Learning How To Paint Beehives With Style
Hello new beekeeper. Ready to get your hands dirty? Its time to discuss how to paint beehives correctly. And does it matter to the bees? Are painted hives better? So much to consider on this topic.
Its okay to be fancy but you don’t have a lot of time to waste. Spring is just around the corner and your honey bees will be arriving soon.
Do you have what you need to paint beehives? If so, good . You have gathered your supplies needed to assemble and paint your equipment. If not, don’t worry we will talk about it in a minute.
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Must You Paint a Beehive?
Is it really necessary? I mean, bees live in hollow trees and they are not painted. No, you do not have to paint beehives but maybe you should. The honey bees themselves dont seem to care about hive color or painted vs unpainted. However, the major reason that most people paint a beehive is wood preservation.
Unless you purchased cypress wooden-ware, your bee hives will be made of pine. I love the way pine wood smells but it does not hold up long term when exposed to the weather. Painting your hives will increase the longevity of the wood. Knowing how to paint bee hives correctly- prolongs your equipment investment and does no harm to the bees.
How to Paint Beehives – Step By Step
Step 1 – Ready, Set, Paint – No Wait! – Proper Assembly
Wait just a minute, are you really ready to get artistic and starting painting beehives with wild abandon? Maybe, but don’t get in too big a hurry. The best paint job in the world wont help your bees if the equipment assembly is shoddy.
Proper assembly of wooden equipment is very important. Hive components put together with care create a long lasting home for your honey bees. I admit, this is one reason I hated purchasing pre-assembled equipment. Suppliers never take the care with nailing and gluing that same as I would.
Lets, assume you are assembling your own beehive parts. You nailed the wooden boxes together tightly. You also used glue on all the connecting parts – didn’t you? Yes I’m sure you did.
Failure to use nails (screws are even better) and a good quality wood glue will cause you problems later. Over the years, nails will lose their grip. Hive parts can come apart at very inconvenient times.
( I prefer this type of wood glue. ) Titebond is available at major hardware stores or you can order it from Amazon. You do not have to use a lot but always use glue when assembling wooden-ware.
Step 2 – How to Paint Beehive Correctly – Understand Which Parts of the Beehive Need Paint
A key element of learning how to paint beehives is understanding what parts to paint. You do not want to paint everything in site. It is important to paint the parts of the hive that are exposed to rain.
I use Langstroth design hives, (rectangular boxes that stack on top of each other). A metal covered telescoping top protects the inside of the hive. There are other hive styles to consider, For the Lang hive, painting the wooden strip around the outside (of the top) prolongs the life of your top. No need to paint the inside of the top.
Wooden boxes (called supers) make up the heart of the hive. They come in various sizes (heights). Paint the outside of the super boxes.
Leave the top and bottom rims unpainted. Paint will make separating the boxes for hive inspections more difficult.
The inside of hive boxes should remain paint free. Honey bees communicate by scent based pheromones. Strong smells may disrupt this communication system.
Raw wood absorbs moisture helping to keep the hive humidity and temperature balanced. Painting the inside of a hive negates this benefit. Please leave the inside paint-free, the bees will polish it for you.
Some beekeepers are experimenting with the use of special telescoping tops and bottoms that don’t need painting. The technoploymer material is strong, lightweight and long lasting. I have not tried them yet but I think it is an interesting concept.
The foundation of a Langstroth hive is the bottom board. This wooden piece (often with a screen insert) forms the base of the hive. The other wooden boxes stack on top of the bottom board.
Paint the outside of the bottom board and the entryway. If you want to paint the underneath area too, that’s okay. Paint the exposed parts of the bottom board well. Be sure to cover seams, corners and exposed joints.
Remember – None of the wooden components inside the hive should be painted.
Step 3 – It’s time to choose your color – What Color Should Beehives Be?
We have already established the fact that you don’t have to paint beehives. The bees don’t care. But painting beehives can be fun. This is a chance to express yourself. A quick search online will give you access to many different painted beehive designs.
I have seen some amazing painted beehives. Detailed scenes with vibrant colors transform beehives into works 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).
Can you draw? Not me! I wish I had the talent to freehand a beautiful bee design, but alas – I can not. If you are artistically challenged, like me, you can buy outdoor decals to place on your hives. I make decals with my Silhouette Cameo for hive decorations. These will last for several years and it helps the bees to find the proper hive.
Worker bees returning to colonies placed close together can be confused.In nature, beehives are not set up in rows. Decorated hive entrances help bees find the right colony.
Choosing a Light Color Beehive Paint is Probably Best
A beekeeper may choose to stick with a traditional color like white. Or maybe you would like a row of pastel hives like the “rainbow row” in Charleston. ( I did that one year.) I generally recommend any light color.
Living in the south, light colored hives are easier for the bees to cool during hot July days. I have seem some beautiful hives decorated with elaborate designs. They are real piece of art on display in the bee yard. Here is a link to more design ideas. Link
If you live in a neighborhood and want your hives to blend into the landscape rather than stand out. Tan and green colors are good choices.
Step 4 – Purchase a good quality latex paint for painting hives
Stains, varnish and various dipping materials are used by large scale beekeepers and thats okay. If you understand the proper methods, this can be accomplished with ease. For beginners, I suggest sticking with regular latex (water-based) paint.
I prefer any light colored latex (water based) paint. A good quality latex paint will last for years. This type of paint is easy to find and work with. Water clean up is easy and the paint smell goes away sooner.
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 combination in the bee yards of “oops” painters.
You did it! You now know how to paint beehives that will last for years.
Reducing Drifting Bees In Your Bee Yard
We beekeepers often need to place several hives in one location. In the video below, I talk about how I use my vinyl cutter (Silhouette Cameo) to make designs for the front of my hives. Of course you can use paint also.
Before you put your paintbrush away – consider some decoration to reduce drifting.
Painting Beehives Can Be A Lot of Fun
Assembling and painting beehives can be one of the joys of being a beekeeper. When you are learning how to paint beehives dont stress over small mistakes. The bees dont care – I promise. I enjoy the process and always insist on purchasing unassembled equipment. Ready to go equipment can be handy in a pinch. However, when I assemble and paint my own equipment, I know it was done right.
Best of Luck With Your Beekeeping Adventure This Year
Paint your hives any color – use stencils to go creative