(very) novice beekeeper trying to learn from two dead hives
So. Very New at this. I'm sure I've made at least dozen mistakes, probably starting with not looking for a mentor and just going for it using lots of research. Hardiness zone 5B, Midwest USA. Bought two bee packages last year and filled two langstroth hives. One hive seemed to do pretty well; not enough to harvest any honey, but both deeps were pretty much full of honey by the end of fall. The other hive struggled to produce much brood; by the time I decided it was probably a queen problem and I should look into combining the hives it was hovering around the 40s/upper 30s F so I thought it was too cold and wrote off the hive. I did not treat either hive for mites.
The good hive made it through the winter. Two weeks ago we had a few over 40 F days so I visited the hive and gave it a patty of pollen substitute, sugar, and water (2:1 substitute:sugar, enough water to make a play-dough consistency. Substitute brand is Harvest Lane Honey; what our farm store carried) wrapped in wax paper with the edges of the patty exposed. Bees were quite active and seemed to be doing well, but I didn't do any inspection further into the hive. We had a little cold snap, a snow storm, and this week we're in the 50s F so I peeked inside to see what was what… and the whole hive is a corpse. I did a small inspection, and it looks like there's still several frames of untouched honey and they had started digging into the pollen patty but didn't get very far into it at all. I didn't go too deep into pulling it apart beyond this and verifying both deeps were full of dead bees 'cuz I'd like to know if I should be looking for anything specific as I do an autopsy.
Some things I'm looking for:
- any obvious things I did wrong (please eviscerate, but gently)
- I already know I should have worked with a local keeper and probably should have at least done some mite monitoring, something I learned how to do in the fall but was never able to make time on a warm day to do (I'm now in contact with a local keeper for future hives; will see about shadowing them some this season)
- advice on what to look for as I pull apart this hive to maximize learning
- can I do a mite count with the dead bees?
- are there any other signs of cause of death I can look for?
- advice on cleaning up the hives for a retry in 2023
- can I keep the salvageable frames* mostly as is after harvesting the honey?
- If I need to strip some down are there any tricks I should know? (plastic foundation)
*a lot of these frames were built by my FiL and I (unfortunately) didn't do QC and have discovered they weren't… glued as far as I can tell? They began falling apart any time I tried to lever them out, so this hive may have some issues I missed during the summer because I coudn't inspect the bottom deep thoroughly