Can You Paint A Beehive With Bees In It?

painting a beehive with bees inside

Keeping bees requires several maintenance tasks for the bees themselves and keeping the beehives in good condition. One method to extend the lifespan of your beehives and provide better temperature control is to paint your beehives. Can you paint a beehive while the bees are still in it, or can you only paint empty hives this way?

A beehive can be painted with bees in it. The best time to paint the hive is in the early morning. Wear a full bee suit as a precaution, and use a bee-safe paint. Start at the back of the beehive and work quickly towards the front of the hive. Do multiple coats on separate days.

Beehives need maintenance to extend their usable life and protect them from the weather. This beehive care is good for the hives and good for the bees! Painting an occupied beehive can present a challenge, but there are ways to get this done with minimal disturbance to the colony!

Is It Possible To Paint A Beehive With Bees Inside?

Painting a beehive is necessary for maintaining your hives and keeping the bees happy and productive. Painting an unoccupied hive is a walk-in-the-park and can be done at your leisure.

However, if the beehive is occupied, you must take some additional precautions to protect yourself and the bees.

The first part of the process is to perform an external examination of the beehive. This inspection will help you decide if painting the hive with the bees inside is worthwhile or if you need a different strategy.

If the beehive needs other maintenance besides the painting, relocating the bees to a new beehive would be better. This strategy would allow you to give the beehive a good overhaul, including a new paint job, at your leisure.

However, if the beehive only needs a new coat of paint, the job can be done while the bees are inside.

How to paint a hive with bees inside

There are several pertinent steps to consider when painting an occupied beehive. The first and most important beehive painting consideration is always wearing adequate protection when painting the beehive.

Even if you think you know your bees and are generally docile when you move around the hive, painting the hive will require unusual disturbance. The unusual activity may cause the bees to become defensive.

You do not want to be inadequately protected should your bees take exception to the unusual activity and the paintbrush scraping across the hive.

Start The Beehive Paint Job In The Early Morning

The time of day you begin the beehive painting job is an important planning aspect for successfully completing the task with minimal disturbance to the bees. You should choose a time when the bees are less active.

The best time to paint a beehive with bees still in it is in the early morning, preferably before the sun has risen. The rising sun triggers activity in the hive, and the bees begin their daily duties.  

Time your painting of the hive to begin when there is enough light to see what you are doing, but before the sun peeks above the horizon. This timeframe should give you ample time to complete the paint job before the bees become too active.

If you need to give the hive two coats of paint, do not try and do both coats on the same day. Give the hive one coat of paint, then do the second coat the next day or a couple of days later.

Work Quickly When Painting A Beehive With Bees Inside

Working quickly and efficiently when painting a beehive is key to getting the job done with minimal disturbance and completing the job before the sun rises.

Get all your gear ready and place it within easy reach with the paint tin lids loosened and the paint already stirred, and your brushes ready.

This preparation will minimize unnecessary, time-wasting activities during the paint job. Work as quickly and gently as possible while painting, trying to jostle the hive as little as possible.

Start Painting At The Rear Of The Beehive

Before you begin painting the hive, use a clean paintbrush to sweep debris, dust, and other dirt off the surface of the beehive.

When you begin painting, start at the back of the beehive. The bees occupying the hive are less concerned about activity at the back of the hive and are more likely to ignore any perceived disturbance.

Starting at the front of the hive will get the bees to come out to investigate, and they will bother you throughout the paint job and continuously become stuck in the paint as you go.

Leaving the front of the beehive till last will allow you to have completed the bulk of the painting before the bees become too interested in what you are doing.

Do Not Paint The Beehive Baseboard Landing Platform

By the time you get to the front of the beehive, the sun will be starting to rise above the horizon, and the bees will have noticed your presence.

Painting the baseboard landing area of the hive will get paint on the bees, and they will carry the paint into the hive, and it could kill the bees and contaminate the hive.

The best method to paint the landing area is to perform this task at night. Close off the entrance to the hive with an entrance gate. If you do not have a hive gate, a piece of sponge squeezed into the entrance will block the gap and prevent the bees from coming out.

The sponge is porous and will allow air to enter the hive and prevent overheating. Paint the baseboard and give it at least 15 minutes to dry, or until it is no longer tacky to the touch. Be careful when opening the gate or removing the sponge to allow the bees to come out. They may come out ready to attack you to defend their hive.

What Paint to use

The best paint to apply to a beehive with bees inside is a paint with a low VOC level. Volatile Organic compounds, or VOC, are the amount of fumes the paint will off-gas while drying.

Paint with a VOC of less than 100 should be the minimum, but a VOC of under 50 would be preferable. 

The paint should be exterior quality paint to provide durability and protection of the hive against the elements. We have found that roof paint is a good option if it has the required VOC rating.

When it comes to color choice for painting a beehive, a light color that does not absorb heat would be the best choice. Dark colors can cause the internal temperature of the beehive to become untenable for the bees, particularly in the heat of summer, and could cause the bees to abscond.

Can you paint the inside of a beehive?

The inside of a beehive should never be painted but should be left as raw wood. The inside of the beehive should be kept as natural as possible to avoid any chemical contamination of the inside of the hive.

Paint isn’t a natural substance and even if you’re using low VOC paint, if you paint the interior of the hive, it will continue to offgas for a long period. This “odor” will disturb the honey bees! 

Perhaps to the extent that they abscond from the hive!

In nature, honey bees often take up residence inside hollow logs. Raw wood is something they have evolved with. So unpainted wood provides the closest reproduction of a natural hive.

Nature knows best… 

Studies have shown that wood is naturally antibacterial! For example, a wooden chopping board will kill most of the bacteria left on its surface. This property will contribute to the overall health of the beehive interior.

The natural wood in the hive also helps the bees with humidity control inside the hive. The wood will absorb moisture inside the hive, limiting mold growth and helping the honey mature and ripen rather than ferment due to excessive moisture.

Protecting the exterior of the hive is logical for extending the life of the wood against harsh weather. But you should leave the inside of a hive unpainted.

Conclusion

A beehive can be painted with the bees still inside so long as some precautions are taken to limit your safety risks and minimize the disturbance to the bees.

The correct choice of low VOC paint is crucial to prevent poisoning the bees or contaminating any honey in the hive.

This is a completely feasible task with proper planning, and most beekeepers perform this type of paint job regularly without incident.

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