Re: First Winter Deadout! (plus photos)
A cluster that size, all else being well, would have been quite capable of moving to the honey. As an aside, I'm often reading about bees "starving", right next to honey. Unless weather is REALLY extreme or the bees otherwise sick or in poor health, this doesn't happen. Usually when people say that it's actually mites but in this case I don't think so.
From the pics, can probably rule out mites. By definition, a hive that collapses from mites leaves behind a lot of dead brood. It has to be that way, or the hive wouldn't collapse. While the hive is collapsing from mites the bees do not clear up the dead larvae because they are weakened themselves and are just not up to it. Unless there's brood hidden under those bees, it's not mites.
I'm with Squarepeg, Nosema Ceranae. It would definately be worth testing for. Unlike Nosema Apis, (normal nosema), that causes dysentry and is obvious, bees with Nosema Ceranae don't get dysentry, but get sapped of their energy, go off their food, and in an extreme case can end up exactly as per your pics.
44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).