.... They were all over to one corner and over about 3 frames. .
That happens Henry, even to me after 40 years experience. The trouble is one hive. It is 100% - . My boy is Henri, by the way.
I have 20% extra hives for winter. Very seldom hive dies. Mostly queen is dissaperared or she get nosema of something. I think that 3 hives is minimum for winter or to keep bees.
BUT FIRST! Do you know the mite situation in your hive
? If mites have destroyed most of your wintering bees at late Autumn and they have then executed the rest? It happens during winter.
3 frame colony for winter is too small. They have drifted to the corner and the food has consumed to end. When weather is cold, they are not able to move themself from the corner.
I had 4 deep supers on my hive with at least one full of honey and the top one was starting to be capped agan after I extracted it last Oct. .
Seems to be that you have had a good, normal hive.
The middle super had alot of honey left in it as heavy as it was. .
How many boxes you left for winter?
What would have caused my bees to die off in the last couple weeks. What do I do with my hive ? Clean off the frames of dead bees and take the frames inside to warm up and extract the remaining honey?.
If frames are clean, and no feces on combs and if bees have died only for starving, you can use again those frames and honey.
I am really bummed up and wonder what I should have done differant.
When I have been here in this forum, I can see that you have not a good concept of wintering there in USA . It means that you take very lightly the wintering in southern climate and you get a lot of harms.
Also noways it is nice to bee "natural" or "organic". It mens "let them be". You need not to learn how bees live when you just "let them be".Here is one concept when we go towars winter:
You surely have 20 others.
1) When honey flow is over, extract capped honey away.
2) Look what size of hive they need. Take extra space away
3) Wait untill brooding have allmost stopped. You have some dead line on your area when hive is settling down to winter ball.
4) Before winterball feed sugar to the hive. If it has one box for winter, give it full of sugar. In Finland we use 20 kg sugar for winter per colony. It is needed untill to summer.
5) You have no insulated walls in the hives. It means that they consume 50% more winterfood and spring develompent is slow.
6) In Southern Finland bees manage with sugar from September to end of May. It is 9 months. It is gived once. Of course we check the winterfood soon after the cleansing flight.
7) Most hives here will be die after cleansing flight because they start brooding and they consume food many times more than in the cool winterball.
6) I even foodstuff between hives. I need not to feed at spring.
It depends where you live. I can see that you live quite in warm climate if you extract in Oct. At that time we have bees in the winterball. And I extract the last honey in the first week of September and feed sugar in . I change honey to sugar. It is half of yeild if you let honey be for winter. One box is 40 lbs honey.
There is odd point in your hive. You have had a good hive but you had quite small winterball. What have happened to your colony in late summer.
1) Did it have a swarm and new queen get not much enough wintering bees?
2) Did you had brood all the time at autumn and how much?
3) Winter ball will be as big as brood area is big 4 weeks before end of brooding.
4) Did you gived enough brood space to raise wintering bees on late summer?
5) You have had good pastures, because you got honey. There is some abnormal with raising new bees at late summer, big hive enough for winter.
Have your hive been too cool in late summer. Too much ventilation or too much empty space above brood box? The warm of brood area escapes to the top, if you have too much space at autumn
Also there is no advantage to keep honey on the top if flower summer is ceased.
When I go towards August, beehive is 4-5 boxes. I take 1-2 boxes away, so much I can. When I look hive at the end of August 3 weeks later, 2/3 of summer bees have expired. I can put colony to one or two boxes.
Most of Finnish beekeepers put hives to one box. They use exluder.
You see, when flowers are allmost gone, the colony will deminish 75% from summer space. In one month! There is no need to keep extra space for winter.
When I have seen your wintering hives in pictures, you have strange habits in your South! And restless mind.