So the rule of thumb that I see offered so many times is "start with at least 2 hives" And, only when pressed for why do you get, well you can compare and help one with the other and this and that.
So in practice, what is the best number to start with, and how many would be best to go into winter with? I figure now, that one can't survive without at least some procreation. Whether making and mating queens, or walk-away, fly-back or other kinds of splits etc?
I don't presume the know the numbers, but instead of using ABC etc, let's just say the right number were three. Split each one to a nuc, and build them up to go into winter with a full size hive and a nuc with the hopes of coming out with at least 2 of your hives and 1 of your nucs. Something like that but with real numbers.
I have been reading through some "beekeeping calendars." At a bunch of points, there is a call to combine weak or failing hives. From that I am assuming that there are many situations that can cause this, so there must be an assumption of less optimistic beekeeping operations.
So that said, there should be a least number of hives that can be maintained. In theory if you make it to spring with more, you can craigs list them off, and if, fewer, then you should have enough to get back to such a point?
Perhaps this is a stupid question. But, unfortunately, it is one I am going to have to answer in order to move forward, and keep marital bliss along with bees.