Sounds like I do similar to bee-nuts....
First I check the snow at the top. A live hive will have an indention in the middle as the snow melts from cluster heat.
Then an ear to the hive...has to be a good ear to hive seal, and a tap.
Last, only a couple times a year, I'll lift the top and peek in (I have rim spacers on, no inner covers, minimal hassle and disturbance). See where the cluster is, quick honey check. If they are packed up to the top or I can't see some honey in the frame tops, then they need some sugar put on.
I have 1" holes in the boxes, so ventilation and entrances isn't an issue.