September 26, 2017 2 min read

The strange hive smell of sour dirty socks slowly turns to the brilliant scent of butterscotch!
I have been walking by my hives in the last several weeks and smelling the peculiar scent of dirty socks or sour laundry. At first it kind of smells like bee bread, that wonderful smell of baking bread that is so familiar in the spring when bees are rearing brood. I first encountered this smell of dirty socks emanating from my hives years ago and I thought that my hives had contracted some odd disease. When I did some research I found out that the smell was from the nectar of the Aster flowers.

The white asters don't seem to be the culprit...

and the purple asters don't seem to be the culprit either....


But the Sticky Gum Plant does carry a very pungent odor.


And that sour smell in the hive? Well that is nectar and pollen the bees are collecting from the Sticky Gum Plant. This little gem is part of the aster family and is in abundance this year in the Front Range of Colorado.


This unique little flower is actually a composite of many small flowers. If you look closely you can see dozens of little flowers on the disk of the main flower.


When bees are collecting nectar from these buds they do this little circle dance, slowly turning around the face of the flower, visiting each of the small flowers on the disk.

The Sticky Gum Plant is part of the Asteraceae or Compositae family, known as the Aster or Sunflower family and having 2 subfamilies the Dandelion and the Aster, which the latter has 11 tribes. This family of flowering plants is one of the largest with 23,000 species. Flowers in this family include Sunflowers, Dandelions, Chicory, Burdock, Artichoke, Thistle, Bachelors Button, Cocklebur, Silver Sagebrush, Chamomile, Yarrow, Gayfeather, Groundsel, Jerusalem artichoke, Golden Rod....whew...just to name a few!

Bees and pollinators LOVE these plants. Many of these flowers are a good source of nectar and pollen in the fall when there can be limited flowers available for the bees.

Native American tribes used the Sticky Gum Plant as a medicinal for coughs, asthma, bronchitis and nasal congestion. I imagine that the honey from the Sticky Gum Plant would probably be a wonderful medicinal, especially for coughing.

Now about that sour smell wafting from the hives, well it will soon transform to the most amazing smell of butterscotch and the honey will taste buttery as well.


Thistle flower


The beautiful and ever present Sunflower


And what would the bees do without the constant re-blooming of Dandelions throughout the season to collect fresh nectar and pollen for the hive?


Bees collecting nectar and pollen on the abundant dandelions! We say that you know a bee guardians yard because there are dandelions in their yard. They don't pull or spray dandelions, leaving them for the bees and pollinators!