Why in the world would anyone want to paint their beehive? That’s a valid question and there are several valid answers. The first and most pragmatic answer is that paint will help preserve the wood of your beehive. Painting a hive will help it stand up to the harsh elements of rain and snow if you’re in the northern climate like Pennsylvania and on north through Canada. For those of you residing south of the Mason-Dixon line, painting your hive will help it stand up to the intense summer heat. Painting your beehive a light color will help keep the hive cooler since the bees need to maintain the temperature inside the hive of 95 degrees to protect the queen who is constantly pushing her physical limits laying eggs. If you happen to live in an island region or a coastal town near the ocean, the hive will be better able to withstand the damaging salt air. Besides, having a picture of a surfer dude riding a wave on the side of your beehive is pretty cool.
Before we get into the human aspect of painting beehives, let’s think about what it does for the bees. Even though we think that painting a hive is just a human pastime, there are advantages for the honeybee. The honeybee has multi-faceted eyes and cannot see all the colors in our visual spectrum. They predominantly perceive variations of purple, blue, and yellow.
However, the way they use their eyes more than makes up for what they might miss in the color spectrum. For example, when a bee is floating around in front of your face, she is actually memorizing your eyebrows, your eyes, your nose, your ears, and your mouth. She will then remember exactly what you look like. The next time you show up, she won’t be alarmed and will go on about her business.
They do the same thing with their surroundings. If there is a bush or a tree close to their hive they will use that as a landmark. Therefore, a lot of beekeepers will paint emblems on the sides or tops of their beehives. I read where one beekeeper would paint a large letter or a number on the top of their hives to use as a hive finder.
Now, what color are we going to paint it? Since the bee is limited in its ability to detect all colors, then this question is all yours to answer. My suggestion is to search ‘painted bee hives’ on the internet and spend a lot of time looking at what other people have done. You can get a firsthand look at the popular color schemes. Since I am not very good at choosing matching colors, this was a big help to me. I wound up going across the street to our local Ace Hardware and getting a handful of their color guides that show the complimentary sets of colors.
You can also use the internet to see a variety of popular designs people are currently using to paint their bee hives. There are oodles and oodles of pictures of beautiful beehives. It will boggle your mind but it will also give you some great ideas. And, it will also tell you what you most certainly do not want to do.
Since I am not very good at free-hand drawing, I found a couple of websites that carry stencils that are perfect for beehives. Plus, YouTube has several videos that show you how to paint with stencils. If you happen to be good or even just fair at drawing, you can use folder jackets to make your own stencils.
Here’s another neat idea if you have elementary school children. When I was that age I loved to draw some swirls and circles on a piece of paper and then use my crayons to color in the spaces. Sometimes I had flashes of brilliance and other times I was just coloring. Children love to help decorate beehives, and it’s a perfect opportunity for them to learn a little honeybee ecology! They would love to think that they had an important part in such an important hobby!
Hey, let’s not forget about your own latent artistic gifting. Picasso had to start somewhere, didn’t he? Besides, if you mess it up you can always paint a solid color over it and start all over in a few days.
One more painting idea that I gleaned from some of the blogs I read. One lady, I read about had three children and one beehive. She painted the beehive with the oldest one’s high school colors. To make a long story short, in the end, she wound up with six bee hives. It seems that each one went to a different college and then on to graduate school. Just another idea for you. Beehives are a great place to show your team spirit!
Now that you have some great ideas running around in your head, let’s put some feet and hands to those ideas. Naturally, one of the things you will need is a beehive. A quick online search will reveal a long list of beekeeping equipment suppliers. Here at Savannah Bee, we always use Brushy Mountain Bee Farm or Bee Thinking. Whichever one you decide to use, search for a ‘beginners kit’. I have noticed that, here in Savannah, Ace Hardware has begun carrying beekeeping supplies so you might be able to get everything you need in your hometown.
Paint the outsides of all hive bodies and supers (bee boxes). If you put your hive on a rack, paint the outsides of it, too. There are differences of opinions on whether or not to paint the top and bottom edges. Some people say they will stick together in hot weather and some say just let it dry really good before you put them together. It’s really up to you. Keep in mind that the bees themselves will weatherproof all cracks with their own type of caulking called propolis. That’s a sticky substance that they make from various tree saps that help seal the hive.
Do not paint the insides of the hive bodies, supers, frames, inside cover or entrance reducers (if you use one). You certainly don’t want the honey or the beeswax that the bees will make to come into contact with anything else but natural wood.
You are welcome to come by our store on 211 Johnny Mercer Drive and talk to us Mon-Sat, 10-6. We’ll be glad to share any information that we have about hives and beekeeping. More than anything else we love to talk about these lovable creatures and how all of us can work together to increase their colony numbers. Hope to see you in the bee garden soon!
Submitted By: Henry Givins