Each year, around August & September, depending on the weather patters, we get calls about a bad odor coming from hives. Many beekeepers first think; Foulbrood, because of the bad odor associated with the Foulbrood infections. Others think perhaps a different brood disease or hive ailment. While these things certainly can happen any time of year, when fall starts to really set in, the Goldenrod blooms in full force. Goldenrod nectar and honey can be smelly, so much so that many beekeepers take the honey in the fall before the Goldenrod fully blooms, in order to avoid bottling stinky honey. Don't worry if you just don't want to pull honey that early, the honey taste just fine and the stink will go away. It doesn't hurt a thing!
The bad smell of this honey differs from the smell of Foulbrood. The Goldenrod smell can be more musty and moldy, like a cold wet room has been closed up for months. Foulbrood will smell more like rotting meat or dead animal on the side of the road. While neither are desirable, a quick check of the brood will eliminate any possible issues. Make sure your your brood caps are puffy and not discolored and that your larvae is plump, white, glistening and juicy. No colors in any of the eggs cells either. If you check your hive and all looks well (and the Goldenrod is in bloom), then rest assured it is probably just funky honey.
So the next time you are mowing the lawn and are caught off guard by a not-so-pleasant smell coming from your hive, don't immediately be alarmed.