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While beekeeping can be considered an art in itself, some beekeepers have turned their beehives into literal works of art.  I’ve seen photos of many beautiful beehives, covered with intricate designs. 

Even if you are not planning on painting pictures on your hives, most beekeepers do paint their hives at least one color. It’s for more than just looks.  Painting beehives helps to protect the wood from the elements, thus making the hive last longer.  

The most important thing is that you must use safe paint for beehives. Other paint has too many chemicals that can be harmful to bees.  Also, remember to paint only the outside of your beehive, and leave the inside bare.

Safe Paint for Beehives

It is important to use safe paint for beehives.  Bees are sensitive to chemicals, so using the wrong paint can be harmful to their health.  The key to finding safe paint for beehives is to choose one with a low VOC.  

Choose a paint with a VOC level under 50. The lower, the better.

VOC stands for volatile organic compound level.  VOC’s refer to the chemicals that evaporate out of paint as it dries.  This process is known as off-gassing.  That new paint smell is caused by VOC’s.  

These chemicals are unstable and are harmful, causing health problems in humans.  Headaches, nausea, irritation to airways, liver, and kidney damage are all ailments that can occur if you breathe in VOC’s.  If VOC’s are this harmful to humans, you can imagine what it can do to bees.

Low VOC paints mean that they have less volatile organic compounds, and thus, require less off=gassing. These paints have less odor than regular paint and dry quicker.  

When it comes to VOC’s in paint, less is better.  Choose a paint with the lowest level.  Generally, a VOC level of under 50 is considered low VOC.  

Low VOC Paints

Click here for a full list of low and zero VOC paint.

Eco Friendly Paint

Milk Paint

Milk paint has been gaining popularity because it is zero VOC and eco friendly.  Milk paint is mineral based and contains milk protein. It comes as a dry powder base with pigments, which then must be mixed with water to turn into paint.  

Milk paint is good if you want more of a matte finish. The consistency tends to be lumpy, so it’s important to mix it thoroughly.  

Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is also mineral based and low to zero VOC.  It dries very quickly and has a flat, chalky finish.  Chalk paint usually comes premixed and is also completely odor free. 

Paint Alternatives for Beehives

If you are not able to find safe paint for beehives, or would just like an alternative, beeswax is a sustainable product that is great for protecting wood.  

Hoover Hives features wax coated wood in their Langstroth hive.  First, they dip their boxes in organic earthwax. Then, it gets a second coat of 100% beeswax. The beeswax not only protects the wood, but it also gives it a beautiful, golden finish.  

Benefits of Painting Your Beehive

Even if you are not planning on painting an elaborate design on your beehive, it is still good to give your hives a coat of paint.  

Protection from the Elements

The biggest benefit of painting your beehives is that the paint offers the hive protection from the elements. The sun, rain, wind, and snow can cause damage to the wood of your beehives over time.  Painting the wood helps it to last longer.

Organization

Some beekeepers paint their beehives to help with organization. Beehive boxes come in different sizes, so some beekeepers like to assign a different color for each size. This helps them to determine what size box they are looking at right away. 

Blend In

While some enjoy painting their hives bright colors and fun designs, others want their hives to blend in. To do this they will paint their hives the same color as their house. That way, the beehives will be less noticeable.  Another color used to camouflage beehives is green, because it will blend in with the foliage around them. 

Drift

Painting your beehives can help your bees too.  Honeybees are usually experts at navigating back to their hive.  But sometimes when there are several hives next to each other they can get a little confused as to which one is theirs. 

Drift occurs when a bee enters a neighboring hive instead of it’s own.  Sometimes the bees of that colony will see the bee as an intruder and kill it. Therefore, it’s best to avoid drift as much as possible.

If you have several beehives you can paint them different colors or different designs to help your bees navigate back to their own hive.  

Temperature Regulation

Painting your beehives can also aid in temperature regulation, to make the hive more comfortable for your bees. In warm climates, light colors like white are reflective and can help to cool the hive during the summer.  In cold areas, a dark color can absorb heat from the sun in the winter.

Tips for Painting Your Beehive

  • Paint the outside only and leave the interior bare.
  • Allow your beehives to dry and off-gas for at least 1 week.
  • Use a primer before your final coat of paint.  Primer helps to seal and protect the wood and helps with moisture and mildew.
  • Do not paint the entrance reducer, frames, and inner cover. 

Summary

It is important for beekeepers to use safe paint for beehives.  Safe paint will have a VOC level of 50 or less.  Eco friendly paints like milk paint and chalk paint can also be used.  An alternative to painting a beehive is giving your hive a wax coating instead.  

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