Weather here in southern New Mexico: mid 60s day/35night.

Over the last few weeks I have been checking this hive without doing a full inspection. I put on sugar, and last week a couple days before we had a 4-day cold snap in the forecast, I threw a sandwich baggie of 2:1 syrup on the top bars, along with some pollen sub on the inside cover (soy flour mixed with yeast). They have not been taking up much of the sugar at all, although I did see they are putting some of the syrup into cells. All the pollen sub is completely gone.

Today I finally inspected and found that there are maybe 2-3 frames of bees left in the hive, along with a healthy laying queen. The brood area was only a little bigger than the palm of my hand, but there was capped and open brood.

There were a LOT (hundreds) of dead bees on the frames and in the cells, obviously starvation. There is no honey left in the hive at all.

My question is how normal is it to find that many dead bees in the hive from starvation? Is it an indication that they came close to completely starving, or are there always some frames where they couldnt get to the stores so they died off?

My bees are in a farm and desert scrub area right now, and there appears to be little pollen available. I am planning on moving them into town where there are willow and cottonwood they can forage on until the farmers start planting again.