A well cared for beehive can last for years. One of the most important things a beekeeper can do to preserve their hives is to protect it from the elements. This is done by adding a coating to the beehive. So, what is the best coating for a beehive?
Disclosure: As an affiliate I may earn from qualifying purchases. This is at no cost to you and helps to keep this website running.
Why Coat a Beehive?
Applying coating to a beehive gives the wood protection from the elements. Beehives are outdoors, so they are exposed to sun, wind, rain, and snow all year round. Without a protective coating, the wood will deteriorate much faster than a coated beehive.
If you want your beehives to last for several years, it is best to apply some sort of protective coating to your hives. There are a few different coatings to choose from.
Different Coatings for Beehives
Paint is the most common coating, but is it the best coating for a beehive? When it comes to beehives, not all paints are created equal, so it’s really important that you check the paint’s VOC levels before using it.
VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. VOC levels refer to the amount of chemicals that evaporate out of the paint as it is drying. VOC’s are attributed to that new paint smell you may be familiar with. The process of this chemical evaporation is called off-gassing.
Be sure to paint only the outside of the hive and give it at least one week to off-gas, the longer the better. That’s because the chemicals from paint are not safe for bees and it can kill them.
If you are going to paint a beehive, you must choose a paint with a VOC level of 50 or below. The best paint coating for a beehive will have a VOC level of 0. That’s why natural paints, like milk paint, are sometimes used to coat beehives.
Applying a stain to the wood gives it a beautiful finish and seals the wood, protecting it from the elements. As much as I love beehive art, a hive with stained wood is also very beautiful. It’s hard to beat the look of natural wood.
Stain may not last quite as long as paint, as it is not as durable as latex paint, but you can still expect it to last several years. Wood stain works by soaking pigment directly into the wood, as opposed to covering the surface of the wood like paint.
Stain offers good protection against the sun by reflecting UV light. Wood stain also leaves the wood surface somewhat water resistant because it has soaked into the wood and bonded with it. In addition to staining the wood, some beekeepers apply a coat of sealant for added protection.
Wax is a sustainable and natural way to add a protective coating to beehives. Wax coated wood is strong against sun, rain, and snow. Furthermore, since beeswax is usually used to coat the wood, bees more readily accept wax coated hives.
Looks wise, beehives with a wax coating have a similar look to stained hives. The beeswax provides a really nice golden sheen to the wood that makes for a very attractive hive. The beeswax also has a pleasant sweet smell that both you and the bees will like.
Many hives are wax dipped, meaning that the hive (or unassembled hive parts) are dipped into a dipping tank filled with melted wax. This allows for the wax to impregnate the wood, offering superior protection. Because the wood is impregnated with the wax, it can last for several years.
Most people do not own a wax dipping tank, so it’s more common to buy a hive that has already been wax dipped. Wax coated hives can come assembled or unassembled. Because wax is all natural, there is no waiting period for drying or off-gassing, like paint and stain.
Best Coating for a Beehive
Between the 3 methods – paint, stain, and wax, I think the best coating for a beehive is wax. That is because I prefer a more natural, chemical free approach to beekeeping.
While paint and stain do a good job of protecting beehives from the elements, I cannot help but to be concerned about VOCs and exposing my bees to strong chemicals.
My favorite wax coated beehive is from Hoover Hives. Their beehives look great, perform great, are durable, and affordable.
Hoover Hives utilizes 2 coats of wax for extra protection. The first coating is an organic blend of paraffin and a mineral called Ozokerite. This blend of wax impregnates the wood and is what gives the hive durability. The second coating is 100% natural beeswax.
It is important to apply some sort of waterproofing coat to your beehives to prevent wood rot and warping. Beehives with a protective coating can last 2 to 3 times longer than wood that has been left untreated.
Paint, stain, and wax all provide sufficient waterproofing of beehives. Paint, especially exterior grade paint, is great for waterproofing beehives by coating the wood. Stain works by soaking into the wood fibers and creating a bond. Therefore, additional moisture is not able to absorb into the wood. Wax coated hives are constructed with wood that have been impregnated with wax and also covered with wax, so it is very efficient for waterproofing.
Another option for waterproofing beehives is tung oil. Tung oil is obtained from pressing the seed of the tung tree. It is commonly used for finishing and protecting wood. When using tung oil on beehives, be sure that it is 100% tung oil and free of any additives.
For best results, several coats of tung oil should be applied to the beehive, allowing the hive to dry for 24 hours between coats. Then, allow the hive to fully cure for up to 30 days before using it.
Beehives need a coating of some sort for protection from the elements. To me, the best coating for a beehive is wax because It is natural, sustainable, and bees more readily accept wax coated hives.