Are your bees growing and expanding or shrinking. It is very difficult to maintain bees at zero growth. Either they are strong and forcing division or dying off. This is especially evident to hobbyist beekeepers with the desire to maintain only a couple hives. It is so easy to be late supering so that the bees start swarming. Then, instead of two hives, you have four or five. It is just as easy to go into winter with four hives and enter spring with only one left. Statistics work great for averages but they are meaningless for small numbers.
Now is the time to be taking a serious look at the number and condition of your colonies. Weak colonies in the fall are energy and money sinks not worth the time and effort to keep going. But, defining a weak colony can get to be very tough. You need to consider not only where it is now but also from where it came. If it has just limped along all summer without showing much promise, it is time to dump this dog. If it is from a late split and is doing well, invest a little more in it now to insure a successful wintering. Weak colonies need to be combined or added to a strong colony early enough to allow them to work out a structure and balance before winter. This is the time to rein in the undesired growth monster.
A strong colony should now completely cover at least eight frames of comb. It should have one deep box filled with honey for the winter. Anything below that strength needs to be examined. If the bees are healthy and have a proportionate amount of honey to bees as the strong colony, they could be wintered over with a little extra care.
Smaller hives may benefit from the extra warmth if placed on top of a larger colony. The evidence for screened bottom boards indicates that the bees can do well with lots of ventilation but not drafts and not dripping humidity. The bees heat the cluster, not the air around it. Equipment should thus be draft-free but well ventilated. Put in the mouse guards and block the inner cover up with a couple thin (pencil-thick) sticks on the front corners of the top box.
All colonies will benefit from a dose of Fumidil-B in thick sugar syrup to battle Nosema. This should be fed as soon as possible to suppress the spore population in the wintering bees.
Zero growth is an unnatural situation, organisms are normally either growing or dying. This is true of the colony, the apiary, and our bee club. We are winding up the year with our honey contest and a potluck dinner. We have prepared our bees for the winter and can now have a little more free time for a while. While your are relaxing this winter; think about how you can help our club grow. We need some new blood. We are all getting older and busier. Let's share the load, bring in a new beekeeper, or be a mentor to a less experienced beekeeper in our community. We can't be stagnant or we will die.