As a beekeeper, you’ve probably noticed that bee boxes tend to be painted in different colors. Many beekeepers, especially commercial beekeepers, tend to paint their boxes a standard white color. This is the most familiar look for a beehive and is perfectly acceptable. However, some beekeepers – particularly backyard hobbyists – prefer to let their artistic side run wild! Either choice is fine; but as always in beekeeping, there are a few basic guidelines to consider.
Should you even paint your beehive? The answer is yes. There are several reasons why bee boxes should be painted—for both, the benefit of the bee colony and for the beekeeper.
Paint helps your boxes last longer. After a season or two exposed to the elements, you can expect your bee boxes to experience some wear and tear. Environmental forces like sun, rain and temperature changes can warp, crack, rot, or otherwise deteriorate the wood. A good layer of paint will help protect the wood by minimizing damage from weather, keeping your bee boxes looking great for longer.
Painting your bee box can also help with temperature regulation. Light paints, such as white, can help reflect sunlight and keep the hive cooler in hot temperatures. Dark paints can help absorb the sun’s warmth and keep the hive warmer in the winter. Depending on the climate you live in, you may wish to choose either light or dark paint for your bee box.
Sometimes beekeepers choose to be discreet about their beekeeping endeavor – not all neighbors are a fan of bees after all. Painting the beehive the color of the surrounding buildings or environment can help camouflage it from unwanted attention from neighbors, vandals, or other prying eyes.
There are a lot of options for painting a beehive when it comes to color. You may wish to stick with plain white, or you may prefer to get artistic and paint fun designs on your bee box — anything goes! If you prefer the beauty of the natural wood grain, you can also use a clear coat to protect your bee box without changing its color.
While the choice of color is solely up to each beekeeper, we do have a couple important recommendations. For instance, sticking to light pastel colors or white will help keep your hive cool during warmer months.
Also, painting different colors may be helpful if you are raising your own queens, and are painting two-way or four-way queen rearing boxes for queen mating. Using different colors, one for each side of the box will assist with the mating process.
Whichever color you choose for your bee box, make sure the paint you choose is safe for the health of your bees. It’s best to use a non-toxic, water-based paint that is low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs ) – which are toxic chemicals that can release as the paint dries. Since the box will be outdoors, be sure to choose an exterior-grade paint that is meant for outdoor use. Always allow enough time for the paint to fully cure before introducing any bee colonies to the box. This will prevent your colony from encountering any VOCs or sticky wet paint. Finally, and importantly, only paint the exterior of your bee box. Never paint areas where the bees will walk or live, which includes the inside and entryways to the box.