I live in southern/central California, USA and have two hives. Both had (until a few days ago) two deeps on the bottom, then three mediums on the top. We just got our second harvest of the year, taking the top two mediums off each hive, and leaving each hive with with two deeps and one medium. I presume their medium is full of capped honey, but I can check shortly to confirm...for now lets assume that is the case. It has been a while since I have looked in their two deeps...it is a little scary to get that far down. Both hives are robust, and when we spend too much time carefully removing and inspecting boxes, they can get more than a little irritated, which is why I have kind of a laissez faire attitude with respect to how they are using those bottom deeps.
Our hives are so packed with bees (very healthy, robust, active) that I always feel a little bad about removing two mediums as we head into the fall/winter season. I am not as concerned about not leaving them enough food, but I am concerned about not leaving them enough space. However, I understand they should be reducing their numbers starting soon, and...in any case...they still have two deeps and a medium of space, so maybe I shouldn't worry? However, since we removed two of the top three mediums from each hive, they have been clustering on the outside of their hives, packing themselves into and around the robbing screen we have on the front of each hive.
On the one hand, this could be normal bearding behavior. There were already 'camping on the porch' (as we call this behavior when some don't bother going inside at night) before we removed two mediums because the temps have been very high here recently...hitting the mid/upper 90 degrees fahrenheit in the day, and not getting too far below 70 degrees at night. But they are doing more of this bearding-like behavior since we removed two mediums. Should I worry about having removed too much of their living space, or does two deeps and one medium seem fine, if not in fact over generous? I know you can't know for sure, but any guidance here is welcome!