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Hive Smells Funny


Hello All,

I have been 2:1 sugar feeding my hive for 3 weeks in prep for winter and because we are in a bad derth/drought. I have 2 Deep Brood Boxes due to anticipating a harsh winter. 2 weeks ago the hive was almost empty of honey with only 1 frame with some on it. Now, several of the bottom brood boxes have capped honey along the top above the brood. I found larva around some brood but didn’t see eggs. I didn’t see the queen. I was in somewhat of a hurry so I didn’t inspect a ton. I did find that almost 8-9 frames had uncapped honey/sugar water. I also noticed a peculiar smell. I can only describe it as sour/fruity.

What should I do? What is the smell? The brood looked fine and healthy. Could it be the sugar water fermenting? It was rather cool here and the weather changed to 93-95 temps for the past 7 days. That is when I noticed the odor.



I’m not saying it is this…


I found that via Google. Sorry I can’t be of more help.


Hi Joe, to add my 2 bobs worth to the discussion. It looks to me like you need to do a thorough inspection when you have more time to devote to the task. Use your nose as well as your eyes. Also take a look at the screen on the bottom board.


I think you have several possible reasons for the smell.

  1. They are gathering some odd-smelling nectar - goldenrod and canola have very characteristic smells, and if they are feeding on damaged fruit, that might also contribute such an odor.
  2. They could have AFB, and you would need to inspect to be sure.
  3. I am not sure you if have SHB in Illinois, but that can make the honey ferment too, especially if you have a “slime out”.

I have never had 2:1 syrup ferment. I am sure it can, but I haven’t seen it. The feeder gets black stringy bits in it sometimes, but it doesn’t seem to be all that yeast-friendly for fermentation.

I agree with the other answers, you really need to inspect. If you see any dark capped brood with sunken tops, stick a cocktail stick or matchstick into it, and see if it goes stringy when you pull it out. The other possibilities are to ask your local bee club, or even your regional bee inspector. Our San Diego inspector is extremely friendly and helpful, and will often give good telephone or e-mail advice. He knows the local forage too, and could let us know if something unusual is blooming.

Sending good thoughts your way for you and your bees. :thinking:


Most likely you are smelling Goldenrod that is being stored by the bees. At this time of year this concern will be posted dozens of times across bee forums around the USA. The asters smell similar when the bees are storing it.


Bit like ivy here, then. Pooooo!