View Full Version : Stinky hive

Jill Snavely
07-06-2006, 10:20 AM
My one-time strongest hive swarmed at least once this spring but still appeared to be doing ok until recently. Then I notice less and less activity. On opening it up its STINKS... not a dead fish smell, but like something long fermented! It's very weak, can't find a queen, and even the bees ticked off at me for opening it up didn't even try to sting. I have black plastic frames so it's hard to tell if there's a black scale in the mostly empty cells. Most cells are open, many with what looks like an egg in the bottom. There are some dead larvae, but by far these are out numbered by the "empty except what looks like an egg" cells. The larvae that I poked at are squishy (couldn't find any that were "ropey"), some mostly white, a few varying shades of brown to black. Some of the capped cells are broken topped, some are still covered. There are larvae on the bottome board, some white, some black, and dead rotten bees also.

What do you think? Foulbrood? It stinks strong enough to be something.

Since it is so weak, I don't think?? its wise to try to treat... the questions are these:

with plastic frames, do I need to burn them?
scorch the hive bodies?

do I need to do the same to the boxes which had frames but no bees which were sitting above the hive bodies separated by a queen excluder?

do I need to treat or destroy my three other hives, all of which appear to be strong (will open them up when I log off to check for smell etc)

Thanks for any suggestions and help!

[ July 06, 2006, 12:40 PM: Message edited by: Jill Snavely ]

Dave W
07-06-2006, 10:57 AM
My guess . . . Varroa mites.

What kind of "counts" (amount) have you been getting?

>what looks like an egg in the bottom . . . can you confirm that they ARE eggs and not Varroa fecal matter?

07-06-2006, 10:59 AM
Jill, sounds like you have foulbrood, probably european, but it could be american foulbrood. I would contact the local apiary inspector or a disease expert from the local bee club (assuming you have either of these in PA) and have the hive diagnosed. Follow whatever instructions they provide in terms of treatment and/or disposal. Also, you should immediately reduce the hive entrance down to a one-bee-at-a-time size to prevent robbing from the strong hives spreading the disease. If it's european foulbrood it's possible the hive could completely recover. Since the hive recently swarmed you may have a virgin queen and requeening is a recommended treatment for european foulbrood. Good luck! :cool:

George Fergusson
07-06-2006, 11:13 AM
You might have mites, but the symptoms you describe don't sound like mites are the problem. Mites don't kill larvae, they affect brood in capped cells and even then rarely kill it outright. Of course, mites can impact overall hive-health and vitality and this can in turn lead to other problems, but it's early in the summer to have a hive dwindling from a heavy mite infestation. It could be as simple as chilled brood due to a lack of bees but it sounds more like a brood disease of some sort. Pictures would help. Is the affected brood in one place in particular or all over? How does the brood smell? Is there any good looking brood, open or capped? How weak is weak? Can you estimate how many frames of bees there are in the hive?

If you think you see a single egg in the bottom of some cells, you probably do so there's probably a queen in the hive, trying to make a go of it.

>>with plastic frames, do I need to burn them?
scorch the hive bodies?

Without knowing what the problem is, I wouldn't want to advise you on what to do regarding your frames or boxes.

>do I need to treat or destroy my three other hives, all of which appear to be strong

No. Keep and eye on them.

Others will no doubt have some ideas and suggestions. Is there a local beekeeper you can ask for assistance?

Jill Snavely
07-06-2006, 12:25 PM

Let's see...

Dave... I've not done a count (ashamed to say). I have a new baby and my bee-keeping has been a bit subpar this spring. I'm not sure how to confirm they are eggs and not Varroa poop, but they look like eggs I've seen in the cells in the past.

Triangle Bees ... thanks for the advice; reduced the entrance and called the PA dept of Ag about finding someone to inspect it.

George ...the affected brood is all over. In other words the frames with bees on them have mostly empty appearing cells, some with pollen in them, many with what looks like eggs, and a few scattered actual larvae, some dead, some capped and healthy appearing (but few). Um, I didn't smell the actual brood, but the hive/frames smell like rotting fruit, strong enough to gag but not so vile like a rotting animal so much. Almost a sweet, vinegary smell. Numbers of bees... probably 2-3 frames of bees in each hive body, so about 6 in all. And they're acting weird. While they flew at me when I opened the hive up, not one of them stung me or was aggressive in following me.

The other hives all looks very good, very strong, no smell, all normal behavior.

George Fergusson
07-06-2006, 01:32 PM
>I'm not sure how to confirm they are eggs and not Varroa poop, but they look like eggs I've seen in the cells in the past.

Eggs are white, varroa poop is white BUT it's usually in a pile on the cell wall and it's only to be found in a cell from which a bee recently emerged in which mites were breeding/feeding. Eggs are in the rough center of the cell, there's only one of them, and they stand on end and I doubt varroa poop could be mistaken for eggs, but I could be mistaken!

>Almost a sweet, vinegary smell.

Did you feed them this spring? It could be fermented syrup.

Db_land's advice is sound. From your description it does not sound like chilled brood, and the hive, while weak, isn't dead yet. Try to get some expert advice.

Michael Bush
07-06-2006, 05:49 PM
If it's not roapy I would assume it's not foulbrood. It could be sacbrood, EHB or just chilled brood because the hive was failing and there weren't enough bees to care for the brood.


You can send a sample to Beltsville and they will give you a definitive diagnosis.

King bee apiary
07-06-2006, 08:21 PM
Are you seeing any small maggot like larva on the bottom board,frames?The smell you describe sounds like small hive beetles.
I like the idea of an inspector to look them over.

07-07-2006, 07:12 PM
Also did the comb have a wet slimy look. If so I agree with King Bee. It sounds like SHB. Welcome to the club.

Jill Snavely
07-08-2006, 11:06 AM
Quick replies...
George ... I'm pretty sure I'm seeing eggs, not varroa poop from what you've said. I did feed them this spring. That's what the smell almost reminds me of... honey gone bad or something. It sure doesn't smell like roadkill.

King bee ... I don't remember seeing maggot like larvae but there were 2 funky looking beetles about the size of a dime down there.

Bubba ... I don't think the comb looked too slimy.

hmmm... at any rate, I have the inspector coming Monday, so will let you know what he thinks when its all said and done.

I sure do appreciate all your thoughts.

George Fergusson
07-08-2006, 11:23 AM
>there were 2 funky looking beetles about the size of a dime down there.

SHB aren't nearly that big, and it's hard to miss the SHB larvae crawling around, diving into cells full of honey and nectar like it was a water park on a hot day, and generally spoozing stuff up.

Fermented syrup has a sort of vinagary sour smell, and it's kinda runny. if you shake a frame of it, it falls out like nectar would. If the bee population is down, they might not have been able to properly process all the syrup.

>I have the inspector coming Monday

Oh excellent. Good luck.

Jill Snavely
07-10-2006, 11:18 AM
Well, the inspector found no disease, just a dying hive with too few bees to keep the brood alive and probably laying workers. I'll be combining the hive with another one later today. So, I guess that's the best news I could have gotten. He said the smell was probably fermented honey and maybe some dead brood.

Thanks for all your help!

Dave W
07-10-2006, 02:05 PM
Wunder why its weak? Did he check for mites?

07-15-2006, 05:18 PM
Jill, watch out for wax moth.

07-16-2006, 09:12 AM
It has been several years back My first encounter with V-Mites

I had just looked at the hives 2 weeks earlier looked to be doing great

when i got to the Yard got out of the truck i could smell a sour smell in the air My Strong's hive had about 2 lbs of bees in it not a pretty sight in the brood comb the larvae was a yellow dry looking bees with deformed wings bee crawling on the ground (now the fire aint's eat them up wont hardly find any on the ground)

POST Mite Syndrome THEY ARE ABOUT all gone at this stage