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Tung oil treatment for Flow Hives


great thanks for that info


Hi Dawn, did you just do two coats of Tung oil? I’ve just done two coats on my hive and am considering a third, but not sure if it’s necessary.


From our box manufacturer -

How many coats of tung oil - we recommend one coat on the hive bodies and two on the roof of the hive as it’s going to take most of the elements (rain/snow/ice). Two all over doesn’t hurt, but I don’t think is totally necessary.

How often to coat - it I’d say once every year or two, but I personally usually just do it once and then wait longer than that. The wood, aside from the roof for weather sealing, doesn’t really need sealing since it’s Western Red Cedar. I’d say most of my hives (I’ve got 30+) have no sealant on them at all and the bees do fine. However, if you don’t seal it every year or two, the wood will change color in the sun.

I personally usually just do it once and then wait longer than that. The wood, aside from the roof for weather sealing, doesn’t really need sealing since it’s Western Red Cedar.
I’d say most of my hives (I’ve got 30+) have no sealant on them at all and the bees do fine. If you don’t seal it every year or two, the wood will change color in the sun.


Hi Shelley,

Faroe obviously has a lot more experience and expertise than I do with Tung oil, but I can tell you what I did.

I actually did one and a half coats on the boxes. The first coat was diluted 50:50 with food grade citrus solvent, just to make a very even first coat - the boxes has some minor splintering (not enough to sand), and I wanted to make sure everything got penetrated properly. The hives I have at the moment are not Flow hives, so they don’t have cedar shakes on the roof, just flat aluminum flashing. Those boxes are Western Red Cedar from BeeThinking though. I was tempted to put on another coat of neat Tung Oil, but after Faroe’s advice, I am reconsidering. What I might do is re-coat and pencil a label onto one box, and see how it goes. On the other hand, I am going to feel very protective of my Full Flow hive when it arrives, so it might get 2.5 coats… :smile:

In the past I had red cedar WBC hives, and we didn’t seal those at all, but they are a two layered construction, so we weren’t really worried about weather getting in. In more than 20 years, we never had a leak, and rarely had to replace a box (or a “lift” as the outer layers are called).

Hope that helps.


Thanks @Dawn_SD and @Faroe!


No wuckas mate :wink: :wink:


For Aussies, you can go on ebay and there is another Sydney company supplying the pure tung oil. I purchased from them as they advertise free freight Australia wide, 1 litre for $45 delivered by Aussie Post


So, if the hive needs recoating after a couple of years how is it done when it’s full of bees?


You can close the bees in at night as for transporting and paint the outside then - or switch boxes


It’s a good idea to rotate boxes. Take them out of service and give them a good once over.
My bees get a clean brood box every two years.
Also if I have artificially swarmed a colony and decided to re-unite the two splits headed by the new queen the spare box gets a clean too.


For those in the US seeking good, TRUE Tung Oil, Real Milk Paint offers it through Amazon:

A few tips I have come across:

  1. Clean and wipe down the wood to be treated by wiping with Mineral Spirits first before applying the Tung oil.
  2. Do not apply Tung Oil outdoors in direct sunlight. The oil will not be able to dry/cure properly, and you may end up with a cloudy film making for a less attractive finish.
  3. Allow at LEAST 24 hours between coats for drying, although 2-3 days is better, and at LEAST one week after the top coat.
  4. You can make a Tung Oil/ Beeswax cream treatment by heating Tung Oil in a pan over a pan of boiling water (Double Boiler method), with Beeswax in it, until the wax dissolves, and then cooling.
    For ease of application, a 4:1 ratio of oil to wax is recommended.
  5. Apply Tung oil with a lint free cloth, such as an old sheet or pillowcase, or gauze. Do not use paper towels, they will stick and shred.
  6. Lightly Buff between coats with a fine nylon scrubber (the white ones) to help smooth any application imperfections or excesses.
  7. If you have a heat gun, and GENTLY warm the wood before application, especially the first couple of coats, the wax/oil will better be absorbed into the wood grain.

I will be applying the oil/wax mixture to the inside of my hives, for preservation. By ‘sealing’ the wood surface, the wood will absorb far less detrius from the bees living in it, and any propolis/burr comb removal will be much easier.
My hives will have at least a month to fully dry, and the smell of the beeswax should help the girls not reject it. We shall see…


Hi Shelley
Last week I sourced pure Tung Oil on Ebay. Different Supplier is located in Sydney region and sells 1 litre for $45 delivered Australia wide with Aussie Post. Very easy to find on Ebay


Thanks Schnucki, I appreciate the tip!


I have just been made aware that I have used a chemical laden type of tung oil to treat my new flow hive. Should I sand the inside or is airing for the next several months until spring enough.?


Any chance you could give us a Brand name? If we can find the MSDS sheet for the actual type that you used, it would be easier to give accurate info.


Thank you so much for the help. I feel like an idiot. The brand is a US Company, it is MINWAX Tung Oil Finish. I look forward to your reply.


I want to reassure you that you are NOT an idiot - an idiot wouldn’t ask any questions!

I looked at the MSDS - https://www.minwax.com/document/MSDS/en/027426475007
You could argue either way. The major long term concern is cobalt, but the levels are low. The toxic hydrocarbons would be gone in a month or less. So, what to do, assuming you also coated the inside of the hives?

If it were me, I would sand the inside of the hives down to bare wood, but I am VERY picky, probably too much so. However, you will have to be very careful along the rabbets (rebates) where the frames rest, or your frames will not fit properly. Western red cedar sands very fast, so I would 200 grit sandpaper and do it by hand. Wear gloves, a mask and eye protection and do it outside if you are going to do it.

Will be interesting to hear what others think.

All the best, and thanks from me and your future bees for daring to ask a question! :wink:



Dawn, Thank you so much for researching this for me. I feel much better. I think I will air them for a couple of months and when it warms up a little I will take them outside to sand. I will make sure to sand with great care.

Again, thanks for your help and good wishes.



Hi all

I decided to fry my flow hive in pure bees wax, see pictures. I had enough (~2kg, not the 10kg I thought I had) to do this with a roasting pan/tray over a camping stove.

I only fried the pieces for five minutes each. This took about four hours! With a huge pan and plenty of wax, it could have been assembled and done in maybe half an hour.

The end pieces fitted into the roasting tray well, but the sides and lids had to be done half at a time. (see pics)

I don’t recall any bees coming to visit while I did this, but that might be due to my setup. Bees are on the North side of my shed (I’m in the Southern Hemisphere) and I was about 20m to the South of my shed.

Two small issues I had (apart from the time it took!) were:

  1. the wax wasn’t as clean as I thought. So debris fried and became black and stained the wood where it was closest to the bottom of the roasting tray, but only on the surface. So I cleaned it off with methylated spirits.

  2. at times the roasting tray moved to one side and I didn’t notice. So the flame scorched the wood. :unamused:

You can see both these issues in the top (first) picture.

I assembled the boxes without glue.

I intend to discuss elsewhere some minor issues in packing and minor points about the box design. I’ve already sent an email to customer support with suggestions, which they appreciated.

The bees are in the box now since the Jan 5.

I hold free bee workshops each month (Sept-Mar). So the next one people can see the Flow Hive too.

Best wishes

PS I did not use a thermometer, but only had the flame up enough to have the wax slightly boiling and I ladled the wax onto as much as I could of the large pieces of timber.

Painting/Protecting the bee hives

Wow, Brother Joe, you are one determined and dedicated fellow! :smile: I am impressed with your perseverance and bravery in making this work. Thank you for the photos and the discussion of the issues you experienced.

Any chance of a photo of the completed hive, when you have time? I would love to see how it looks now.

Thank you again!