How To Paint Beehives – Easy & Quick
Are you ready for some creative beekeeping fun? Its time to discuss how to paint beehives correctly and whether painting beehives is even necessary!
It is not uncommon for us beekeepers to spend a lot of time agonizing over beehive painting decisions. What color should I use? Should I paint my beehive a fun color or neutral blend? The questions go on and on.
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. Or perhaps, you are doing a bit of Winter wooden-ware touchup? I do this each Winter season with beekeeping equipment that is not in use.
Tools for Painting Beehives
Do you have what you need to get started? If so, good . You have gathered your supplies needed to assemble and paint your beekeeping equipment. If not, don’t worry we will talk about it in a minute.
Paint your hives any color – use stencils to go creative
Creative Painted Hive Designs
A quick internet search will reveal many bee hives that are painted in spectacular colors and designs. We do this for ourselves of course, the bees could couldn’t care less.
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.
Stencils are available in every design you can imagine. You can purchase them at a local craft store or order special designs online.
No one has to know its not hand painted.. LOL
Why Paint Beehives?
Is painting beehives really necessary? I mean, bees live in hollow trees and they are not painted. Does it really matter that much?
No you do not have to paint your hives, but maybe you should. The honey bees themselves don’t 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 beehives 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 beehives increases the longevity of the wood. By using a good paint and finishing the job before bees are put into it, you are prolonging your equipment investment.
Be sure the paint has time to dry and cure for a few days before adding bees. Honey bees are very sensitive to odor. You don’t want them to fly away in search of better accommodations.
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 won’t help your bees if the equipment assembly is shoddy. And yes, this can even be a problem with beekeeping equipment that is purchased already assembled.
Proper assembly of wooden equipment is very important. Hive components put together with care create a long lasting home for your honey bees. The bee boxes and frames will fit together better and that makes beekeeping easier.
This is one reason I hated purchasing pre-assembled equipment. Suppliers never take the same care with nailing and gluing 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.
Don’t Forget to Use Glue
Any good wood glue will help make your frame and box joints sturdy. Yes, you really do need to nail and glue them.
If you do not, chances are that you will one day regret not using glue. Good wood glue is easily available at all home improvement stores.
The one is my favorite that I use after painting my hives or assembling frames. It can be purposed locally or ordered online.
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. You do not have to use a lot of glue but always use some when assembling wooden-ware.
Check to make sure that your box is square and in the proper form. It should not be out of square. 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.
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 weather.
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 as well but their design is different. 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.
Painting Beehives – Super Boxes
Wooden boxes (called supers) make up the heart of the hive. They come in various sizes (heights). They are the same length and width but come in different heights.
They are commonly called: deeps, medium or shallow supers. A beekeeper might use any combination of these 3 types. It is truly personal preference.
When painting beehive supers, paint only the outside. You can leave the top and bottom rims of the boxes unpainted. If you really want to paint the rims, that’s okay.
But, you will end up scraping it off as you work the hive. Paint will make separating the boxes for new hive inspections more difficult for a while.
The inside of hive boxes (inside walls) 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.
Beehive Tops and Bottoms
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 bottom 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 Only the Outside Parts of Your Beehive
Paint the outside of the bottom board and the entryway. If you want to paint the underneath area too, that’s okay.
Be sure to cover seams, corners and exposed joints. Our goal is to coat the raw wood for protection from rain, snow etc.
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.
A Hive Stand Helps Prolong the Life of Your Hive
If you have rather not purchase a hive stand, make one. Just be sure that it is sturdy. And you may want to paint the bottom of the “bottom board” too. This offers some protection from rain the runs around the board.
Parts of a Beehive to Paint
Paint the bottom board, supers, and telescoping top of your hive. Only the wooden surfaces that are exposed to the rain will benefit from paint.
Do not paint the inside of the hive. This includes frames, walls of the super boxes, inner cover or inside of the telescoping top.
Step 3 – It’s Time to Choose Your Color – What Color Should Beehives Be Painted?
We have already established the fact that you don’t have to paint beehives. But painting beehives can be fun. This is a chance to express yourself.
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).
How Painting Your Beehives or Decorating Can Help Bees!
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 and end up in the wrong hive. We call this bee behavior – drifting.
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
Why Are Beehives Often Painted White?
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 pieces 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.
Assembling and painting beehives can be one of the joys of being a beekeeper. When you are learning how to paint beehives don’t stress over small mistakes. The bees don’t 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.