I saw and heard unusual activity around the hive this afternoon. When I cracked the hive open, the last 50 or so inhabitants were already decimated. This hive's queen had stopped laying months ago, and the population was already naturally dwindling. Outsiders were now finishing the job.
In the upper left, two bees are fighting to the death. Surrounding them are the bodies of previous kills.
This is what happens when a hive is too weak to defend against marauding bees in search of some honey stores.
The queen - remarkably untouched - crawled onto my gloved hand... and then simply flew away(!) This would be the first that she's flown since her virgin flight two years ago.
Soon, I will have a vacant hive to clean up, and the last wax bits to render. Thus ending the bee-keeping experience (for now).