Re: New beekeeper's bees are GONE!
mites would be at the top of the list of most common causes for you to lose your bees, but there are other reasons, losing their queen for example.
the bad thing about mites is that there are very few outward signs of diseases or pests until it's too late.
looking for mite poop in the brood cells, and for dead mites on the bottom board might help with your diagnosis.
i don't think the boxes of foundation would have been a problem as far as the cold, but the extra space makes it harder for the bees to guard against small hive beetles, wax moths, and robbing bees.
don't give up, that drawn comb and honey will sure help your next bees get off to a good start. i would suggest learning how to do a mite count using an alcohol wash.
beekeeping since june 2010, +/- 20 hives, tf