Tung Oil or Water Based Paint, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Hi All,
I have painted 2 of my Flow Hives but with the new Flow2 Hives, I would like to make the most of the timber finish. So I asked around about using Tung Oil to seal the outside of the hive.
The advice I got was that Tung Oil is not suitable for outside use, that it should be used for internal painting/oiling.
I used to have boats and used Intergrain Varnish, or Cabots Natural on the “bright works”, however I don’t think these products would be suitable for a hive due to their chemicals.
So question is:

  1. Tung Oil : Can it be used for the sealing of the outside timber of the hives or not?
  2. If you recommend Tung Oil, is there a particular one or are they all the same?
  3. How often will the oil need to be re-done?
    Thanks for any advice.

Kelly bees has a natural wood finishing treatment

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Hi Jasper,

One of the things to consider is your climate. The Gold Coast is really wet and warm compared to many other places where people keep bees. Water is a problem for wood and any sort of finish upon it, including paint. Also, the UV and other things, break down paint over time. Also, your climate would suit wood rotting fungus and also support mould growth. In my experience, where water sits (like on the entrance) is a problem for any finish, paint or tung oil etc. Where water doesn’t tend to sit (like the sides), the finish will last longer of course. Sceneys in Aus.(Victoria) make a pure tung oil.

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I would still be tempted to paint the roof with a water based external paint. I haven’t used it but I’ve seen hives finished with a lanotech product. Not sure how it holds up relative to Tung oil though.



Hi Jasper,
We have a few flow hives. The pine hives are painted with dulux exterior house paint, I prefer glossy.
Most of our hives are cedar. After 2 years, the tung oiled ones still look good, only the roofs started to look darker. I still tung oil my cedar hives, but now I paint the landing patch and the very top of the roof with exterior house paint. Looks great. The hives look like furniture and you can brighten them up just by wiping them over with a tung oiled cloth.
The undercoat and paint also seal the gaps between the roof shingles.
Ensure your tung oil is 100% tung oil, no mixture or substitute. Thin down the first coat with turps, I use citrus terpene.
No need to paint inside.
I should add that we are in the Byron Hinterland. Same climate as GC.


Thanks to All for your input.
What I might do is: Paint the roof with a water based paint and then use Cabots Natural or Tung oil on the Super and Brood box as well as the base. Time will tell.
One thing I have learnt is that using the paint can be difficult to fit timber joints/parts back if you are not aware of the expansion due to weather and finish.
Spent too much time fixing my bad painting of the edges, when I should have been checking the colony.
Thanks again! Great to be in this together.

Hi Jasper, when I looked into it a while back, I thought only the Sceneys was pure oil…

Not sure about Sceneys. I have done 2 hive bases with the Cabots Natural. 3 coats. Will try the same with the brood boxes and supers next. Thanks for the input.

Hmm. Lots of toxic stuff in that if you used the Decking Oil (Kerosene, polymers and naphtha to name a few). I would let it off-gas for a month or two before putting bees into the hive.

If the hives you purchased are western red cedar then the tung oil will be just fine. I know others on this forum reapply a coat each year. Cedar has properties that allow it to withstand the elements pretty well. (Cedar Shingles) Using the tung oil will help the wood keeps its luster. Otherwise it will turn grey over time. I have seen a mix of people painting their roofs but then putting the tung oil on the brood boxes. Its up to you but I look at it this way. You bought western red cedar that has a beautiful natural color. Why not keep that for your hives. Otherwise just buy pine and paint the boxes with a good exterior paint. My two cents…


Tung Oil it is!
Thanks to you all.


Pure tung will be fine, but “tung oil finish” is a different product. If you cut it with D-Limonine it’ll soak into the wood, and you can put an uncut coat on top after a week or two.

All finish weathers. Boiled linseed oil won’t hold up to weather as well as tung. You may want to clean it up and re-finish after a year or two.

Here’s a 5-year-old hive I’m refurbishing. Cedar with a tung coat. The second is wet after pressure wash; the third is dry and doing some woodwork to fit flow hives. I’ll clean this up a bit more and re-coat with tung before the bees go in.

Yes, it’s exactly what it looks like.