As a beginning beekeeper, you may notice that many other beekeepers have hives that are a variety of colors. I remember when I first got started I was worried that bright colors might irritate the bees. You might even be a seasoned beekeeper who notices fellow beekeepers having painted beehives.
Sure, the painted hives can look more attractive to visitors, but you might wonder what color should a beehive be?
What Color is a Beehive?
The color of a beehive will depend on what you need for your hive. In hotter months or areas, hives painted white will reflect heat better. In colder months or areas, a hive that is painted a dark color will absorb and store the heat better. Or, you might paint your beehive to blend in with its surroundings. Ultimately, the ideal beehive color will vary based on what you need for your hive.
The color of a beehive might seem to be a trivial thing, but it can have big impacts on your bees and their honey output. Painting your beehives is beneficial for your bees, but it also is good for you because the paint can extend the life of your beehive and make it more appealing.
Purposes of a Beehive’s Color
For some people, the color of a beehive might be the last concern they have when they construct or buy beehives. Naturally, it would seem that the primary focus should be on the overall structure of the hive, not its appearance.
In reality, the color of a beehive can play a much larger role in the health of your hive. The bees themselves benefit from varying hive colors, but your life as a beekeeper is also made much easier, which can benefit your bees in turn.
Traditionally, beehives have been painted white. Logically, this makes sense; many farms in earlier centuries had white fences, houses, barns, etc. that meant there was usually some white paint around.
It is important to note that paint can harm bees if it is applied incorrectly. Paint only the exterior of a beehive, and use paint that has low volatile organic compound chemicals, which can harm bees. Be sure to let the paint dry completely before introducing bees to the hive.
The color of a beehive can impact its inside temperature. Ideally, the beehive will be warm enough for bees to be productive but will not be too hot. The same is true for cooler temperatures. Temperature in your beehive can affect your bees’ health and their production, so it is important to make sure the temperature is where it should be.
If your hive is in a spot that receives a lot of sunlight, you likely need to make sure that the hive does not get too hot. This is especially important if you live in a warm climate. One solution to your beehive getting too hot is to paint it white or another light color.
Light colors, especially white, reflect sunlight. This deflects some of the heat that comes from the sun’s rays. Hence, this traditional look also holds a sense of purpose besides being historically common.
On the other hand, you can intentionally paint your beehive to help it retain heat. This is beneficial if you live in a cooler climate, but it will likely not make a lot of difference if the hive does not receive any direct sunlight.
For beehives in cooler environments that receive at least partial sun, dark paint may help keep the hive warmer. Dark colors absorb heat, which can keep the inside of your beehive at the temperature it needs to hold.
Many beekeepers have more than one hive that they tend to. As the number of hives increases, it can be harder for the beekeeper to remember which beehive holds a given colony. Even more difficult is a bee’s ability to find its way back to its home hive if they all look identical, contributing to the problem of drift.
Bees that go into the wrong hive can be attacked by the colony that resides there, and this has dire consequences if the attacked bee was the queen. To make it easier for bees to identify their respective hives, color can be a huge help.
While bees do not see color the same way that humans do, they can distinguish between some colors and shapes. Consider painting your beehives different colors to help your bees identify their hives. Different colors and bold shapes stand out to bees, so they can have an easier time associating the appearance of a hive with it being their home.
Some people find that they prefer to paint their beehives to match their surroundings. This is common for people who have beehives near their suburban homes or others who want to minimize the appearance of their hives.
Beyond the beekeeper’s preference for camouflage paint on a beehive, it can protect the bees as well. A beehive that blends in with its surroundings is less likely to be disturbed by curious visitors.
Beekeeper Benefits of Painted Beehives
Now that the benefits of a painted beehive have been established for the bees themselves, it is time to focus on what the beekeeper gains from adding color to the beehive. Some people might say that the color of a beehive benefits the beekeeper as much, if not more, than the bees.
Regardless of what color you choose, painting your beehive protects the wood. When wood is left untreated, it will succumb to the natural elements much faster than wood that has a protective coating on it.
You might prefer to keep the wood of your beehive its natural color while still wanting to protect it. In that case, consider using a wood stain or sealant that keeps the color natural while still adding protection.
Protecting the wood of your beehives increases their durability. Not only do you have less maintenance to do, but you also save money and effort in the long run because your beehives will last much longer.
Naturally, painting a beehive can give it a more visually appealing look. Everyone has different tastes, but there is no hard or fast rule that defines what color a beehive must be. You can stick with the classic, clean look of a white beehive, or you can add different colors for a varied look.
Some beekeepers will paint their hives different colors to make it easier to identify which colony is in which hive. This is especially helpful if you have many hives that are around the same size. While you can sometimes distinguish hives based on their sizes, this is not always possible as they grow. Color coordination can make a beekeeper’s life much easier.
Since bees also rely on the painted appearance of their beehives, you can have fun decorating your hives to be unique. The bees may not understand what symbols mean, but they can recognize the structure as their hive. Your beehive does not have to just be a plain color.
As a beekeeper, your goal is primarily to make sure that your bees are as productive and healthy as they can be. This goal is why you build your hives in a certain way, care for them in particular methods, and paint your hives.
Painting your beehive a color with a purpose of benefiting the hive also benefits the beekeeper. Tailoring the color of your beehive to your bees’ needs can support their production and health. Thus, you receive better honey and have a much healthier population.