Sounds like what many may be finding out soon here on the east coast.
I've talked to many beekeepers, and one constant thing keeps being repeated. a poor fall flow, and a poor fall brood cycle.
It seems for no real reason to put your finger on, many hives did not have a good fall brood cycle. The bee did not pack in the honey they normally do on the fall flow, and the fall brood cycle was effected.
So one area of interest may be...Did your bees have a 60 day window (three full brood cycles) to raise enough bees going into winter?
Many I ask suggest "Well, I know they were packed in September. I just thought they were fine" And they may very well looked like everything was fine with many bees, but without young fall raised brood, the bees will die off much more quickly with the summer bees.
Many times, bees will exit the hive on days they can. Coupled with bee loss, and perhaps a cluster smaller than one originally thought, by the time the hive actually does die, there isn't much left to see in the hive.
I'm not suggesting that t-mites, or other problems and disease may not be at play. But as a beekeeper, all the basics should be known and accounted for also. And from the discussions I have with some beekeepers, they couldn't even tell you IF brood was raised in the fall. Remember, we keep bees where WE want them kept. If bees had the chance to naturally migrate to some of these same places, they may do well, or they may do lousy. Some places in the country has poor fall flows. And without beekeeper augmented feeding, the bees may do fine in some years as things just work out. But in other years, things catch up and make you pay the price.
And feeding for weight gain, IS NOT the same as stimulative feeding focused on increased brood rearing.