is known how much honey it takes to make a pound of wax, could be 1 to 1 for all anyone knows. And, if you look carefully at the bottom board of just about any strong hive in summer you will find little flakes of freshly produced wax that never even got used.

    But why I agree with Michael is because when I was a commercial beekeeper we put supers on in 3 main forms. Comb foundation, drawn comb, or sticky drawn comb (extracted and still sticky with honey). Drawn comb and especially sticky drawn comb will get the bees up out of the brood nest and start storing honey in the supers, comb foundation is less appealing and the bees are slower to move up which can lead to the brood nest getting clogged, and swarming. All of this directly impacts the end of season honey harvest.

    No comb at all would be the very worst option and only a skilled beekeeper who knows how to manipulate combs would be able to pull this off without losing a decent portion of the potential crop.
    "Thinking Inside The Box"

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb: To Reuse or not to Reuse?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    The real cost of not having drawn comb is time.
    Time is a visible cost, but I think there is a more insidious cost for not having drawn comb in the spring, bees. When spring flows ramp up, if you dont have empty drawn comb for the bees to use, they cannot build comb as fast as the nectar comes in, so, they start backfilling into the brood nest. End result, and immediate loss of population when the swarm leaves, then a hidden cost because the colony goes a couple weeks with no queen laying. That two weeks without eggs translates to no young bees emerging 3 weeks down the road.

    When we first started keeping bees, we fought with swarms endlessly for the first 3 years. Using the mantra of 'when life hands you lemons, make lemonade', we bought more boxes and put swarms into those new boxes. We proudly stated 'colony count growing rapidly', but, quietly become somewhat discouraged, lots of bee colonies, not much honey. By about year 4 we changed our outlook, and when it's time for planning the next season, we dont start with 'how many colonies' to make those plans anymore. We start by doing an inventory of drawn supers, how many drawn supers do we have for the spring flows ? We manage our bee colonies by placing two drawn supers on each colony for the spring flow, and most will fill them with very little tendancy to swarm out on us. A few get ambitious during spring flow, and will draw out more frames, but our experience is, during this part of the season bees tend to be less interested in drawing more comb, more interested in trying to outgrow the available comb then swarm. When we take the bees for the summer placement in late June, this changes. We extract our spring honey before taking the bees out to the fireweed patch, then colonies in fireweed will get two boxes of wet drawn comb, and one box of fresh new frames. Most of them will fill the two boxes of comb, and draw out the third during that summer placement.

    Our overall management strategy with regards to colony numbers is no longer driven by some arbitrary desire to reach a certain number. In January, we inventory our drawn supers in storage, and that defines our colony count goals. For spring flows, i want 2 drawn supers on each colony, then taking them to the summer placement, they get two drawn and an empty, the desire is to have 50% more drawn supers for winter storage by the end of the season.

    From my perspective, drawn super inventory has a much greater impact on honey yields than colony count.

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