A little help please

We built the flow Hive last year. With three coats of varnish. We loaded it up with the bees and everything is fine. The varnish looks like it’s coming off a little bit . does anyone know if it’s okay to revarnish it with the bees in the hive?

Hello and welcome to the Flow forum!

I would say that it depends on what kind of varnish you used, and where you intend to recoat.

I have reapplied 100% Tung Oil to the outside of the hive walls with bees inside. Tung oil is not toxic and can be used on food preparation surfaces, so I am comfortable with doing that. The bees didn’t seem to mind it.

However, if you used a solvent-based polyurethane varnish, I certainly wouldn’t apply it with bees inside the hive. They hate those kind of smells, and may abscond (perhaps after attacking you first). :hushed: You will probably want to sand off the damaged area too, and they don’t like the noise of sanding much either.

If it was a water based varnish, you would probably be OK applying it to the outside walls, but don’t put any on the landing board. Also, don’t do it if there is any chance of bearding outside the hive - bees will get stuck if it isn’t dry.


Hi Jon. What Dawn said makes a lot of sense to me.

I have the original Flow cedar hive and not knowing much about coatings, I varnished it using the best quality exterior grade varnish I could buy. I think it was marine varnish which one would think it is made for very harsh environments. It was in my opinion a big mistake.

Like you, the varnish started to come off shortly afterwards even though my hive was mostly in the shade. The roof was the worst. The cedar timber warped, the varnish cracked and water went in and the timber started to slowly rot. Cedar is not supposed to rot, but it still did.

I should have used tung oil like Dawn because I like the natural wood finish, and can be re-applied without much drama.

What I eventually did, was bought another hive, painted it with water based paint. I find Wattyl or Taubmans exterior paints here in Oz quite good and have a “lifetime” warranty, whatever that is. Then I put my bees in the new painted hive while I sanded back and painted the original one.

The roof is a problem because I find that the timber shingles warp and leak water. What I did was sanded it back to bare timber, filled all the overlaps with gap filler compound, gave it one coat of paint. Then I sprayed the outside three coats of Selleys Roof and Gutter Spray Seal to make it really watertight. This is paintable and you can paint it any colour you like.I also painted the inside of the roof to stop it from absorbing moisture.

This solved my leaking roof problem once and for all.


There is another approach which you may like to consider.
Many beekeepers are coming to appreciate the value of hot wax dipping of hive boxes. This involves dipping the components in molten paraffin wax, at a high temperature (probably at least 120 degrees C, and not hotter than 160 degrees C). In these conditions the wax will penetrate very deeply into the cellular structure of the wood, making it completely waterproof. If you cannot arrange to dip the equipment, then a substitute process (but not as effective in achieving deep penetration) is to use a hot-air blower (such as you might use for burning off paint) to melt paraffin wax onto the wooden surfaces, and using the hot air blast to make the wax penetrate the wood as much as possible.

Another option to using paraffin wax is to use a more friendly bees wax for treating bee boxes for the same result. Many of the folks on the forum have had great result with bees wax. No personal experience with it myself thou.

Using beeswax to provide protection to a hive box may be a totally valid method, but not everyone has lots of beeswax to do that sort of thing. Beeswax is much more expensive and valuable than paraffin wax, and the bees are totally happy to live in paraffin wax treated boxes. My bees actually have been totally happy to build bridge comb and burr comb directly onto paraffin waxed surfaces inside a hive box, even though I would be quite happy if they didn’t.


I totally agree with your points given. Wouldn’t it be great if someone came up with something bee friendly to give them the hint not to make burr comb. :grinning: :grinning: That would make a bee keepers life so much easier.