OK, I'm still confused so I thought I'd post my question in this forum and not the "honey" forum. It seems the general consensus is that the girls only need two deeps to get them through the winter and nothing else. But then I hear that they need 1 and one half deeps of honey for adequate food. OK, but doesn't that mean that they then only have one half deep for brood? Is that enough or do the girls get "honey bound" (whatever that is)? Sorry that this is taking so long to sink in.
Personally I run all mediums, so I will make references to both sizes.
Generally in the fall brood rearing starts falling off and the bees fill the brood chamber with honey. So two deeps (3 mediums) usually translates into about 120 pounds or more of stores. That is usually sufficient for a Nothern climate.
I am still (after 30 years) rethinking my wintering strategies. Trying to overwinter nucs made me more aware of the details. I've always just made sure the hives were strong and combined any weak ones. But trying to overwinter nucs is a different ballgame.
After last year where I left a lot of room for the really strong hives (five mediums for some and four for others), I'm thinking that was way too much stores for this breed of bee (mostly ferals and Carniolans) and too much room to heat. I'm thinking this year of cutting it down more. But in the end it depends on the strength of the hive. The more bees, the more stores they will eat.
The other issue is in the spring when brood rearing takes off they can quickly run out of stores. It's nice to have some you can throw on the hive. The problem is that sometimes you can feed enough and sometimes you can't. If the temps stay below 50 for weeks but they are rearing brood they can use up a lot of stores quickly.
Some people overwinter in three full deeps (equivilant to four and 1/2 mediums) to avoid problems with running out of stores in the spring.
I winter over the same as MB. 3-4 mediums on my main hives. They seem to do well with that, on top of the main hives I keep my nucs with just 2 mediums. The heat from the hive below keeps the nucs warm and the bees come out of winter ok. I use the inner cover with screening over the center hole and have a separate entrance facing in the opposite direction of the main hive. This piggy back set up works well for me and gives me more bees in the spring if I want to combine them for real early honey production and have extra queens.
This year was the first year I panicked. The temps were around 40-45 with rain. The bees by the beginning of march started to starve. I could not give them sugar syrup since they would try to fly out to see where all this 'honey' is coming from and those would die. I gave them bee candy to eat. That tied them over till mid march were we then started to have 45-50 degrees with some sunshine. I then started up a feeder in the yard. This helped them get over the critical part. I also have NWC (New World Carniolan). They are winter hardy. I hope this info helps you. My temps go down to -35F.
Now in the Spring, you open up the hive to check on stores. If the hive has too much honey, the queen can't lay alot and they may swarm. Do you remove a frame or two of honey and replace with foundation? Or extract the frames and put back in?
I would like to get smarted on different methods to prevent honey bound hives..
My managment is a whole system. Since I have all the same boxes and since I have no chemicals in the hives, all my frames are interchanable. I also don't use an excluder. I can pull a frame out of the brood nest and use it to bait up a super while opening up the brood nest.
If you have a lot of different sized boxes and frames, then it changes things. If you use chemicals it changes things.
But let's assume you have Deeps for brood, an excluder and smaller boxes for supers (a common setup) and you use chemicals. Now you need to DO something with the frame you pull that won't result in it being in the honey in the supers.
You can just set it aside in the freezer and use it for a split or a nuc or a package later, or if you can get enough of them you can put them in a third deep on top of the other two to open things up. for now and steal them off for splits etc later.
You can also extract it and put it in a seperate bucket to use for bee feed.