Could someone tell me some hints to estimate probability of surviving a winter in TBH.
without inspecting all combs by comb.
I am in Chicago vicinity environment. It is getting cold and temperature is dropping progressively to above 60 during a day. Bees are still flying and bringing some pollen but this will stop when temperature drops below 60 soon.
My hives are “V” shaped, TB is 22” , about 10” deep.
How many combs should I expect at this time a year to estimate probability of surviving an average winter without internal feeder. (first year)
I know that it depends on a few things, but TBH beekeepers have to have some experience to generalize their opinion, I think.
My bees are Italian. There are 13 to 16 combs in 3 hives. The last 3 combs are partial and almost empty, and not covered by bees. I did not feed them, but several days ago I gave them syrup ( about 2 quarts) and they drink it like crazy, but I didn’t notice any build up of combs. What did they do with it? Probably just has got fat.
I will be glad to hear and appreciate yours opinion.

Also, what is large cluster, small cluster, strong or weak hive? I have a window so I can see how many combs are covered with bees to have some idea of this terminology.

Wojtek