Strange as it may sound, sounds like they starved--even though they had alot of stores, if they couldn't reach them then thats they will starve. The other incomming packages of bees will do well I personally would use the honey in the combs for the new bees, give each package 4 frames of honey on the outside of the central frames as the queen starts to lay the outer frames will open up as used to draw combs or feed brood.
if the hive was heavily populated in the late fall my guess would be dwindling due to an inadequate or improperly mated queen. at one time when folks didn't know much about bee disease and such it was common for a lot of stuff to be tagged as 'fall' or 'spring' dwindling disease.
sorry to learn of the demise of your first hive Omie.
I suspect a lot of times without a properly functioning queen a portion of the population drifts away to other hives. at least that seems to be the case here when I make up nucs. you can almost tell which nucs have queens (inadvertently) since all the clinger and all the bees from the boxes that leak bees will shift to the one with a functioning queen.
good luck on your next attempt. perseverance counts for quite a deal in this dance.
Also, one thing we tend to forget. We are dealing with a living organism that is subject to internal organ failures that can result in sudden death, just as we are. We like to label and have reasons for everything. It's just not always possible.
Perseverance can create success Omie.
I can say I fully understand how you feel. I wouldn't woory so much about telling the lady who gave you the bees. If she has had bees for a while she knows what it is like to loose them.
My story is quite a story, but will say my first colony of bees was nuc. We found the queen being taken out of the hive the day after we installed then into a deep. The nuc seller sent us a queen over night mail at no charge. Looking back and remembering those bees that first year I now relize they were not doing as they should have. Being new and dumb I never knew. That colony didn't make it thru that winter. We ordered two packages of bees and found a near by bee club. Those two packages arrived were installed and two weeks latter killed as they were all sick. All the equipment was burned and I said enough is enough.
Club members came to the rescue though and by fall I had 5 thriving swarm colonies from 2 different bee keepers.
Today I recommend every new bee keeper find a club and join. Not just in name but be a active member.
Omie, i don't know about your climate, but here if i put old comb in a hive to early to catch swarms the wax moths move in before the bees do. Here in SW Mo. i don't put out swarm catcher hives till June. But what do i know. Jack
Difference in seasons/areas (or why location is important).
Thur. a week ago, I took and old box I had patched up (literally) for swarms to work with an intention of putting it up in a tree. Poured rain Thurs and Fri. I left the box setting in the detail guys open air stall (covered) on the asphalt. Swarm moved in to box Sat AM. Detail Guy was not very happy with me Mon. AM. He was detailing a boat when the swarm moved in, boat didn't get done. I told him I'd leave an old veil there for him next time .
Other than the smoke, you did well. Yes, they will build burr comb quickly Keep the frames all pushed together tightly until they are drawn out.
The other queen should be out by Tues. Up to 7 days is still safe, so don't worry about her.
Curiosity?? Why do you have a drone frame in there. Are you using plastic foundation?
The drones flying now are likely from other hives. Drones don't fly for about a week after emerging, then become transients, flying from one hive to another. That's how ma nature keeps the inbreeding down.
I also use drone comb for mite control till I put the honey supers on then they are a real pain lifting the honey supers off to get at the drone comb.
I also carry a capping scratcher with me when inspecting the bees. I use it to open up ther drone cells along the bottom part of normal brood frames. I get rid of a lot of mites that way. Only certen colonies are free to raise drones here. They are about a mile away from where I set up my nucs with queens to be mated.
Ya some drones in other colonies do slip thru as I don't pull every frame when inspecting.