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Can I Go Without Tung Oil?


I am setting out my flow hive this weekend and didn’t coat with tung oil. My nuc will be here in 2 days, so my question is: 1.) Would there be a problem if I didn’t coat my hive with tung oil?..and, 2.) If I did manage to get tung oil on the hive today or tomorrow, can I put the nuc in so soon afterwards?

Thanks in advance for your feedback.


Welcome back!

Well, it will weather to a light grey, and it won’t last as long, but otherwise no problems.

If you use PURE Tung Oil (not Minwax), it should be fine. It remains sticky for 2 to 4 weeks, depending on how thickly you coat it and whether you rub it off, but it is not toxic, and I am sure the bees won’t care. I have re-coated the walls of an occupied hive with no problems. I didn’t do the landing board for obvious reasons! :wink:


For Cedar you may be ok – for pine I’m not sure that’s a good idea long term.

If you put Tung Oil on it now, and let it de-gas for 24h it should be fine. The problem here is that often times you need multiple coats of Tung Oil.

A furniture maker’s generic finish formulation: 1/3 Tung, 1/3 Boiled Linseed oil, 1/3 oil-based poly. GREAT finish. I keep this in my shop at all times. This is a wipe-on finish that builds up and really protects well.


Thank you for the quick response! So maybe I’ll put the nuc in and coat later! There is hope for me, lol…:wink:


Thanks MichaelD…I love this idea!


With that finish formulation you can either go with a “flat”, satin or gloss tung/BLO/poly finish… I prefer a satin finish, personally. You build the finish by putting on a coat, letting it dry, lightly sanding with very fine sandpaper between coats (I use initially 400-500 grit on the first couple coats and work up to 2000 on the next-to-last coat).


Hey @greekbecky - I had my Flow-issue cedar brood box, bottom board & roof out ‘naked’ last year, with just a little greying mostly on the roof as a result. This year with more time to prepare I decided to cost all but the bottom/landing board with tung oil. I gave the roof a good sanding first, which brought back some of the cedar tones.


I love the idea, but I would not put this onto an established hive. Fine for empty boxes, then give them enough time to cure. I have had some strong reactions from bees even to a Sharpie-type marker pen - I think the volatile solvents in it can get them pretty upset.



Curing is the key – once the final finish has had 24-48 hours it is probably safe. Personally, I give all my work a week before I consider the finish 1) De-gassed enough and 2) Hard enough for everyday wear.


Here is what my cedar hive looks like after one year in a paddock of South Australia with no finish applied. The brood box is one year old the super has been on for 8 months.

Definitely does not look as pretty as the ones people have applied a finish to, but…I wont be having to face the problem of how to re-apply. :wink:


Susie - it looks good. Do you have a couple of stainless screws missing on the lower box side panel?


Wow, would you look at that? I wish I could blame it on those pesky bees, but it’s probably me and my woeful woodworking skills.

I’ve also got a split in the wood at the front, I did that when I was putting it together and forced the joins together. This is my Founders hive, and I found the corners not very precisely cut. Very different to the precise laser cut ones that Flow sells now.


If I was you- I would get some tung oils onto that hive one day… my mum has the cedar version- we coated it- but after 12 months the wood had greyed considerably- especially the roof and base. Also the roof panels had either shrunk and/or the screws ‘walked out’ as there were large gaps at all the joints meaning it would definitely leak in a storm and also lose heat a lot.

I took it off- hot wax dipped and painted it- and added more screws.

Just recently I reapplied more tung oil to the whole hive in situ. Whilst your hive still looks fine- I feel sure it will last better with some tung oil…


Hey WillungaRange, this picture is really helpful, thank you. It looks like I won’t have time to put a finish on my hive as my nucs came in yesterday. I do have an extra Flow hive that I’m cobbling together from a damaged parts that I’ll finish and put out next year…now to watch the set up videos!

Thanks to all for the great advice…:grin:


Ok, now that I still have you guys on this post…one more question if you don’t mind…:blush:

My hive is assembled, but I’m looking for the first time set up video (sort of a checklist before putting a nuc in the Flow hive). I recall seeing one describing the need to insert a key into the frame (or is that just when you want to harvest). If anyone has a first-time set up video link, please share it with me. Thanks again.


Hi @greekbecky, you shouldn’t have your Flow super on the hive at the start, so you don’t need to worry about this. However, the answer is that the Flow frame cells can go out of alignment in shipping, so put the Flow key into the TOP slot and rotate at the left side, again in the middle, then at the right side. That will set all of the cells to honey storage mode, and make sure none are in drain mode.


A good idea- at this stage is to have a play with your flow frames to get to understand how they work.

Setting the cells in the closed or open position is easy- you simply turn the key in the top or bottom slot respectively. When you install them in a hive you want them in the closed position: it is impossible to get this wrong as the little caps that cover the slot holes can only be put in place when the cells are in the closed position. Use the key in the slots and watch how the cells change. For the majority of their life the cells are always in the closed position: this is when the cells form the comb structure. The open position is only used when you harvest your honey. In the open position the cell become channels that allow the honey to flow downwards into the channel at the bottom of the frame. After you have harvested you immediately re-set them to the closed position.

One turn of the key is enough to set the cells where you want them: however there is no harm in making multiple turns of the keys to ensure all rows of cells are correctly set- in fact it’s a good idea. You can place the key in the middle or at either edge and turn the key. Have a play with your frames until you understand what is going on.


Hi Jack - I assume it is possible to put the cap in if you closed the end cells with the key, but for one reason or another didn’t put the key all the way in to close all of them. What do you think?


that is probably true. That’s another reason to play with them until you fully understand what is going on and how they work. It’s a good idea to look at the faces of the frames to see if all the rows are correctly aligned. Whilst I would harvest in increments- I would always reset the frames by inserting the key all the way- and I also turn it at both sides of the channel- and in the center.


That’s a good suggestion to play with them before setting it up. I’m guessing the cells arrive in the closed position. I just wish there was an instructional video…could’ve sworn I saw one. I’m also sure I’m more nervous than I have to be.