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I'm a new beek, so go easy if there is an obvious answer to this.
With so much talk about how many stores to leave the bees to over winter (40-90 lbs), why not leave them all they can produce and harvest any surplus when the spring nectar flow starts? Then you know they had enough to over winter.
 

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The honey left in the comb may be crystallized by the time spring rolls around. Some honeys crystallize faster than others, and winter temps will increase the probability of cyrstallization of the honeys that do. Also, spring temps are sometimes not as warm as late summer temps when honey extraction from the comb is easier. Migratory beekeepers are busy in spring moving hives to crops so extracting then is not efficient time used. There may be other reasons as well that I can't think of, but I like your logic, it shows thinking of the best for the bees without having to feed them in winter or spring.
 

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I've done it and it has it's merits but I think a lot depends on where you are situated and how you are going to harvest. We have cold winters so pests (other than mice and the like) are dormant. I crush and strain (so far) so I am not concerned with spinning out cold honey. I haven't seen crystallization but with only two winters and a very few hives it's a rather small sample size.

I might suggest that it would be a very good idea to do in order to gauge how much your bees in your situation may need and you can plan accordingly for the following year by leaving them ample without having to leave everything. The risk might be, given what I have started to see more of, that an overabundance of honey left on the hives could be an invitation to have it stolen.
 

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You can.

I don't see any crystallized honey in the hive from my nectar sources here. Seems the stuff I extract in the summer crystallized by the following spring in the buckets, but never in the hive. May not be the same for you.

For the most part bees can use crystallized honey in the cells for survival.

If your unsure then leave them extra, honey is better for them than sugar.

As a new beekeeper you should also harvest some for yourself and friends.
 

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That would make for a heavy and possibly tall hive, especially 8 frame hives. Last year here, the fall flow was about as large as the spring/summer flow. I also would rather have the excess honey stored safely in my home instead of outside in boxes in case disaster strikes out at the apiary.
 

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Stone - last year I left my honey crop on due to it being small - crop was rained out - anyway - this spring when the berry's started blooming - the bees brooded to the point I was making whole box splits - they will turn all that honey into brood in the spring
 

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You will want empty drawn comb to manage against swarms in the spring. Simply adding foundation (or fresh foundationless) is far less effective. The bees don't see a wall of undrawn comb as adding space to their broodnest, and will make the collective decision to swarm. Whereas, adding a frame of drawn comb will keep the queen and nurse bees busy raising brood. Adding wet frames is a possibility but requires temperatures warm enough to extract the comb, and time for the beekeeper to extract among all the other tasks of spring. Generating a stockpile of dry drawn comb is very useful.

Our fall honeys crystallize hard, and getting them out of the comb keeps the comb in harvestable condition. English Ivy, Oak honeydew, late mustard are all quick to crystallize. Big rock candy crystals make a mess of the honeycomb, and clog up the comb when the early spring flows (those spring honeys are all premium honey) start.
 

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I extracted an early crop this year from my production colonies and got the combs right back on for them to move honey up into. This isn't that difficult of a task for someone with 5-20 production colonies. It's a whole different animal for these guys running hundreds/thousands because all of their other, normal beekeeping tasks are also competing for time. For me it's pull honey Friday afternoon and Saturday morning with cursory inspections at the time if possible (pulling a couple frames of brood checking for eggs and backfilling. Extract Saturday. Place combs back on top Sunday, inspect any that didn't get inspected Friday or Saturday.

They filled them right back up and I pulled them again a week ago.
 

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A few points

- There are some folks who wait until spring to harvest the previous years honey

- Overwinter the bees consume a relatively small amount of honey. Maybe 20% for our climate. The vast majority of honey consumed occurs in February/March during massive spring build-up. They can burn thru alot of honey making brood.
- One concern about leaving too much honey is come spring the bees have limited space, so if space is not made available they will have a higher propencity to swarm. Although there is a good chance anyway that they will swarm if weather is good and hive is healthy
- If you don't use queen excluders, it is likely in spring they will move into the supers consuming honey and raise brood. Over winter you do not want to use queen excluder to avoid trapping queen if the cluster moves.
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Even 40 pounds seems excessive. I leave 3 - 4 frames of capped honey in my deeps for the winter and harvest what hasn't been consumed at the start of the spring flow. After the coldest winters most of that honey remains untouched by spring.
 
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