Painting pine hive

We have a pine flow hive that we painted with oil before we set it up and put bees in. We’ve now noticed its starting to go black and want to put an exterior grade house paint on it. Has anyone had any experience in painting hives when the bees are in already? We don’t want to upset them with the paint but want to make sure we seal the hive so it lasts. Thanks in advance for anyone’s help!! :grinning:

Just stick them in another already painted box while you paint that one.



Rob’s advice is good, but if you can’t do that , it is possible, as I have done it. On a cool day towards evening (but above 10 degrees), when not many bees are about, you could probably do three sides. Close the front entrance for a short while and you can do almost all the front. Let the paint be dry to the touch before opening it. If there is a good breeze, the water based paints are dry to touch quickly.

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A word of warning before you paint the whole hive,putting paint over a oil treated timber may not work, I suggest you test a small area first as the oil may stop the paint from sticking and you could end up with a big mess
Regards Brian

Hi Snapper, thank you for your help. We had thought maybe an oil based primer first, followed by a standard exterior house paint. What do you think? :slight_smile:

Hi Dan2, thanks so much for your help. Good to know others have done this! That sounds like a great plan. We’re going to have to use an oil based paint, so hopefully that will be relatively quick to try also. Thanks again.

Hi Rob, thanks for your help. We’ve only got the one box unfortunately, but that would’ve been good.

I’m worried about the oil based paint. I only used water based. Oil based is a different matter I think. What sort of oil finish are you trying to paint over?


Hi Dan2, we used a tung oil, so hoping to paint over that.

This will need some research and enquiries by phoning paint shops. I’ll research it this afternoon myself and post back.

I am in agreement with Rob on this one. Don’t paint with the bees in it, that’s asking for trouble. Boxes unassembled are cheap (typically $18 - $25), and you are going to need an extra come the spring build up.


I painted my entire cedar hives with tung oil, but as I wanted to paint the roof and landing board with water based house paint, I gave those surfaces a layer of water based sealer/undercoat first. Over the tung oil layer. No problem and very quick drying.
I would not use oil based paint on hives, certainly not with bees inside.
What I don’t know is if tung oil reacts differently on cedar compared to pine. But if it’s dry, it should work fine.

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I would not recommend that with bees in it. They hate the solvent smell, and will let you know about that for weeks, assuming they stay. It doesn’t off-gas all that fast. About 4 weeks for bees to stop reacting to most brands. If you are determined to use oil-based paint, follow @Rodderick and @Rmcpb’s advice - rehouse them in another box while it dries.

You can paint over tung oil with a latex or acrylic (water-based) paint, just sand it well with about 200 grade sandpaper first, along the wood grain. The paint will stick just fine if you do that.


Hi Dawn, thanks for your help. That’s good to know. Do you think the bees will be disturbed at all if we were to sand the hive?

Hi Webclan, I’m not sure if the pine is becoming weathered or maybe its just a mould of some sort. Its like a black-ish sort of coating that is appearing on the roof and on the edges of the hive, even after painting with tung oil.

Thanks so much Dan2!

Ok…I’ve just spoken to Greg Sceney at Sceneys in Victoria (they make a pure tung oil - even available in a 4l container btw). He was very helpful, but the chemistry is beyond me. Tung oil is a long chain hydrocarbon, a fatty acid like omega 3, C16-C18. UV light and a breeze helps them dry apparently. Linseed oil and linoleic acid are similar. There is double bonding (or sometimes triple) which helps it link up and harden. Tung oil is great in that it is really safe to use.

Greg believes that the acrylic paint will stick ok to the tung oil, particularly if sanded like @Dawn_SD suggests and particularly if the oil finish is oldish. An oil paint should also stick ok. As to mould with tung oil, he suggests a small amount of mould killer mixed with it. Obviously this removes the safety of the tung oil to some extent. I would not use oil paint with the bees inside as the fumes will definitely worry them.

Going back to the original question of whether or not anyone has had experience of painting a hive with bees in it, yes I have. I have re-applied tung oil with the bees inside with no problem at all. I’ve even done some of the front of the hive. I’ve also acrylic painted straight over a tung oiled radiata pine hive with the bees inside (without sanding) with no issue as yet as to adherence of the paint and no issue with angry bees. Mind you, my bees are very placid Tasmanian bees :grinning:
I’ve also painted different coloured acrylic paint over previously painted hives with the bees inside without issue. I am very careful when I do it as I mentioned before. I found the biggest issue being getting paint on my gloves and bee suit. I didn’t sand, even though I should because I was being lazy and because I thought it would rouse the bees up. You could sand the hive one day and come back the next to paint it I guess.

If you don’t want to sand, there is a Zinsser product called Smart Prime (made in America and expensive - bought some the other day for the house) which is an undercoat paint (water based) that sticks to all surfaces without sanding or deglossing. A coat of that over the tung oil and then your exterior water based paint will be fine I am sure.


Here is a photo of the can.

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Hi Dan2, this is such brilliant info. Thank you (and everyone else) so much for taking the time to help! I really appreciate it. Im now wondering if the black residue on the hive is even that harmful and perhaps just another tung oil coat could do the job? Or would you recommend using some kind of exterior paint (will now avoid oil based to be safe), just to be sure? Perhaps I could post a photo of the hive to show you what I’m referring too. Thanks again! :slight_smile:

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It would be black mould. I have it on the roof of the Flow hive too. To be honest, it doesn’t worry me at all. Black mould is everywhere. It is not a good thing to have inside your home (toxic) but on the roof of the hive is fine I am sure.

Everything you put on timber which is exposed to the elements will eventually break down in some way over time.

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