Painting beehives is pretty straight forward and almost anyone can paint a beehive with a little knowledge beforehand. Here are some recommendations, opinions, techniques that have been around for quite some time. Many beekeepers have controversial opinions about this subject, which is why beekeeping is so fascinating.
What Type of Paint for beehives?
- When I first started thinking about which color, how many coats, which type of paint, I got really confused and started doing research on what seasoned beekeepers have done before in the past. I decided that I wanted to be as chemical free as possible for the bees and human health, so I researched what is actually in paint itself. I found out that regular household paint can contain up to 10,000 different kinds of chemicals, many of which are toxins and some are linked to cancer. What I concluded was to go with the lowest level of VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) as stamped on the pail of paint. The federal government has regulations on voc content at no more than 250 grams per liter (g/l) for your flat paints and around 380 g/l for any other type (semi-glosses). The ones that I have tried and use have <50 g/l and some stains have 5.5 g/l, which are easily found at your local hardware paint stores.
- Satin or Flat? The rougher paints will tend to attract more dirt and mildew than a regular satin paint with a smoother finish. This will keep your hives cleaner and maintain their color longer.
Stain or Paint on beehives?
- If you do decide to go with a stain over regular paint, make sure it is a water based stain so it will not harm the bees. Also do note that some wood preservatives can leach arsenic just as pressure treated wood contains chromated copper arsenate (CCA) which is a pesticide. There are some natural oil stains that have a low VOC rate at around 5.5 g/l and will darken the wood slightly but not make it overly dark that is sold by some beekeeping supply factories. As with many stains, you would have to reapply these every 3-4 years in order to maintain the protective qualities. If you do opt for stain, then go with one that voids out UV rays to prevent graying (Unless you like that look) of the wood. Also, there is nothing more pleasing that a natural wood look with bees pouring out the front of a hive.
What Color Should I paint my Beehive?
- The main thing to remember is the lighter the color, the cooler the hive, and the darker the color the warmer the hive. Dark colors attract heat, light repels. The color of paint doesn’t really doesn’t matter but does depend on where you live in the world. For instance, if you live in South Florida, you would want your hives to be a white or lighter colors. If you live in colder climates like on a mountain side in Northern Canada, you might want to go with a darker tint color to keep the bees warm.
- Bees primary colors are blue, green, ultraviolet, and can distinguish oranges, purples, and yellows. Bees will see red as a black and of course black as black, so keep this in mind when you are painting your hives so that you can cross paint your hives in order for the bees to distinguish their own individual hive to prevent drifting from one hive to another. Some beekeepers will paint specific patterns like all circles on one hive and all squares or triangles on another hive to provide hive identification and to prevent drifting.
- Traditionally beehives were painted white. I have heard many things on this reason; One is because beehives contained a food product and this would promote cleanliness of the honey just as a doctor and dentist wears a white smock lab coat (To show they are clean). Another reason is because that was primary the color of barns “back in the day” that was lying around after a full day painting, thus the next day was to paint the beehives.
- Some urban beekeepers like to paint their hives to match the building they live in or to conform to urban regulations in the area. Also, if you have hives that are in an area where it would be easy for thieves to steal your hives, then you would want to paint your beehives to blend in the area. One of my friends hives is a cool camo in color and he mentioned that there were thieves that drove by his apiary that was on the edge of a tree line.
- Another fun way to get young children involved is to let them paint the hive with different drawings. Imagine 20 years from now your hive having a child’s painting on them to show them when they are older? Have them draw flowers, the sun, bees, trees, wind blowing, water, farm animals, houses, stick people, beekeepers, or anything their little hearts desire. If you ever do a hive give away for a local charity, then look into taking your hive to the local elementary school for the children to paint the hive for you, which you can give them a pizza party or a part of the donation charities.
Best Paint for Beehives
- I’ll leave this up to you, but if you use a paint that dries fast and requires less paint because it already has a primer built into it, then the more time you can spend watching your bees. For instance, I painted beehives without a primer and it took three times as long as if I did it with one that had a primer mixed already in. Also, smudges were leave by the roller without a primer.
Roller or Flat Brush to Paint Beehives?
- I personally prefer the flat brush technique because I just enjoy the painting part. If you want something quick, then use the roller. I’m sure my opinion will change over the years but I feel that I get a better coat with the brushes.
My Beehives are Sticking Together After Painting!
- A lot of new beekeepers will stack their hives to the brim and use a roller up and down until they are done painting. After a few hours they come back to move the hives and they find out that the hives are stuck to one another. One way to prevent this is to put a spacer in between the hives like a washer or some pennies so that you can easily move them after painting. I have used anything that will “slide” one hive off the other with great success. Also, I have put end to end saw horses with two landscaping ties across to hold the hives up off the ground and allowed to air dry. This brings the hives up to waist height and will not hurt your back as well. I can quickly paint a few dozen hives in a few hours this way.
What Parts Of A Beehive To Paint?
- Remember one thing; Consider a beehive as a food container. Therefore nothing on the inside should be painted. Bees like to use propolis to create a antibacterial cavity for themselves as well as for them to provide a smell of pheromones specific to their hive. If you watch bees, they really like to do house keeping chores, and if you looking into washboarding from bees, you’ll understand why. Therefore do not paint anything that is inside the hive. Paint or stain only the parts of the hive that is exposed to the outside elements.
- Some beekeepers like to paint the “rims” or the top and bottom parts of the beehive where one chamber will physically touch the other when stacking. Other beekeepers do not prefer this technique because on a hot day some paints will make the two hives stick together and it will be very hard to come apart, especially when there is propolis glued along with this. If you have a old hive you could do more damage to the hive if they are stuck together. Some beekeepers this doesn’t matter and they will paint the under and top rims.
- Do NOT paint the inner cover, the frames, the entrance reducer (bees chew on this), nor metal tops of outer covers. No painting of the outer cover (inside). Do not paint the inside of brood chambers or supers. Do not paint the inside of a slatted rack, queen excluder, or bottom board screens.
Glue on end grains of beehives?
- If you take a look at the common ends of a beehive, you can see the grains of the wood showing. This is the most susceptible part of the beehive that wears out fast. The end grains draw water into the wooden ware like a straw. A good friend showed me that if you take some waterproof glue like Titebond III and smear it into these grains before painting, then your hives will last a very long time. Another method that I’m going to do research in is with a product called Log End Seal. Since I live in a log cabin, I know the first effects of the end grains of logs drawing in water. I purchased Log End Seal and applied it to my log home and haven’t had one bit of water drawn into the wood. Now, with all this being said, I need to do the research first to see VOC levels, safety of the bees and other research before testing.
Do I Have to Paint My Beehive?
- No is the short answer. But be cautious that your hive will warp, grey and leak to some extent, and that your hive will not last as long as one that is stained or painted. However if you are trying to go 100% organic beekeeping, then keep in mind that you need a non pressure treated wood as well.
I know there are many more methods, techniques on painting and staining beehives that are not covered here. My purpose was to expose you to some of the most common methods in painting beehives in todays world. If you have a technique worth sharing, please send it to email@example.com for consideration on it being published here on this website. If you have colorful hives you would like to show off, please send them as well and I’ll post them in the galleries.