We had some warm days in February after a nasty cold snap, and I went out to watch the bees taking flights. Some bees were carrying in pollen, and I thought, "what in the world could be pollinating right after it was below zero?" A closer look showed that what the bees were carrying in was exactly the same color as the fireplace ashes I'd put around the hive as ant deterrent - and the bees were going down and treating the ashes as if it were pollen! I opened the hive and put a pollen patty on (they still had plenty of dry sugar left from winter feeding), but a week later there was no activity at all at the hive entrance, and a quick peek inside showed that the hive had suddenly died out (the numbers had been, I thought, quite strong the week before). Could the bees have poisoned themselves by eating ashes? Or might there not be any connection?