I need your help to solve a mystery…
I started my first hive last spring (2016) in southwestern Connecticut (USA). The bees did well building out the frames and I added a 2nd brood box in June. I did add the Flow frame super in August, but by that time the nectar flow was low and while I did see some bee activity closing up the cells in the Flow super, I did not have any honey in it. I was disappointed, but had enough realism to understand that I probably was not going to get a harvest my first year anyway. So, I pulled the Flow frame in late October, leaving the two deep hive boxes–the bottom box had some brood and honey, while the upper was mostly honey. Not too much pollen in either. I had been feeding in September, but should have started sooner as we had a pretty hot and dry August. Shortly after reducing down to two hive boxes, I added some top insulation and moisture wicking in the form of cedar shavings sitting on top of a canvas bottomed very shallow hive box. I also added a pollen patty and then left them to it.
On a warm-ish (50+ degree Fahrenheit) day in January, I decided to take a quick peek to see if they needed another pollen patty. Lo and behold, the first one was untouched. Furthermore, with my curiosity and concern peaked, I decided to open the hive up more. No bees. Argh! I was pretty bummed and did not investigate any further until just yesterday (mid-April) in preparation for my new nuc arriving this week. I confirmed that there were about 250 dead bees–about 50% on the bottom screen and the other 50% in two small clusters on two frames on the bottom box where I also found what I believe is the dead queen.
There was a good amount of capped and uncapped honey in both the upper and lower boxes–not full capacity by any means, but a decent amount. There were no signs of mice or other infestation. My guess is that my hive swarmed in November shortly after removed the Flow super. It could have been before I added the pollen patty since I only added that quickly (no inspection) to preserve the heat. Swarming would explain why the number of dead bees was a couple hundred vs. many thousands of dead bees. The few that were left behind could not make it through the winter. I don’t recall seeing any queen cells, though my inspections became much less invasive as the weather cooled in the fall.
Any other theories from the experts…?