The wire mesh that is over the ventilation holes now (and even what was there prior though it was plastic) I guess I should have referred to as 'screen' (like what you would use for windows) forgive me for giving the impression that it was a hard-wire cloth type 'mesh' that I was speaking of.

As for SHB being able to do the the damage that was done, I have no proof one way or the other but find it hard to believe that they were the cause of all of this. There wasn't any sign of them when I inspected the hive prior to leaving. That means that in about 5 weeks time, they got in, bred, laid eggs, hatched, larva came out, ate over 3/4" of the hives food, leaving behind no slime or signs that they had been in there. Then the bees (which there were now fewer of?) cleaned everything up so that when I got back the only thing I would see was dry combs and bits and pieces of comb on the bottom of the hive.

Not every piece of comb was chewed through either, just some random spots on various combs.

As I said I have no idea what happen. It could have been a series of events that caused it, it could have been one massive event, it could have been the dearth combined with pests or robbing I don't know.

As I said at this point I'm just sharing the experience in case this or something similar happens to someone else.

Oh and I don't play with propane torches, you know how people that live in glass houses should throw stones, well I live in a log home so don't play with fire!