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Vinegar smell in one hive

Hi all… while doing an inspection and found nothing out of order except that I have a lot of empty frames on the top brood box, we had a vinegar smell. Research revealed that it was probably Goldenrod this time of year. I couldn’t find any posts on the matter and wondering if the Goldenrod is it or maybe another problem… With all the rain we had. I think I have to start feeding. They do kit have enough stores to make it through the winter. We have a lot of drones, I thought the girls would have kicked them out by now…

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Has your colony swarmed or succumb to a disease to cause the numbers to drop? There may not have been enough bees to consume the uncapped honey before added moisture, compounded by all the rain you had, turned it more runny. Then after a short period of time, it turned rancid.

I would check that colony for disease before consolidating & removing the frames that aren’t being used by the bees.

I would recommend wax foundation frames as opposed to foundationless frames.

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I have to agree with @JeffH, what I see in your pics is a very low number of bees either caused by swarming or disease. That is your first concern to get the hive numbers up and someone who knows what they are looking at to asses what is going in on your hive.
I am not seeing any disease but that is not to say that that is not there. I am also not seeing anything in the way of brood but maybe they are on different frames.
Take a close up sniff of a frame or two that has uncapped honey to ascertain if the smell is stronger then. That would then tell if it is fermented honey as to the vinegar smell.
How old is the hive?
We don’t have Golden Rod here in Australia so I won’t comment about something I have very little knowledge of.
I to am very much in favor of beeswax foundation, it makes life easier on the bees to give them a helping hand and the cost is good value for the return.
Regards Ryan

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While it is late in the year for hummingbirds in your area, some people add a little vinager to bird feed/ syrup. Bees frequent humming bird feeders at times. I add a little vinegar to my open bee feeders. Perhaps one of your beekeeper neighbors also does.

Hey @Rye I’d also be concerned more about the low population & disease possibility. I pasted that link for all to read about goldenrod honey - people hear about or smell the initial whiff that’s quite different from earlier season nectars and worry that the honey will be awful, but it’s actually beautiful stuff.

I hope you can sort out and save your colony & tuck them in for winter alright. About wax foundation, I’ll only point out that our Aussie compadres enjoy access to foundation that is relatively low in toxic contaminants compared to us here in the US. These toxins act synergistically with other exposures to our bees to result in cognitive & immune system impairments and, you guessed it, death. I agree that you’ll be better off with some support in new frames though - especially with deep frames! I rigged mine with bamboo skewers and the bees produced very sturdy & straight comb on them.

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Thank You all!! we didnt pull all the bottom frames but will do so to check for any disease. I am inclined to think both of our hives swarmed on us due to the drop in numbers and weight. no dead bees around and they have been treated for mites. we will begin feeding to keep them alive if the uncapped honey is not bad by smelling it. Damn it, no one said this was easy :grin: the smell has me concerned though and am anxious to get back in there.

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Hi Eva, you could use plastic foundation, then coat it with wax from your own bees. I reckon that would be better than no foundation at all.

It appears that bee packages & nucs are available to purchase in the U.S. What are the suppliers using? Foundation (wax or plastic) or foundationless? Has anyone ever purchased a nuc from a supplier that came with foundationless frames?


Hey Jeff,

Not sure :thinking: about foundation in Eva’s part of the world :earth_americas: but out here my 5 frame Nuc’s come with plastic foundations 100 % on the West Coast n Pacific NW …


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Jeff, I appreciate your enthusiasm for foundation but I must admit, I’m a little disappointed you’re not impressed with my bamboo skewers :slightly_frowning_face:…and would have me use crummy plastic stuff when they do the trick without blocking the bees’ efforts!


Hi Jeff, I follow BarnYard Bees (a supplier of nucs and packages in the states)on YouTube and he makes his nucs up with an approx 1 inch starter strip but does have the frames strung with nylon fishing line.

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Yes I am impressed with the bamboo skewers Eva :slight_smile:

Me favoring foundation over foundationless comes about after a lot of trial & error. After looking at scores or even hundreds of frames of brood over the last couple of months that are wall to wall with flat worker brood, you just wouldn’t consider going back to foundationless.

Take a look at the 5th photo down. That’s not the kind of frame I want to be looking at in any of my brood boxes.


we filled this bucket with fermented comb and unfortunately some brood along with the bad honey, Some hive beetles running around and with all this rain, way too much moisture in the hive. I took the corflute board out hoping to vent it a little better. The feeding has begun…

You can probably still render the wax if you want. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Thank You Dawn, it was on the burn pile for minutes when the robbing began then was burned. and with more rain today we hope both survive…

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Did taking the fermented frames of honey from the hive get rid of the vinegar smell?

Yes it did Peter:grin:

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That makes sense Ryan, good news. I figured it had to be something out of the usual and glad you nailed it.

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Peter…I had a local bee keeper tell me to remove the corflute board as this may have been the cause of the moisture problem with all our rain. I now have it removed… I’m wondering if I should reinstall it for the winter. I’m thinking of keeping it out during the summer months. Your thoughts please… Good Day

Hey Ryan - a fellow PA resident here. I would definitely replace the coreflute in the top slot now. Night time temps in my area have dropped sharply.

Personally, I switched to solid bottom boards where I could, and the two hives with SBBs I still have I leave the coreflute in year round. The more I learn and understand how bees work to maintain hive temperature, the more I want to keep my own devices simple or out of it altogether.


Hey Ryan, mate, lets keep it simple. The moisture is humidity, is because of the rain, there is zip you can do about that.
With the corflute board in the colony will make the hive warmer so there is more air exchange because hot air rises, not a marked effect admittedly but every bit you can do to help is a bonus. Remember the chimney effect… So the colony will benefit with the board in and I would only remove it when you are seeing bearding, Hope that gives you the confidence to put the board back till you have temps up in the late 70’s F. When you see fanning then open the corflute, maybe open 50% rather than removed. The bees will thank you.
Been busy so sorry I didn’t get back sooner to you.
Cheers Ryan