If you are new to beekeeping you likely purchased a new hive that needs to be painted. This is a way to add a bit of color to the bee yard. But, the primary purpose of painting beehives is to protect the wooden parts from weather. Painted hive components last much longer without rotting. These following guide will help you understand how to paint a beehive in a safe way that does no harm to your bees.
In fact, there are several benefits associated with painting your beehives (or protecting the wood in some fashion). Hives are an essential part of your beekeeping equipment take care of them too.
Why Paint a Beehive
Beyond beauty, there are compelling reasons to paint your beehive. Unless you purchase cypress wooden-ware (or plastic hives), your beekeeping supers will likely be made of pine.
I love the way pine wood smells-but it does not hold up long term when exposed to the weather. These boxes will be sitting outside in the rain, snow, ice and heat.
On the coldest days and the hottest day, your hive protects the colony inside. A coat of paint is a small price to pay to extend the life of your equipment.
Does it matter to the bees? Are painted hives better? Honey bees do not seem to care about hive color or painted vs unpainted. Bees live in hollow trees and they have no special color.
Choosing the Right Paint
What is the best beehive paint to use? Stains, varnish and various dipping materials are used by large scale beekeepers with hundreds of hives.
For beginner beekeepers, it is easiest to use regular latex (water-based) paint for your hives. This type of paint is easy to find and work with.
Look for water-based exterior (outdoor) latex with low VOCs (volatile organic compounds – below 100) and allow time for off gassing to occur before installing bees.
(This is the type of paint recommended by the major bee supply stores who have been involved in beekeeping for over a hundred years. If you don’t like latex – don’t use it. You can buy special paint that is supposedly safer for bees.)
Many beekeepers chose to visit the “oops” section of the paint department. We beekeepers are often frugal by nature. You may see some weird color combinations in the bee yards of “oops” painters.
Time to Cure and Air-out
With latex, water clean up is easy and the paint smell goes away sooner. This is an important consideration.
Honey bees are very sensitive to odor. You don’t want them to abscond or leave in search of better “less stinky” accommodations. Time is required for it to air out and any paint fumes to dissipate.
Best Beehive Colors
Most bee boxes are painted with light colors. However, you really can choose any color that you wish. I have seen some amazing painted hive designs.
Detailed scenes with vibrant colors transform your apiary into a work of art. From simple shapes to detailed landscapes, the possibilities are endless. We humans enjoy having fun with it (the bees really don’t care).
Why Are Beehives Often Painted White?
Do beehives have to be painted white? Heck , no. Though, a beekeeper may choose to stick with a traditional color like white. Or, maybe you would like a row of pastel hives like my “rainbow row” .
Hives painted in light colors are easier for the bees to cool the hive during hot July days. If you live in a region without hot Summers, you may consider a slightly darker shade.
Also, beekeepers living in neighborhoods often use tan or green colors for their hives. This helps them blend into the landscape rather than stand out. They are less noticeable.
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Preparing the Beehive
The best paint job in the world is not worth much if the equipment assembly and preparation is shoddy. This is true whether you build your own hive or purchase one ready to paint.
When you are assembling the parts of your hive, be sure to nail the wooden boxes together tightly. You also used good wood glue on all the connecting parts – didn’t you? Yes I’m sure you did.
Any quality wood glue will help make your frame and box joints sturdy. Yes, you really do need to nail and glue them both.
Fail to do so, and chances are that you will one day regret it. Good wood glue is easily available at all home improvement stores. Titebond is my favorite. .
Check to make sure that your box is square and in the proper form. Because Langstroth hive boxes are stacked, we want each one to be sturdy and square to give good support.
And… well I don’t know how to say this but – make sure the handles (and the frame rests -where the frames will sit) are not upside down. Yes, it happens.
For those of you with used beekeeping equipment-that needs sprucing up, a new coat of paint often makes a big difference.
Be sure to scrape off any peeling paint, beeswax, propolis, etc before adding the first coat of paint.
If you have many beehives to paint, you might invest in a power sprayer to paint several at once.
But, most beekeepers rely on a simple paint brush or roller. I think the brush gives you a bit more control – I like a medium width.
For those of you who worry about making a mess, a drop cloth is beneficial, perhaps some disposable gloves too.
Even though latex paint is not as strong smelling – it is always best to paint in a ventilated area.
Step by Step Beehive Painting Process
Paint only the outside parts of your beehive – those areas that will be exposed to rain and moisture.
The bees will take care of polishing the interior with their own bee propolis. This substance helps sanitize the interior and seals cracks too.
1. First, paint the outside of the bottom board (around the edges where the base box will sit). This area takes a lot of wear and tear over the years.
Paint the landing board or entryway too-it is exposed to rain, holds snow and is constantly feeling the trampling of thousands of tiny bee feet.
If you want to paint the underneath “bottom” area too, that’s okay. I do, I feel it help prevent the wood from absorbing moisture.
Be sure to paint seams, corners and exposed joints. Our goal is to coat the raw wood for protection from weather.
2. After finishing the bottom board, paint the outsides of your other boxes (not the inside). Try to get a good smooth coat around all the side and in the recesses of the hand-holds. Two coats with a bit of drying time in between is common.
3. How much of the telescoping top you paint, depends to a degree on which kind you have.
For the standard hive with a metal and wood top – paint all around the rim where the wood is exposed. I also paint the bottom of the rim because water drips under there.
Beehive tops and bottom boards are the first pieces of beekeeping equipment to fail. This is because they are the main protectors (top and bottom) for the colony inside.
Nothing inside the hive needs paint. Do not paint frames, inside walls of the boxes, inner cover or inside of the telescoping top.
Also at least a couple of weeks for the paint to dry and cure before adding bees. You have to think ahead – you never know when you might have an opportunity to catch a swarm of bees.
A quick internet search will reveal many bee hives that are painted in spectacular colors and designs.
If you have artistic tendencies, I envy you! I have a hard time drawing a straight line with a ruler. If you are like me, consider using stencils to embellish your painted bee hives.
Beyond having decorations that appeal to you, hives with designs on the front can help bees find their way back to the correct hive. But this is optional – not a must do.
Protecting Your Painted Hive
If you would rather not purchase a hive stand, make one. Just be sure that it is sturdy. Mature hives can become very heavy.
Raising the hives up a bit can also help your paint last longer as the wood has some protection from the wet ground. You back will thank you as well – less bending.
No, the bees don’t care – they live in unpainted hollow trees. But, painting will prolong the life of your equipment.
Only paint the parts of the hive that are exposed to weather such as rain, snow and drying sunlight.
Paint during mild weather with good drying conditions. For new colonies, paint at least 2 weeks before bees arrive. Do not paint a hive with bees living in it.
Hives painted with light colors do not absorb as much heat during Summer. The bees don’t have to work as hard to cool the beehive.
That depends on the opinion of who you ask. Generally, choose a water-based latex paint with a VOC rating below 100, 50 or less is even better.
A Final Word
Giving your new hive or old hive a fresh coat of paint can be a lot of fun. Choose a color that you like and one that is non-toxic to bees and get the job done. Beekeeping costs are not cheap – extend the life of your equipment when you can.