I hear talk about weighing hives for the winter as a good indicator for adequate stores, but I've a question.
I've got two hives with all-medium, 10-frame boxes. One has six boxes and one has seven. I just added a super to the one with six boxes. How do you go about weighing hives? I do not have a scale that will work with the size of hive boxes, and I'm not going to go out and buy one. So is it experience that tells you that your hives are heavy or light or do people have some more accurate way of doing it without having to actually weigh the things on a scale?
Also, for those of you who feed 2:1 sugar water in preparation for winter: if you have excess of stores to get through the winter (which is to say, you've got capped stores from the previous year when the flow starts the following spring), how do you know your honey the next season isn't just capped sugar water from the previous season? Do you pull frames of capped stores during the onset of the flow if you've got stores left over? Out of too much fear of losing bees I can't afford to replace in the spring, I've been feeding heavily.
Lastly, I was told to put the queen in the bottom box in preparation for winter. I couldn't find the queen in either hive, and there were bees in all the boxes. There was not a clear place to me where the queen was supposedly working (although, it was obvious she wasn't working in the honey supers), so I left them as is other than to make sure the heavy boxes with either all honey or mostly honey were moved to the top. I've read that people use four mediums or so for winter which I take to mean two cluster boxes and two boxes of stores. How do I get my hives down to four boxes? Do I wait until it's colder and the bees are in an actual cluster so I know where they are before I start pulling things apart?