This is part 2 of the hive I was talking about in this thread last month: http://forum.beemaster.com/index.php/topic,39862.0.html
As you guys predicted, the cluster didn't last - it was gone within a week. We had a warm spell this week and I opened up the hive to take pics. You can click the pics to biggify.
This is what the tops of the frames looked like just before the cluster died [Same pic as in the thread above]
The dead cluster was three frames wide. These are dead bees still clinging to the comb
When I cleaned off the top layer of bees, I found bees in the cells, heads deep, butts up.
The bottom of the hive [horizontal, double wide, deep] was covered in dead bees.
There was still a lot of honey left in the hive, on frames to both sides of the cluster. Also, a lot of pollen in the former brood area. I'm guessing the rough edges showing in the pic are chew marks from where the bees left off eating the stored honey.
Based on what I saw in the hive and what I've read here, I'm going to tell you what I think happened and then you guys can set me straight.
I'm thinking that the bees had dysentery from being cooped up. [Discussed in thread linked above] The cluster was too small and even though there were plenty of stores, they starved [butts up] because they weren't moving to the next stores.
They didn't move because they were too cold because there weren't enough bees. Plus, we get wild and crazy temp variations here in the winter. Maybe they were too sick to move?
This was my booming hive last year. Lots of robbing in the fall. They didn't have enough bees because of robbing? Is it possible they went queenless? Or some mysterious factor X that showed up out of the black night to screw up my hive? Is there any way to even know for sure?
I pulled the bottom board under the cluster and counted 5 varroa - with a magnifying glass and my kids' young eyes to double check. That's not a bad mite count, right?
Please tell me what I got wrong.
I opened the hive, cleaned it up, cleaned out the vast majority of dead bees and let the other hive go at it. It was a bee frenzy. I think my bees are as tired of winter as I am.