As I began to take the hive apart and take stock, I found this right at the top of the hive right under the sugar. Like the lower cluster, they were surrounded by uncapped honey and you can see in this picture just how close it was. They also had a very healthy supply of pollen.
There the queen is. She looks like a standard Italian if not just a little dark complected. This hive was a swarm I caught last spring, and I saw old used queen cells in the hive so I assume this is not the queen that swarmed with the hive.
I also took a good hard look at the bottom board. That's one of the most important things to look at. There were about half a dozen beetles and about two dozen mites. Neither of these things is likely the source of the demise of this hive. There were dead bees, but not enough to form a solid layer across the bottom.
The primary issue with this hive seems to me to be a divided cluster. But the question must be asked as to why their population is so low. I checked my records and this hive was designated SW-NWA-0000-0004 meaning that it was a swarm from around here with unknown parentage. This hive mysteriously showed up clustered under my comb melting vat last year. It made it through last year well enough, but had a tough start this spring taking heavy damage from skunk predation. This apparently triggered a supersedure this spring. Later on, the hive was healthy enough to harvest three frames of honey from to supply some new nucs. This hive did show some minor signs of dysentery this spring, but every thing cleared up. By fall inspection time, they were just about the least provisioned of any of the hives and I put a top feeder on. They did not take much syrup, and I found what they did take (it was dyed) on one of the combs. Most of what they had was real honey.
I did my best, but this hive was never a performer. Perhaps in the future, a hive like this will be placed in a nuc or combined with another hive so that it won't be taking up valuable equipment. However, at this point, I have plenty of equipment so it's not really an issue. They ended up being comb babysitters more than anything. So far, survivors are 10 of 11. Let's hope there will be very few more deadouts. It's another big splitting year next year.