Need some help/advice
Been beekeeping for 4 years, have 2 hives.
1 of my hive came through winter amazing, hit spring and took off like a rocket. Made huge amounts of honey, was super strong, I had 3 deeps on it, queen laid amazing think patterns, etc, etc.
About 6 weeks ago we saw a sudden mass die off out front of the hive. We cleaned it up scratched our head. Looked in the hive, didn't see the queen but there was capped brood and some larva
2 weeks later (4 weeks ago) the die off kept happening. We went into the hive, the queen was nowhere to be seen, no brood to be seen, and 3 capped queen cells. These was maybe 1/3 the bees in the hive that there normally would be. The hive had lots of food (both nectar/honey and pollen/beebread) we took off the top deep honey super off. Crossed our fingers that the queen would hatch, mate, and and start laying.
We thought we'd leave it along for 4 weeks from our last inspection where we saw the 3 capped queen cells. Figured messing around in there wouldn't help the a queen (if she hatched) get settled so better to stay out. So this weekend we went in, the hive is very weak, very few bees, lots of food, no queen and no eggs to be seen. I know there is a small chance the queen could be just not laying yet, but honestly there are so few bees that I doubt that even if she started laying today I don't think the hive could survive.
The frames we pulled out have ~50 dead brood in the frames, and out front there had been a lot of dead brood that has been pulled out. The dead brood that was pulled out looked big, thick, healthy, not rotten, not deformed.
I have no idea what took our strongest hive ever and just collapse the colony like that. We have 2 hives, the other hive was not effected and the 2 hives are 8 feet apart. I'm questioning if the bees maybe got into some sort of pesticide and brought it back to the hive? Not sure if I should eat the honey or feed it to another hive because of possible pesticide?
Anyhow, looking for some direction of what the possible causes of this could be and any ways I can test the hive to get some answers.
Also any idea if the honey could be tainted or any way to test it?