Feral hives tend to be frugal. They store less food, lay less brood and generally have smaller populations throughout much of the year. regardless of genetics of a hive, you need to look for eggs. If you see eggs, the queen was alive within the last 72hrs. If you have uncapped brood 72hrs to 10 days or so she was alive and well. Capped brood, 12 plus day and so on. If they are flying on a regualr basis and carrying in pollen, they are raisng brood and she was alive within past week or so. Look for eggs is the key.