Beehives,  DIY

How to Choose Wood and Paint for Beehives

In the wild, the home of a bee colony is called a nest.  Bees tend to build their nests in hollow trees or rocks. These nests are sometimes built exposed and consist of hanging rows of honeycomb.  The term beehive, however, refers to an artificial man made structure that houses bees. So, what are beehives made out of?

The outside of beehives are made out of wood.  The inside of a beehive is made out of beeswax.  

Beehives are made out of wooden boxes containing frames.  The inside of the beehive contains the bee colony, beeswax, and propolis. Beeswax is formed into cells that store brood, pollen, nectar, and honey.  

bee hive frames featured

What Are Beehives Made Out Of?

Ancient beehives were made of clay, mud, straw baskets, and bee gums (sections of hollow trees).  The problem with these hives is that inspections and harvesting honey is difficult. Often the entire colony was destroyed just to extract honey.  

Luckily, modern beehives have solved that problem  The Langstroth hive was patented in 1852. Langstroth beehives are usually made out of wood, but there is also a less used plastic beehive too.  Langstroth beehives consist of the following parts: a bottom board, boxes (with frames), an inner cover, and a top cover.  

If you are asking what are beehives made out of, and are referring to the outside of the beehive, the answer is wood. Manufacturers use many different types of wood when constructing beehives. Pine, cedar, and fir are the most commonly used wood for beehives.  

However, if you are asking what beehives are made out of, and are referring to the inside of the beehive, the answer is beeswax.  Worker bees produce beeswax from their 8 wax glands located in their abdomen. The bees use this wax to form hexagonal cells in the hive.  A mass of these cells is called honeycomb.  

Honeycomb is very important to the hive.  The cells are used to store nectar, pollen, and honey.  Most importantly, honeycomb houses and protects the brood of the colony – the eggs, larvae, and pupae. 

What Is The Best Wood For Beehives?

Beehives are made out of many different types of wood.  The reasons the manufacturer may choose one type of wood over the other is due to durability, financial, and regional reasons.  

It is important to choose a durable wood, as you need it to hold up against the elements and last for several seasons.  Financially, you also want a wood that isn’t too pricey. And lastly, the type of wood available depends on the region you are in.  

What is the best wood for beehives?  Most beehives are made out of pine, cedar,or fir. 


Pine is a great choice because it is affordable, easy to work with, and widely available.  There are different grades of pine. Standard pine may have some knots in it, but is structurally sufficient for building beehives.  Premium, or select pine costs more, but is more attractive looking. Premium pine is free of any knots and has a nice, straight wood grain. 


The natural oils of cedar wood gives it a wonderful smell and protects it from insects and rotting. It is an attractive and durable wood that many beehive builders love to use.  There are different types of cedar, but the most common is western red cedar. Cedar is not used quite as often as pine because of it’s cost, however, you cannot deny that cedar makes a beautiful beehive.    


Fir wood is widely used because of it’s stability and and non porous qualities. It’s tight, close grain lines means that the wood is strong and less prone to warping and twisting.  While it is possible for fir to expand or shrink due to exposure to moisture, fir always returns to it’s original shape. For this reason, builders enjoy using fir.  

What Color To Paint Beehives

While it is okay to leave beehives their natural wood finish, some beekeepers like to paint their beehives.  It is good to paint your beehive because it helps to protect the wood from the elements. The most important thing to do when painting beehives is to only paint the outside. Leave the inside, where to bees live, unpainted.  

But how do you know what color to paint beehives?  

White has always been a popular color for beehives because light colors reflect heat.  Alternately, beekeepers in colder climates have used dark colors to help their hives absorb heat.  But for the most part, the color of the beehive makes no difference to the bees.

Hives can be painted any color the beekeeper prefers.  


If you have multiple beehives painting them different colors can help to reduce drift.  Drift is when bees do not return to their home hive, and instead go to a neighboring hive.  This happens when there are many hives close together that all look the same.  

The bee becomes confused as to which hive it came from and instead enters a hive at the end of the row.  While some drift is not an issue, excessive drift can lead to disproportionate colonies and spread of disease.  

It is believed that painting hives different colors, or even painting large shapes or symbols on them helps bees to navigate back to the proper hive.  Facing the entrance to the hive in different directions helps with this as well.  

Blend In 

Some beekeepers like to paint their hives to camouflage them from the public.  To do this they choose a color that closely matches their house, or green to match surrounding foliage.  


Beehive boxes come in different sizes, and if you have a lot of them it can be difficult to keep track of them all. Some beekeepers like to assign a different color to each size box to help with this.  

Safe Paint For Beehives 

Painting your beehive helps to protect the wood from the elements, such as sun and rain.  But it is important to keep the hive safe for bees at the same time. Is there safe paint for beehives?

The best safe paint for beehives is a water based latex exterior paint with low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).   

VOCs are compounds that let off harmful chemicals that evaporate out of the paint.  These chemicals are responsible for the new paint smell and can contribute to health problems if inhaled.  Headache, nausea, airway, liver, and kidney damage are all side effects of exposure to VOCs.  

Because of this, it is best to limit exposure to these chemicals, especially when painting beehives.  Choose a paint that is labeled low VOC, under 50 is safest.  

Click Here for a List of Low VOC Paint 

Alternative to Paint 

Instead of painting your beehive you can use a nice stain or clear coating.  This will provide the hive some protection without hiding the natural beauty of the wood. As always, choose a stain with low VOCs.  

Another great natural alternative to paint is a beehive with waxed wood. The wax protects the wood from the elements and makes the hive look very attractive.

How to Paint Your Beehive 

Now that you know how to choose a safe paint for beehives, how do you paint your beehive?  

Paint the outside only, and leave the interior (where the bees live) bare.  The inside of boxes and frames should not be painted. After painting your beehive you must give it at least 1 week to dry and off-gas. 

Off-gassing occurs when chemicals evaporate out of paint as it dries. Make sure that the off-gassing process is complete before you add bees to the hive.  The paint’s curing time will be on the label, but many beekeepers like to add a few days (or even weeks) on to it to be safe.  

If you would like a painted beehive, but do not want to paint it yourself, you can buy a hive that is already painted or waxed.  Then you don’t have to worry about curing and off-gassing.  

How to Paint Beehives Infographic


A beehive is a man made structure that houses bees.  Beehives are usually made of wood and contain honeycomb.  The best wood for beehives are pine, cedar, or fir. The outside of the beehive can be painted any color the beekeeper wishes, as long as the paint is low VOC.