We just saw a devastating scene and it would be helpful to get some confirmation. I'll set the scene for you: We're in South-Central PA, right at the Maryland border. This is our first hive (Italian) and we got them set up in April. They seemed to be doing okay in the Spring, but focusing heavily on brood rearing over the summer, so much so that they didn't make any honey for themselves. The population was great - two deep boxes full of bees, but it lost the sweet scent and smelled fermented in August. We did a syrup/Honey-B-Healthy feeding in late September and I put candy and wintergreen grease patties on for them in early October.
Today, my boyfriend went up to repair the awning over them (hurricane issues) and noticed that the hive was silent - we normally hear a humming. He opening it enough to see the food and it was empty. I came up and we opened it to find the food touched, but barely. A few dead bees were stuck to the candy. The worst was a yellow jacket, cold, but happily eating - which means he made it through the entrance reducer and all the way through two hive bodies without being attacked.
The upper deep was completely empty (although I did not inspect the comb - cold!). The bottom deep was just about as empty, but for one frame of very small bees. I did not pull this frame out, but quickly covered it back up. If the queen is alive, I suspect she is there. I'm pretty upset - it's not the 20-30K we need to survive the winter. Is it game over? Is this CCD? There aren't any bodies. Is there anything I can do? We did every right. Should I remove the upper deep and bring the food down to them?