Re: The right number of hives to keep it fun
Since I bought two packages in spring 2015, I have kept just two hives and sometimes one nuc as a spare. Inspection and mite treatment are no big deal with just a few hives. They produce sufficient honey for friends and families, but not so much that I would want to buy an expensive extractor (I use a hand-cranked two frame extractor). There are plenty of flowers nearby without much competition, so I do not have to feed my bees, except when I harvested lots of honey in fall.
As others pointed out, keeping just a few has its risks. Once I lost a hive in winter and had to buy a package. Three times I failed to raise a good queen and had to buy one from elsewhere. Ideally, I would want to over-winter two <1 yr queens in two full-sized hives and one >1 yr old queen in a nuc, but that usually does not happen.
Zone 8, elevation 70 ft, near the north end of Lake Washington