Ok - first let me say thanks for the info and advice... It certainly probes thought. My understanding of how bee hives should be set for the winter was that the supers were to be removed and only the two deeps be remaining. Is this not correct? When rober asked what would the bees live on during the winter - I thought that they lived on the honey stored in the two deeps. Perhaps I'm incorrect since my bees have not wintered over in the first 2 attempts. This begs the question - what should the optimal winter set up be? 2 deeps and 2 supers? The top deep is loaded to the hilt - it's mostly honey (very heavy) and the bottom deep mostly brood and empty cells(relatively light) - how can I encourage more brood production or for the bees to fill the vacant comb with honey? The one super that has the most honey stored in it probably weighs 75 - 80lbs. It's absolutely loaded!
I'm so confused - I want the bees to have the best chance possible to survive the winter but it seems counter-intuitive for me to leave the supers on as this would be just that much more area for them to have to keep warm. Furthermore - I have had a queen excluder separating the top supers from the bottom deeps in hopes of harvesting some honey - although that is not the top priority - getting them through the winter is far and away the top priority!
Regarding feeding them - should I add a feeder and if so when?
Another statement from rober that I don't understand is - "if you remove your honey supers now and there's only two supers per hive; yes your bees will be crowded. They may also be homeless." - what does that mean? Why would they be homeless? Is to say that the honey supers are their home.... Yep, very confused and concerned!
My set up is this; three hives total.
Hive 1 - two deeps, no supers, was a relatively weak hive that is gaining strength rapidly. May feed this one during the fall.
Hive 2 - two deeps, queen excluder, one super. The super has a lot of uncapped honey. The bees are really doing well catching up from the near drought we have had this summer. The goldenrod is in full production now so life is finally good here.
Hive 3 - two deeps, queen excluder, two supers. This is the hive I have been asking questions about. This is an absolutely cranking hive.
All hives are polystyrene with pierce frames.
Thanks for any answers to my questions.