Tung oil treatment for Flow Hives

I did 3 thick coats of tun - My stuff looks brill and has been sitting in the rain pretty much since I did it - it looks fine

We recommend, when finishing general woodwork projects, exactly what sara suggests, cut the oil about 50:50 with an appropriate thinner and apply thin wiped off coats. By wiped off we mean a generous initial application and after 30 minutes or so wiping the excess off to leave a thin film of oil. This technique is counterintuitive, wasteful and expensive but essential technique for a natural oil with no added toxic chemical driers.
When it comes to hives though, I was leery about the use of any volatile solvent around bees (or horse stables for that matter - another use for tung oil). Tung oil can be used neat but particular care needs to be taken to cure only thin coats or a sticky mess can eventuate so a vigorous wipe ‘dry’ is essential .
A customer asks about applying Tung Oil to Western Red Cedar.
WRC is a notoriously thirsty and naturally highly durable wood species which is, I would think, perfect for hives. Be mindful that an initial oiling may require 3 or more coats and again I assume only treat the external wood?

A final note on Citric Terpene (D-limonene) - it is a food flavouring when more highly refined and a very powerful household cleaner.

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My hive will have aired for 3-4 months before the bees go in

Wow, after reading all the blogs on this topic (tung Oil) I think I have done alright as I purchased a 1 1/2 litre plastic container of pure tung oil for $30 from my local Mitre10 store in Emerald Ozland. Have oiled my FH with great results. :)kissing_heart:

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@Goatie7333 there are a couple of other beeks round here from the 'Nongs Monbulk, the 'Gully
see here Beekeepers in the Dandenongs

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Hi JeffH

Thanks. Yes, I heard about thinning the beeswax with turpentine and am considering it. I heard about 50:50.

Best wishes

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I have a couple of issues with this. First turpentine is toxic, and while a lot of it might evaporate, I would worry about it continuing to leach into the hive over time. I know you didn’t propose this, but secondly, if you are going to heat the wax/turps mixture, turpentine has a very low flash point, and an open flame sounds like a recipe for a potential conflagration! Do it outside, and have a fire extinguisher to hand.

I know that Michael Bush dips his hives in a molten beeswax/rosin mixture. You can read details on his web site:

Personally I used Tung Oil diluted 1:1 with citrus solvent (pure food grade D-limonene) for the first coat on my western red cedar boxes, then I put two more coats of neat Tung oil on top of that. Looks nice.

Here is the link for Michael’s method, including where he gets his rosin:


If you have trouble finding rosin, it is worth remembering that it is used by violinists, and for making cosmetics, soaps and paints, so it should be available in Australia. In the US, there are suppliers on Amazon and eBay too.

Rosin is pretty much what bees make propolis from. Resin from pine type trees

Poplar sap and Horse Chestnut buds too are a popular source in the UK

Hi Dawn_SD

thanks for the reply, was aware of the fire danger

I’m now looking into pure food grade D-limonene and guess it would mix with melted beeswax.

best wishes

Hello Brother Joe,

I think it would mix and it would be totally non-toxic, but…

  1. The flash point of D-limonene is pretty low too - this is a definition of flash point Flash point - Wikipedia

  2. If you added hot wax to cold D-limonene, it may emulsify or cream rather than dissolving - application, might be hard. If you want to paint or wipe it on, you will need to keep heating the solution, which could be interesting/hazardous.

  3. If I recall correctly, you have about 8lb of bees wax? If you really want to dip an assembled box, you will probably need around 50-80lb, plus a custom setup:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNdRRNfbN7o and
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWHiHv3C4Vk might give you some ideas. Unassembled flat pieces can probably be done with much less wax.

It can be done, the results are fabulous, and I would love to, but the risks are large. That is why I used Tung Oil instead. If I had a friend with the right equipment, I might do it, but the wax and stabilizer (Rosin or microcrystalline paraffin) costs are high for volumes needed, and I don’t have enough hives to justify that.

I would love to hear what you decide in the end.

Warm regards,


By the way, the flash point of D-limonene is 50C, spontaneous ignition is at 237C (459F).

Looking for a bee safe coating for my hivebody / supers / roof… Many of the old timers in my area just use whatever and are not that concerned with whats in the paint (and they may be correct for all I know) however I would like coat the raw cedar with something that allows the wood to shine through while protecting it. I am all ears… (ps. I tried a search on this and found some info, but not enough for me to feel like it was completely answered) In the past, I was just the “helper” and my dad I think just used oil based white.

The Limonene (d-Liminene) we market is sourced from Brazil, is highly
seasonally priced and dependent on the annual crop. There is a company
in Australia around the SA Riverland producing Limonene to food or
pharma grade whose prices are even further out of reach for the general
wood finishing trades but the last time we spoke they could not yet
offer the pricing or volumes we need to service our customers who are
mixing Limonene and Tung oil for a very wide range of end uses. Didges,
rammed earth, gunstocks, rifle butts, knife handles to mention just a few.
This continues to beg the question though what is the need to thin the Pure Tung?
Whether the risk to the well being of the bees is proven or not it is a risk which, I contend, probably isn’t worth taking

Sorry spello d-limonene

I can’t tell from your profile where you are based, but I love the Tung Oil finish on my red cedar hives - you just apply a couple of coats to the outside, using a wipe or paint on coat, wait 30 mins, then wipe off the excess. Allow to absorb for a couple of days, then apply another coat in the same way. For the first coat, I diluted 1:1 with food grade D-Limonene, because the oil absorbs slightly more evenly and quickly, but this is not essential. Enough Tung Oil and D-Limonene in the US is about $12 per hive. You only paint the outside surfaces - parts that bees don’t walk on (but I do the landing board too). It leaves you with a very natural, slightly darkened finish. It should last a couple of years before needing another coat, and all of the products are totally non-toxic.

If I could, I would dip the hives in wax/rosin, but I don’t have the equipment and I don’t have enough hives to make it worth investing in it. That gives you a 10 year+ finish.


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Thank you both for the replies, I am in the the U.S in South Carolina… We do not have rough winters here, however the rain and humidity can be pretty intense. I need to go and populate the info in my profile, thanks for he help and and reminder!

I that case, I can give you my suppliers! :smiley:

Tung Oil (pure and non-toxic) is $9 from BeeThinking.com for 8oz - enough for one coat for one hive.
or from Amazon, 16oz for just over $12, giving plenty for 2 and 1/2 coats on one hive.

I diluted the first coat with Citrus solvent (100% food grade D-Limonene) 32oz for about $30 from:

Good products and a nice result. I think the Tung Oil will do fine in South Carolina, but if somebody in your local beekeeper society has the equipment to dip hives in wax, that would be my preference.

Hi again Dawn

Partly due to time restraints and partly due to safety issues, I’ve decided to treat the wood disassembled with wax only and no solvent. Since I’m doing so, I will not need so much wax, but if I need more I’m considering mixing beeswax and soy wax.

Best wishes