Bees are nature’s little wonders, buzzing about from flower to flower and transforming the nectar into sweet, delicious honey. Beneficial to humans, these flying insects help pollinate gardens and can even boost yields from certain crops without competing for agricultural resources on larger farms.

Aside from their general usefulness, beekeeping can be a fun hobby that helps you feel you’re doing your part to help the environment. If you’re considering taking up beekeeping, it’s helpful to learn how to protect the structural integrity of the hives you build without overwhelming your new friends with toxic chemicals.

Choosing Beehive Paint

Rows of Painted hive boxes on a bee yard

So what’s the best paint for beehives? Is it water-based paint, exterior latex paint, oil based paints or milk paint? Keep in mind that you only want to paint the exterior and never spaces where the bees actually reside inside. Even so, the first thing to consider for exterior color is the VOC (volatile organic compound level).

Exterior paints and stains with a Volatile Organic Compounds Level of 100 or less protect the wood but typically take weeks to dry and the paint smell to air out before you invite bees inside their new home. Formulations with a 50 VOC or lower like an oil based exterior primer works even better, but those with 0 VOC make the best choice for hive bodies and beehives. One such paint with a 0 VOC is Real Milk Paint, and its natural formulation doesn’t harm bees or the environment, making it a sustainable way to protect exterior surfaces.

Another thing to consider when painting hives is the LRV (light reflectance value) of the paint you select. Honey bees see in ultraviolet light, so paints with high reflective value can confuse their senses, with red being the worst offender and white appearing as a bluish-green.

Colors with a low LRV are hotter, while shades with a higher LRV are cooler. For example, black paint with a 0 LRV level can overheat the hives, so it’s best to avoid it. If you’re looking for a way to keep your bees warm in colder climes, however, dark colors like green with an LRV of 9 along the sides help hold in heat, while pastel hues generally run in the 74 LRV range and work well in warmer areas.

Paints typically have the LRV listed on their sample cards, and if you wish to use Real Milk Paint for color, it comes in 56 colors with endless variety of shades, if colors are mixed, for easy beehive customization. Another benefit of using Real Milk Paint on your beehives is that it won’t blister or peel up like conventional exterior paints or latex paints.

Best Colors for Painting a Beehive

Choosing the best colors for painting hives may seem like a purely aesthetic decision, but it can actually have practical implications for beekeeping. Honey bees are highly sensitive to colors, and the color of a beehive can affect the hive’s temperature, the bees’ behavior, and even their overall productivity. Here, we’ll explore some of the considerations when selecting the best beehive colors.

Natural Wood Tones

Many beekeepers paint beehives with natural wood tones. These hives are often made from pine, cedar, or cypress wood, which provides good insulation and breathability for the honey bees. Natural wood painted hives blend well with the environment and have a classic, rustic appearance.

white bee boxes painted with Real Milk Paint

White

Painting hives with white is a common choice among beekeepers for several reasons. First, white reflects sunlight, helping to keep the hive cooler in hot weather. Second, white hives are easily visible, making it easier for beekeepers to monitor honey bees’ activity.

Pastel Colors

Pastel colors, such as light blue, pink, or pale yellow are beekeepers paint colors of choice. Painting beehives with light colors can add a touch of personality to the hive boxes and may appeal to hobbyist beekeepers or those who want to create a visually pleasing beekeeping space. However, it’s important to choose pastel shades that are not too bright, as intense colors may disturb the bees.

Green and Brown

Green and brown beehives can blend seamlessly into natural surroundings, making them less conspicuous to potential predators and thieves. These earthy colors help hives camouflage in gardens, orchards, or wooded areas, reducing the likelihood of disturbances.

Avoid Dark Colors

Darker colors in beehives, such as black or dark brown, should generally be avoided. Dark colors absorb more heat from the sun, potentially overheating the hive, especially during hot summer months. Elevated temperatures can stress the bees and negatively impact hive productivity.

How to Paint a Beehive the Right Way

Painting beehives is an essential task in beekeeping that goes beyond aesthetics. To paint a beehive correctly, you first need to prepare all the materials needed for the paint job to ensure a seamless painting process. Then, you need to prepare wood surfaces meticulously. Ensure that the hive’s exterior is clean and dry. Remove any dirt, dust, or loose particles from the wood surface. It’s advisable to lightly sand the surface to create a smooth and even texture.

Finally, apply multiple coats of bee hive paint. Apply a minimum of two coats and allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next one. Be thorough in covering all exterior surfaces, including the hive stand, bodies, supers, and the hive’s top cover. Pay extra attention to the landing board, as it is a high-traffic area for the honey bees. An even application of paint on all surfaces of the bee hives helps seal the wood and ensure long-lasting protection.

Tung Oil for Beehives

Colorful Painted Bee hives

If you want increased water resistance, you cant apply exterior wood glue to your beehives, instead, you can apply Pure Tung Oil over Real Milk Paint to significantly protect the beehive exteriors. A natural finish often used to season butcher blocks and cutting boards, pure tung oil contains no solvents or chemicals and absorbs into the wood to form a waterproof seal. Additionally, after the first application of fresh paint, you can often just recoat the hives’ exteriors lightly once a year for fuss-free maintenance.

Application of pure tung oil is easy and requires spreading it with the grain of your beehive with a paint roller, bristle brush or clean cloth, allowing it to absorb, applying more oil, repeating those steps until the wood is well saturated.

Then remove the excess oil that does not absorb with a clean cloth, repeating this process the next day, then allowing the beehive to dry. Pure tung oil typically wards off mold and mildew as well, helping you keep your beehives in good order for years to come.

If you are looking for a safe way to brighten up your beehives, browse our paints and tung oils. Learn more about our green, environmentally-friendly products or contact us at 800-339-9748 with any questions.

“I use this to dilute Pure Tung Oil 1-1 for the first coat on my bee boxes. An hour later I use 1-3, citrus to Tung Oil as a second and final coat. The finish doesn’t darken in the sun. And when I scrape the propolis, the finish doesn’t come off like paint. Also, the propolis doesn’t stick as much to the edges of the boxes. Great stuff.”

Brain S., Pure Tung Oil + Citrus Solvent

“Fast shipping, great product, reasonable prices. I used to protect and seal a few bee hives and they look great.”

Kurt F., Pure Tung Oil

“I can’t think of a better exterior treatment for my bee hives. It’s safe, natural and the perfect wood sealer for any bee colony!”

David I., Pure Tung Oil
I use tung oil on my beehives instead of paint. I have a hive on its third summer and it still repels water. A natural product that doesn’t (seem) to impact bee health. Recommended by FlowHive. Just stained another hive three weeks ago, moving bees in this week. Excellent product and company.
Jonathan C., Pure Tung Oil

“I took a long time to decide what I wanted to use to paint my beehives. I decided on Real Milk Paint, and I am so happy with the outcome! The directions were very easy to follow, and I liked that I could mix smaller quantities as I needed them.”

Patricia I., Real Milk Paint
“I applied Pure Tung Oil over Minwax Water-based Wood Stain to a cypress beehive and cedar hive stand. Thinned 1:1 with Citrus Solvent. Chose this product because of its low toxicity. Followed recommendation to brush on with a natural-bristle brush, wait 40 minutes and wipe off excess with a lint-free cloth (old t-shirt.) Have applied two coats so far, with a week curing time in between. Plan to add several more coats before assembling the hive and introducing honeybees in the early spring. Oil is very color neutral. Added a richness to the wood grain. I will be very interested to see how it holds to the weather. I plan to give it a light renewal coat next winter while the bees are not real active.”
Joel, Pure Tung Oil + Citrus Solvent

“I use REAL MILK PAINT products on ALL my Bee Hive Colonies as it is completely harmless to the bees and the bees LOVE the Citrus Oil…as do I… I am now pursuing color variations in an effort to aid the bees in locating their particular hive. This product is AMAZING!”

David B., Real Milk Paint + Pure Tung Oil + Citrus Solvent
“It is an excellent mixture that penetrated the wood, left a lovely color and apparent shield, and most importantly is non-toxic after airing outdoors. To begin, the odor was almost unnoticeable in the tung oil and the citrus solvent had a pleasing fragrance underneath the solvents. Clean-up was easy with just soap and water. The beehive was left outdoors after application to allow continued evaporation of the solvents before placement in the bee yard. I am very pleased to have found and use such quality products. Thank you.”
Penelope K., Pure Tung Oil + Citrus Solvent

“Used a combination of Pure Tung Oil and Citrus Solvent for a western red cedar beehive which has yet to spend a season in the weather. The application was straightforward and simple and the result beautiful.”

Erica M., Pure Tung Oil + Citrus Solvent

“LOVE THIS STUFF! Using Outdoor Defense Oil to seal wooden beehives. The coverage is great and it smells awesome!”

Kelly S., Outdoor Defense Oil

“I used the Half & Half on my bee hives, they look fantastic, much better than the boring white most people paint their hives!”

Janet M., Half & Half

“As a first-time user, I loved working with the product. I used Gypsy Pink on the outside of our beehives.”

Rebecca M., Gypsy Pink Real Milk Paint
“I bought some white paint and outdoor additive for use repainting beehives. The tutorial videos on the website were very helpful, as there was a small learning curve compared to the (toxic) paints I have used before. The shipping was fast and the overall experience was great. I plan to buy more in the future!”
Brain S., Soft White Real Milk Paint + Outdoor Additive

“I use Outdoor Defense on my beehives as a safe alternative to paint. It also shows off the beautiful grain in the wood while withstanding the weather probably better than outdoor paint. Love it!!!”

Sandia S., Outdoor Defense Oil

“Beautiful colors, fun to work with. Using Peacock and Earth Green for bee boxes and they look great.”

Ellen B., Peacock + Earth Green Real Milk Paint