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
So what’s the best paint for beehives? Is it water-based paint, latex paint 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 or lower VOC work 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 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.
Tung Oil for Beehives
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, 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.
“As a first-time user, I loved working with the product. I used Gypsy Pink on the outside of our beehives.”
“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!!!”
“LOVE THIS STUFF! Using Outdoor Defense Oil to seal wooden beehives. The coverage is great and it smells awesome!”
“I used the Half & Half on my bee hives, they look fantastic, much better than the boring white most people paint their hives!”
“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.”
“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.”
“Fast shipping, great product, reasonable prices. I used to protect and seal a few bee hives and they look great.”
“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.”
“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!”
“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.”
“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!”
“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!”
“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.”
“Beautiful colors, fun to work with. Using Peacock and Earth Green for bee boxes and they look great.”
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.