Fermenting like smell and watery honey in base cavity of Flow frames

Hi guys,
I have noticed a build-up of what looks like runny/watery fermenting honey in the base of some of my flow frames in a few hives. I inspected the hive and all seem to be healthy although quite a few hive beetles evident in one super. In some honey that I harvested, I have found several small white larvae that when googling look to be ho\ive beetle larvae.
When smelling the honey and base of Flow frame (through round cap seal) there is quite a strong and rancid smell. Is this a form of “foul brood”? If so, how do I remedy it?
Thanks in advance


This is in the flow frame collection trough?

I would recommend cleaning the trough thoroughly with a pipe brush and rinsing with warm water (make sure you have the flow tube in place to prevent leak back of water into the hive) and drying with a cloth wrapped around the end of your flow key. Make sure that you don’t shove the whole cloth into the tube or you may have to disassemble the flow frame to retrieve it!

There are also these thread about larvae in honey:


I’m inclined to think you are smelling an SHB “slime-out” in progress (not foul brood - that’s disease related and req’s different response). Definitely try to read up as @chau06 recommends, but prepare to act quickly to remedy the SHB infestation or your colony will succumb.

I’m tagging @JeffH who has immense experience and expertise on SHB management. Good luck and keep us posted!


Hi Lex & thank you & hi @Eva . Eva is on the money in relation to hive beetles. You need to deal with it as a matter of urgency. Take the flow super off to see if the brood is affected. If it is, you’ll need to transfer the bees into a clean box with clean frames out of an unaffected hive. After that, clean every affected frame up after pulling everything apart while making sure that no beetle larvae make it to ground, where they’ll bury down to complete their life cycle.


Hi Lex,

Sorry to hear you have some issues in your hive.

Would it be possible to post a couple of photos of the brood frame? Could well be SHB as suggested, but I think you’re sensible to want to rule out foul brood (and, SHB will often be prevalent in a hive with foul brood, as they tend to target already weak colonies).

If you’re not able to get photos, here’s what I’d be looking for as potential indicators of AFB (American Foul Brood - the more concerning one. European Foul Brood is also nasty, but can be treated with antibiotics - whereas AFB can’t):

  • Pin prick type perforations in the cell capping
  • Sunken capping
  • Scattered cell formation (as opposed to the typical clustered capped cells)
  • Greasy capping
  • Smell can also be a later sign

You may also wish to try the “rope test” - stick a match end, twig or similar into one of the brood cells and slowly remove it - if it comes out ropey this is a bad sign.

You can get the DPI (Department of Primary Industries) to send you a slide test as well, if you want to be on the safe side. They have a pretty fast turnaround and will advise you on next steps if need be.

Aside from foul brood and SHB slime out, other possibilities I can think of are pooled young honey that has fermented, and the type of nectar in the area (golden rod for example, is fairly on the nose. I’ve heard it described variously as a locker room or old socks smell).

Would you please let us know what you find out?

Best of luck with your colony.


Just quickly, my thoughts, in some rare instances SHB larva can get in the honey trough, usually, an egg is laid in desperation, maybe in the leak back point or an unfilled gap along one of the lowermost cells, maybe if the cap is left off.

It sounds like either honey has dripped into the honey trough and this fermented, or if there was Larva this could have consumed the nectar out of desperation (it can’t really go anywhere else) and there is SHB slime in the trough because of this.

Can you see any larva, or SHB carapaces in the honey trough? Clean it out with something like a piece of wire with a damp sponge tied on the end. You should be able to get rid of the smell. Monitor it to see if there is a repeat of this. Definitely inspect the Flow Frames regardless.


@chau06 , thank you so very much for taking the time to pass this through, so very helpfull and appreciated.
This makes a lot of sense. On several frames/hives, I have been getting the odd larvau just like this in the honey. I harvest into a 20l bucket with a fine material filter and find that on average, I get about 3-4 larvae per frame.
The trough (didn’t know its name, makes sense) has had a bit of watery/honey’ish muck in it that smells. There were a few dead larvae in there also. I will clean it out as suggested and monitor closely.
I did an inspection and found about 30-40 beetle in super (swept all into a bucket and killed one by one). The supers appeared to be healthy and each 80-90%+ capped. I didn’t open the brood box as they were getting visibly distressed.
Watching the oil tray, there seem to be around 20 or so drowned SHB every time I clean. Beyond keeping this tray ‘wet’, what is the best way to manage SHB?
Thanks everyone for your input


Thanks so much @Eva , much appreciated.


Thanks @JeffH ,
When looking at Super frames, there was no visible signs of anything odd other than beetles running about on the capped surface (hiding amongst bees). There was the odd verticle in the frame that had no honey or cap in them which I thought was a little odd.
As noted above, I didn’t open the brood as they were getting a bit fiesty. If i open the brood, what do I look for mate?
Thanks in advance for your and everyones generous help

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Thanks so much for the detailed help here @Freebee2 , most helpful
I will inspect the Brood tomorrow and take some shots as well as look for patterns and the rope-test.
Stay tuned, fingers crossed
Once again, thanks

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Hi @KieranPI , thanks so much for the great info, insightful. I will give the troughs a good clean. I tend to now think that hasty sealing of the trough after harvest has left some honey in their and the leak back has been sealed by brood bees, leaving it there for SHB to ‘slime’ (have learned lots today!).
Thanks again, keep you posted

Hi Lex, you’re welcome. What you’re looking for is a wet appearance, coupled with damage to the comb. Everything should have a dry appearance unless it’s honey that has been accidentally spilled while moving frames around.

Use plenty of smoke & keep the smoker going while doing the inspection. Inspect each frame carefully while being careful not to trap any bees between combs while replacing them.

The beetles are looking for a protein source, such as brood, dead or trapped bees & pollen to lay their eggs in.

Good luck with it Lex, cheers

PS Lex, in relation to the odd vertical with no honey, was the vertical with no honey darker in color than the rest? This photo shows an extreme dark patch with no honey.
This next photo shows the wet appearance I’m talking about.

Fingers crossed for you and your bees Lex. Hopefully it’s something minor.

Hi @JeffH ,
Thanks for the above. I inspected Saturday and to me, all looked reasonably well, which was a relief. I have a hybrid super on top of a regular super and all is very full so it was a heavy exercise, particularly when brood base is on a stand 4ft tall already!

I did note that most of my haves had at least one trough with the smell, almost fermenting stench in it. Most had either live or what appeared to be dead larvae in them too (the dead larvae were very dark yellow and very hard/firm, almost like a dried out shell).

I think it is worth noting we have had a LOT of rain in recent months and I wonder if this has something to do with the issue. Can water get into super and dribble into trough which can sometimes have the drain back gap plugged with wax, which did seem to be the case with a few frames?). It did look and smell like potentially water and honey fermenting in trough.

Anyway, I took some photos per below. I did the match stick test on a few cells but they were firm, went in with a push and it felt firm and dry in brood cell, came out without any ‘slime/muck’ on matchstick.

I cleaned all cells out with Luke warm water, friend and ensured drain back gap cleared of wax.

I only got to inspect a few frames of super as bees, despite almost too much smoke, were really annoyed!

I saw a couple of beetle on middle super box and none in brood which was reasuring. They are certainly there however.

As a “new user” I am now told I can do 1 photo per post so will post sequentially after (sorry)

Photo 1 (left frame has the slimy smelly fermenting gunk)

Photo 2 (here is a brood frame, looked good to me but does have an all over slight shine/glisten to it, that a bad sign?)

Photo 3 (Brood cells, what are these 2 ‘bits’, forgive ignorance)

Photos 4-5 (match stick test and result)

Photo 6 (Honey trapped in trough, is this normal? Clearly drain back blocked so after harvesting it isn’t recouped?)

Any advice very much appreciated as always guys


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A little bit is normal but that seems like a lot. When you’re harvesting make sure you let it slow to a minuscule amount, and then wait 30 more minutes when it’s hot out, longer if it is cool. Take the opportunity to clean the leak back point before you re-cap, you shouldn’t have to rush to get the cap back on, there should be very little honey spilled.

Looks like may be some fresh pollen, if I am looking at the right spot.

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