Alas, the battle has ended, the disease won, the bees lost. :'(
We had low 70s today, so BeeGood went out to assess the condition of the hives. There were a few bees out taking cleansing flights, but inside was a sad story. Most of the frames in the upper deep had clusters of dead bees. Many died with their heads deep into the comb, but even more died just as they were standing, stuck permanently in a somewhat natural pose. This picture shows there was some remaining honey in the comb right where they died, but it didn't seem to help. There were many small groups of dead bees scattered throughout the hive. There didn't seem to be any single cluster. View 1200x860 image
With it pretty clear they had nosema, I'm beginning to wonder if this was a case of the more severe Nosema ceranae strain.
Randy Oliver wrote:
Amazingly, in a few short years N. ceranae appears to have supplanted N. apis throughout much of North America and the world! In many areas, it is now difficult to find the previously common N. apis!... One European researcher feels that we have been so distracted by varroa, that we have simply overlooked the poor buildup, queen failures, poor honey crops, and colony collapse due to N. ceranae.
More from Randy Oliver on Nosema: http://www.scientificbeekeeping.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=48
The good news was that the nearby hive seems to be doing much better. A quick peek into that hive, she verified that they still had good supplies of honey stores and had a much larger population. She decided not to start feeding after inspecting two nearly full frames, near the center of the upper box. This second (healthy) hive also seems to be amazingly clean compared to the dead hive. The wax and comb appears clean and very light colored, while the dead hive has very dark colored comb.