If you read my first post you know I don’t even have bees yet, but I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the subject. I’ve noticed that in most of these threads the thread consists of someone asking Matt a question, Matt usually answers, and then there is no more activity. I hope to see more interaction between the rest of us as we learn and grow as beekeepers, so I’ll chime in here.
First, though it doesn’t answer your question, I heard at the first beekeepers meeting I went to that the club members were seeing losses of 10 to 30 percent of their hives, but they didn’t really go into the whys other than mites. I’m not sure if that was because they just didn’t know or simply see the losses as part of being beekeepers and don’t give it much thought. For people like us starting out with only a hive or two a loss of a hive is 50 or 100 percent loss! That can be difficult to take.
David, you describe your dead hive as not having been very vigorous. I went back and saw your posts that confirmed that you did have a laying queen and that they were doing OK last spring. You also note that there was still quite a bit of honey in the hive.
Not knowing what your winter has been like (ar you in the Portland area?) I was going to suggest that you look to see where the bees were in relationship to their honey stores, but then realized that your comment about moldy bees and then a moldy comb suggested that they were on a comb of honey. I’d read somewhere that if it’s too cold and the honey stores are too far away from the bee ball the bees could starve rather than leave the warmth of the ball for food but I’m guessing that’s not the case here.
It could more likely be that this is another hive death that we won’t know the reason for; mites, a buildup of insecticide that weakened the bees, that sort of thing. For the most part, I’m just trying to get some discussion rolling on this and hope that someone else will chime in with possibilities for you to look at.
As for whether or not the honey is OK to eat, I’m not a food inspector but I think it should be.