Bad year for me - 3 out of 4 hives dead or missing. 2 last fall, and one in the past month. We've had a couple of severe cold snaps and weather where I couldn't go open up the hive. Yesterday was the mid-50's so we took the time to go check them out.
One hive has more nectar than I can shake a stick at. Rather interesting, since I have absolutely no idea where they got it - things are still very brown and nothing that I know of is blooming. I had sugar/pollen patties laying on the top bars, but they didn't eat more than a 1/2 cup total (guessing here, but there wasn't much gone). Time to give them room I suppose.
The other hive is the one I need advice about. Here are the observations.
1. Plenty of sugar/pollen patty remaining.
2. Some nectar and a few capped honey cells.
3. No bees. Not dead, just everyone missing. 4 or 5 dead bees on the bottom board, but probably due to there being no pall-bearers available.
4. Newly hatched brood (I assume this because the caps are jagged, meaning no one was left to clean the comb up)?
5. Some drone cells (about 30 or so), some still in the cells, some hatched.
6. No capped brood, but saw some with nectar in cells. White normal brood, but some appeared brown I suppose due to them freezing this past couple of weeks and dying. All seemed to have nectar in the cells with them.
7. No evidence of varroa that we could see. I didn't think of it yesterday, but I'll post-mortem the remaining drone larvae to see if I see any.
8. No hive beetles either, except in the oil tray under the SBB (with it being so cold here I'm not surprised).
Last fall we inspected but just could not spot the queen. The hive was quite full of bees and some capped brood, so we assumed there had to be a queen there. Last month when I refreshed the sugar/pollen patties they were still there in considerable numbers it seemed, but I didn't go into the hive (temps high 40's, low 50's), and I didn't have the time that day anyway.
Can anyone suggest why this hive seems to have deserted the hive in the past month? And where did they go?
A second question - I assume the drawn comb from the hive is ok to use. Is this right?