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  1. #1
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    Default Fermentation odor from hive

    I had a hive swarm a while back...the remaining bees were not able to prevent robbing (I was gone for a week). When I was able to check on the hive...It had that fermenting odor coming from it...If you have ever smelled it, then you know excactly what I am referring to.

    Anyway, I have that odor coming from another hive. I opened it up and everything looks fine...The only thing that I saw that seemed strange was the color of the cappings on the honey. The honey in the upper super is extremely dark, and the cappings look wet and almost clear or see-through.

    I feel sure the odor is not goldenrod. There was still some nice brood, the queen was present (large and active), and the rest of the hive seems normal and functioning correctly. Nothing seems amiss and the SHB's were really not a factor (traps are working and I only saw two in the hive. They may have been a little agitated, but it could have been because I opened them up at 4:30 pm on a 70 degree day.

    All of my hives have roughly the same activity in front, and the one that has the odor seems no different.

    The odor is so prevelant, you can smell it wafting from the front of the hive at 30 feet away in whatever direction the wind is blowing.

    Any ideas or suggestions?
    "You have to put down the ducky if you wanna play the Saxophone!" Mr .Hoot

  2. #2
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    Belews Creek, NC, USA
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    Mine really smell now and just like you said, if you're downwind, you'll get a good whiff of them. My smell is Goldenrod. You're not too far from me. Are you sure that's not what you smell?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    is it a rotten egg smell?
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    Quote Originally Posted by Belewsboy View Post
    Mine really smell now and just like you said, if you're downwind, you'll get a good whiff of them. My smell is Goldenrod. You're not too far from me. Are you sure that's not what you smell?
    I'm not sure if it is goldenrod...It has been twenty years since I have overwintered bees.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian
    is it a rotten egg smell?
    No, it smells sour, Like a dead hive.
    "You have to put down the ducky if you wanna play the Saxophone!" Mr .Hoot

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    like a dead hive, eh.

    how close did you look at your brood?
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  6. #6
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    May 2011
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    Gloucester County, New Jersey
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    It's a small hive beetle infestation.
    I think they do something to the nectar and cause it to ferment.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    They doodie in it!
    https://www.facebook.com/stevesbees99
    Please visit my page, Thanks

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    Small hive beetles defecate (poop) in the honey. It ferments or rots leaving an oily appearance and eventually bursts the cappings running out of the hive. Bees will not eat it, and no sane human should either. The bees will eventually leave. It is technically not a swarm. It is absconding. Conditions become unliveable and they leave. Africanized bees are prone to abscond. That is how they developed the appearance of defeating Varroa and small hive beetles -- they actually leave when life gets tough.
    The only smell near as bad is American foulbrood and you did not mention any symptom of AFB.
    americasbeekeeper.com
    beekeeper@americasbeekeeper.com

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    Definately small hive beetles. If the surface of your capped honey has a slimey kind of look to it and there is the smell of fermentation you had better open it up and take a closer look because your about to have SHB larvae pop out everywhere. You can still save the hive if you have some drawn comb to put them on and you have time to feed them and get some brood out of another hive to help them catch up.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian
    how close did you look at your brood?
    Looked closely and brood looks fine by my standards.


    Quote Originally Posted by AmericasBeekeeper
    Small hive beetles defecate (poop) in the honey. It ferments or rots leaving an oily appearance and eventually bursts the cappings running out of the hive. Bees will not eat it, and no sane human should either. The bees will eventually leave. It is technically not a swarm. It is absconding. Conditions become unliveable and they leave. Africanized bees are prone to abscond. That is how they developed the appearance of defeating Varroa and small hive beetles -- they actually leave when life gets tough.
    The only smell near as bad is American foulbrood and you did not mention any symptom of AFB.
    The last hive swarmed...but the remainings bees were not strong enough to keep the hive protected. I inspected them before I left. They were extremely crowded. Anyway, The brood does not have any symptoms of AFB nor do they look bad in any way.

    Quote Originally Posted by hemichuck View Post
    Definately small hive beetles. If the surface of your capped honey has a slimey kind of look to it and there is the smell of fermentation you had better open it up and take a closer look because your about to have SHB larvae pop out everywhere. You can still save the hive if you have some drawn comb to put them on and you have time to feed them and get some brood out of another hive to help them catch up.
    I opened them up yesterday. I saw two live SHB's, there were about 10 dead in the two traps. Further inspection down in the hive really did not show any other Beetles...The capped honey may indeed have an "oily" look, although my first impression was "clear" caps.

    I think another inspection is in order although they will probably get pissy since it will be two days in a row. I do have some drawn comb. I have two Hive bodies drawn out in the freezer and several supers.

    What do you think about leaving the brood that is in the hive and replacing the honey comb with other drawn comb?
    "You have to put down the ducky if you wanna play the Saxophone!" Mr .Hoot

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    The last thing you want is more comb full and especially not empty. You can kiss them goodbye quickly with another super.
    americasbeekeeper.com
    beekeeper@americasbeekeeper.com

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    This is a tricky and complicated process to guide you on unless I am standing in front of the hive to asses. I had a hive about a month ago that had been inspected about 2 weeks prior and everything looked fine. Good brood pattern,lots of eggs and larvae,not many shb's and as much capped honey as any other hive I had. When I opened it up the next time you could smell it and then as the frames came out I could see the slime. This hive was still full of bees and had plenty of brood and eggs/larvae and the queen was walking around doing her thing but I knew that in a matter of days there wouldnt be anything left. I had a couple of mediums full of drawn comb so I removed the whole hive and replaced the bottom board and the 2 mediums of comb in the original location. I found the queen on a frame and shook her into the new comb, then I took the original hive about 30 yards away and shook them out so they would all return to the original location.After that I found a couple of frames of capped honey from another hive and a couple of frames of capped brood and put them in the new hive and started feeding them. They are doing OK but that was a month ago. You might be hard pressed at this point for them to get built back up. You might be better off combining them with another hive(sans the SHB and bad comb of course) You might be better off sticking whats left in a nuc and nursing them along, or maybe cut your losses and look forward to the spring. Another(obviously smarter) beekeeper told me once that the main thing about bees is knowing when to give up(which I have a hard time doing)

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericasBeekeeper View Post
    The last thing you want is more comb full and especially not empty. You can kiss them goodbye quickly with another super.
    I went through the hive today. I got several drawn out frames from the freezer and started taking the hive apart.

    Just to let you know...I found and killed FOUR (4) SHB's. I thought it was odd...but that is all there were.

    Anyway, the hive was packed with bees...two hive bodies only. The Lower HB had NO stores or brood. It was empty of anything other than bees. Out of 20 frames, I would say that 16 total was completely covered with bees.

    The upper HB, had 3 frames of honey...2 of them smelled bad and the cappings were clear looking maybe "Oily". The upper edges of the comb had nice white caps but the center was dark and oily.

    I found 4 frames of brood. It looked healthy, but it was still not much IMO.

    I started with a new BB, and HB and started transferring the good stuff over to the new hive...Yes I put the brood and two frames of pollen in the bottom HB and put the frames that were in the bottom of the old hive into a new HB on top. I closed down the entrance and added some sugar syrup mixed at 2:1 ratio. I put the rest of the pollen in the top HB.

    It was probably not a good idea to reverse the brood nest, but I did not feel as if I had a choice. Hopefully the syrup will be stored as needed and the pollen will be moved up if they feel the need.

    The three frames that I removed...I put them in a pan about 100 yards away and scratched the cappings. The bees are cleaning it...It does seem as if they are eating it...But it stinks...It is definitely NOT the goldenrod smell.
    "You have to put down the ducky if you wanna play the Saxophone!" Mr .Hoot

  14. #14
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    Feb 2010
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    S Hadley, Massachusetts USA
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    A couple of weeks ago I had a strange "dead hive" smell at one of my out yards. Upon closer inspection I discovered piles of dead drones laying in the grass at the front door of most hives. It was the results of mass eviction notices. Just the smell of a lot of dead drone bees.
    Pearl City Apiary Michael and Loucil Bach

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    Quote Originally Posted by hemichuck View Post
    This is a tricky and complicated process to guide you on unless I am standing in front of the hive to asses. I had a hive about a month ago that had been inspected about 2 weeks prior and everything looked fine. Good brood pattern,lots of eggs and larvae,not many shb's and as much capped honey as any other hive I had. When I opened it up the next time you could smell it and then as the frames came out I could see the slime. This hive was still full of bees and had plenty of brood and eggs/larvae and the queen was walking around doing her thing but I knew that in a matter of days there wouldnt be anything left. I had a couple of mediums full of drawn comb so I removed the whole hive and replaced the bottom board and the 2 mediums of comb in the original location. I found the queen on a frame and shook her into the new comb, then I took the original hive about 30 yards away and shook them out so they would all return to the original location.After that I found a couple of frames of capped honey from another hive and a couple of frames of capped brood and put them in the new hive and started feeding them. They are doing OK but that was a month ago. You might be hard pressed at this point for them to get built back up. You might be better off combining them with another hive(sans the SHB and bad comb of course) You might be better off sticking whats left in a nuc and nursing them along, or maybe cut your losses and look forward to the spring. Another(obviously smarter) beekeeper told me once that the main thing about bees is knowing when to give up(which I have a hard time doing)
    Funny thing is, there are way too many bees for a nuc...The frames were covered...really full. I will feed them a while and see if they will store it. I will also check out the hives right beside of them to see how the brood and honey stores are...If they have surplus, then I can move a couple over to this hive...If not, then I will let nature do what it must.

    I did not want to go through the other hives today because it seems like this time of year, if you do too much inside of a hive, then you can really start a robbing frenzy.
    "You have to put down the ducky if you wanna play the Saxophone!" Mr .Hoot

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    I did not want to go through the other hives today because it seems like this time of year, if you do too much inside of a hive, then you can really start a robbing frenzy.[/QUOTE]

    Aint that the truth, and when they get robbed it weakens the hive and opens the dopr for other pests like SHB to take over. You might want to stick a couple of the SHB oil traps up at the top for good measure. Just because your not seeing them dont mean that they arnt there. I have had numerous people tell me that they have no SHB but when I helped them inspect a hive I could point out plenty. I had twenty something hives at one point and had never seen a SHB but I did a trapout on a beetree one day and when I got them to my yard and opened the trap there were SHB's in there and it was like opening Pandoras box. Just a word of caution, if you do trap outs, take home bee tree's or do cut outs on buildings, have an alternate yard to move these bees to because they will bring home all kinds of goodies.

  17. #17
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    Jan 2003
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    My bet is goldenrod. My hives still have a lot of odor from GR. Also, capped Fall honey in my hives always seems to have a different look than Spring or Summer. The Fall cappings are shiny (but not oily) and much more yellow or clear, not usually white. SHB infestations are pretty obvious, so you should have been able to rule that out easily. Brood disease takes more skill to detect and diagnose. If the brood looked normal, then I think the action you took was good. I generally don't like to reconfigure hives at this time of the year, but you should be fine.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    goldenrod smells like dirty sweat sox in a locker room. Slimey looking cappings and fermentation smell equals SHB infestation.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    I know what "Dirty Sweat Sox" smell like. That's what mine smell like. Define a "Fermentation Smell" for future reference.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Fermentation odor from hive

    Quote Originally Posted by Belewsboy View Post
    I know what "Dirty Sweat Sox" smell like. That's what mine smell like. Define a "Fermentation Smell" for future reference.
    The only way I can describe it is a sour smell...It smells a lot like fermenting corn. Don't ask why I know what fermenting corn smells like.

    Quote Originally Posted by AstroBee
    If the brood looked normal, then I think the action you took was good. I generally don't like to reconfigure hives at this time of the year, but you should be fine.
    The only problem is that today they smell just as bad as they did before I swapped out comb. After the swap, They have already consumed 2 gallons of 1 1/2 galons of 2:1 syrup. I don't know if I am wasting time but I will let the hive get heavy again and then see if they can ride out the winter.
    "You have to put down the ducky if you wanna play the Saxophone!" Mr .Hoot

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