Painting a Hive

Thursday 29 April 2021

Got a new hive? Time to paint! Painting your beehive is a great way to improve the longevity of your woodenware. There are a few different options for protecting your hive bodies and this week we will review the best practices for painting your hive, meanwhile we will be painting ours!

Painting a Hive

The first step is to gather your materials. The best kind of paint to use on your beehive is a non-toxic, outdoor paint. It is good practice to apply a layer of primer and then one or two layers of an exterior paint. The priming layer can be either oil-based or latex. For the exterior coats, it is important to use a latex paint. Beehives become hot and humid as the bees work, and latex paint allows this moisture to escape. Oil-based paints trap moisture, causing paint to peel away and expose your hive. Another aspect of paint to consider is the VOC level. VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are chemicals that evaporate paint as it dries, sometimes call hardeners, and they can affect your bees and pheromone communication. To reduce this effect, choose a paint with VOC content of 50g/L or less (less is best!) and make sure you provide ample time for your hive to dry after painting. There are locally made paints which are VOC free and made intentionally for beehives, this is what we are using for our hives! In terms of color, get creative! Painting your hives different colors helps orient bees to their respective colony. Remember that dark colors will trap more heat, so avoid using very dark colors help keep your bees from overheating on hot summer days! Now you will need a roller, a tray, and a paintbrush.

Once you have all of your materials you are ready to paint! Only paint the surfaces of your hive which are exposed to the elements and not tread on by the bees. This includes the outside of the hive bodies, supers, and bottom boards. You can also paint the wooden bottom and sides of your outer covers. The inner cover should not be painted, as it will trap too much moisture. Also do not paint frames, hive entries nor entrance reducers. Painting the inside of your hive will be disturbing and detrimental to your bees. They are effective in protecting their home with a propolis liner, and this is the best option for the inside of your hive.

First apply a layer of your base paint to your hive and then one or two coats of your exterior latex paint. Start out by using a paintbrush to paint the handholds. Then you can use a roller to paint the rest of the hive with ease. If you are painting many hives, you can stack them on top of each other and paint them all together. Once your final layer is completely dry, you can add your beekeeper registration number to your hive. This is a great way to identify your hive and can be done neatly and easily with the help of a stencil. The label on your paint will indicate the time it takes the paint to cure. Allow at least this much time for your hive to dry before adding your bees, ideally wait a few additional days or weeks. This time is important because chemicals will be evaporating from the paint, making it safer for your bees.

When it comes to protecting your wooden hive ware, there are other options as well. Some beekeepers prefer to use a wood stain rather than paint, to allow the appearance of the wood to come through. Stains typically need to be applied more frequently than paint. As with your paint, be sure to get water-based stain with UV resistance.

Another option common option for protecting beehives is to use a paraffin wax dip. Paraffin wax has the added value of sterilizing hives against AFB. Applying a paraffin dip to your hives is practical if you have a lot of equipment or combine equipment with other beekeepers, as a special tank is required to melt and contain the wax and bee equipment.

Wood also can be treated with a wood preservative, as long as it is safe for the bees. Only use wood preservatives with an active ingredient of copper naphthenate, copper chromate, zinc naphthenate or copper quinolinolate, if you choose to do so. Be sure to avoid preservatives containing creosote, pentachlorophenol, CCA, ACA and ACZA. Preserving hives in this way is not necessary if you have hives made of a rot-resistant wood, sturdy assembly, and maintain your paint. Depending on the conditions of your apiary, it is best to repaint your hives every 3-5 years to keep them as strong as possible.

Protecting your hive, with paint or otherwise, is a good beekeeping practice. You will extend the lifetime of your equipment and provide a happy home for your bees!

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