- Did you look deep enough into the hive to make sure they are dead? This time of year bees are still below the top box. Looking deep is required. In a 3 box colony that has alot of food the bees may be in the bottom box.
- If the hive is really dead the question is why. On a sunny day a hive can be taken apart and cleaned out if it is dead. Look for the cluster of bees. Did they starve? No honey around the cluster and bee bodies stuck in the cells with their butts looking at you is the sign of starvation. Even if there was frames of honey nearby they couldn't get there and starved.
- Nosema Ceranae. This is a newer disease and could be part of the CCD problem. We are mostly familiar with Nosema Apis. Nosema Apis is predictable, it would surface in March and or April then go away. It wouldn't always kill a colony. Nosema Ceranae can happen at any time of year. It affects the ability of older bees to feed. The colony will start to dwindle and eventually will perish. Both Nosemas' respond well to a treatment regimen of fumigillan. In this gentleman's case he had one weak colony going into winter. This could have been dwindling from Nosema Cerane and the other colony got infected as well.
- Varroa Destructor. This mite has caused headache since its arrival. Failure to treat for Varroa in early fall can weaken the colony as the Varroa level builds up. With the increased mite load, viruses can come out that would normally lay dormant in the bees.
Strong colonies, ample food, proper hive location, winter covers with moisture release boards are the basic things needed for wintering.
Fumigilan and Varroa Treatment in late August is the key to successful wintering. Doing these simple tasks at the right time will help assure of bees buzzing in the spring.