Painting Hive Equipment

By Paul Kelly

In many ways beehives aren’t much different than our own houses. Both provide entrances, ventilation, insulation and a weather- proof exterior.  As with houses, paint is used to seal wooden hive parts and is the first defense against the elements. Finish applied to hive components will protect your bees and your investment. Beehives will last for generations if the finish coating is maintained. Unfinished wood will rot quickly.

The interior of a beehive is quite humid. This fact is important when we consider the type of paint to use. Oil based top coats should be avoided as they form a vapor barrier and are prone to peeling caused by trapped condensed moisture.  We wouldn’t put a vapor barrier on the outside wall surface of our own homes for similar reasons. In my opinion, the most durable finish for beehives is a single coat of oil based exterior primer followed by two coats of latex exterior paint.  These materials form porous, breathable, coatings so moisture is not trapped.

Paint or chemical wood preservatives shouldn’t be used on interior surfaces because they could contaminate hive products. Bees do a remarkable job of painting the hive’s interior walls with propolis.  Let them do their own decorating.

A quick, cheap, way to paint hive equipment is to stack it up, stabilize the stack by putting something heavy on top, and apply paint with a long handled roller. Recessed hand -holds in supers can be painted with a brush prior to using the roller. Be sure to follow the paint manufactures recommendations regarding surface preparation and recoat times.

What the best colour?  Avoid very dark colours so your hives don’t overheat in the sun. Bees orient better to hives with a variety of colours so go wild!

Originally Published in the Ontario Bee Journal