So last weekend was spent building my first warré hive.
The question I have is what finishes do people recommend to paint the outside with?
Ben, I use raw linseed oil and beeswax. Warm up a pint of oil and melt in one ounce of pure beeswax. Stir well and apply while warm to the dry wood. The fluid will dry with a wax film.
I refresh the protective coat as it weathers with linseed oil alone , usually every year or so.
Use ‘raw’ linseed oil rather than ‘boiled’ which contains a drying agent. I buy my oil in 4 litre bottles from Scats (sold for treating horses’ hooves and as a feed additive?) rather than the small expensive bottles in DIY furniture shops.
John H, Stockbridge hants
I am interested in the fact you use raw linseed oil. I know the ‘boiled’ stuff is no longer usually boiled but generally contains (heavy) metal ‘driers’. For this reason many natural beeks are wary of using it. But it is also said that raw linseed takes a very long time to dry. Presumably you have not found this a problem?
how many coats do you do of this mixture when doing the initial finishing?
I tend to do one fairly thick coat. As long as the outside looks completely coated then it should be fine.
Recently I have been using a hardwax floor oil by Treatex which is ‘toy safe’, so presumably free of anything toxic, at least when dry. It dries overnight. Ideally I would use two coats but if pressed for time I often manage with just one coat. I re-coat odd boxes as they come free or do it on the hive on a warm evening when the bees have stopped flying. It is dry by morning.
Also, Auro make a range of organic finishes, including floor oils and paint, some of which are food safe.
I use Auro’s organic (and local to me) paints and while a bit pricey I can recommend them. Overwintered beautifully. Catharine, Gloucetsershire/Wiltshire border
Last year, I used the same beeswax/raw linseed mix which has proved to be excellent over this last winter. Really easy to put on with a brush and then I rubbed in any excess with a cloth. Not so much a question of time to dry but time to soak in.
If you look at the conventional bee keeper pages you’ll see that there a quite a lot of helpful hints and tips on finishing your hives.
Actually, there is probably more advice on this than you can usefully use and just to add the the controversy here’s my experience:
I searched long and hard for a suitable finish and eventually selected Superdec Satin Opaque Wood Protection made by Sadolin. This was water based, environmentally friendly-ish (after drying) and very easy to apply and reported to be good for 7 years. However, and there are 2 howevers, it is very expensive (£20/litre, nothing but the best for my bees) and the stuff sticks. Where the edges of the hives are painted, even It was left to dry for several weeks, when the boxes are stacked after a while the stuff causes the edges to stick together. The manufacturer calls this feature “blocking” and suggests coating the mating surfaces with petroleum jelly or chalk powder? Unfortunately, this is only partially successful.
In the end on the recommendation of another beekeeper I used Weatherproof Gel Wood Preserver by Baufix available infrequently from Lidl, both seem to have withstood the rigours of one winter and only time will tell if I end up making new boxes in a few years time.
My experience of raw linseed oil is that it takes ages to dry, is also sticky and promotes mould growth. My son had a job painting lots of bee hives in New Zealand and said that they used anything they could get their hands on, which I guess that after it’s dried, provided it does not contain any -icides, should be OK.
There is a video on Youtube of a chap hot wax dipping hives, if you Google “hot wax hive dipping” + youtube, I’m sure you’ll find it.
I resolved that the next time I needed to coat hives I would mix together all of the left-over oil based paints that I had laying about and slap it on the hives and leave it to dry for a good long time.
Good luck with whatever you choose, oh! don’t paint the insides the bees will cover this up for you.
Thanks for all the suggestions.
I’ve decided that I’m going to try the raw linseed and bees wax option this time, and depending on how it goes I might try one of the other options on my next hive for comparison.
How did that mix work out for you? I just painted mine today with raw linseed and beeswax. Still very slippery, it says 4 days drying time. I have to admit I did fall for the natural, no scraping way of keeping the boxes protected. Thanks for posting.
I found that the raw linseed and beeswax combination worked quite well. It stays slightly “greasy” for quite a while, but this is what keeps the water off. As far as I can tell it seems to have protected the wood.
It’s been a few years. How has it held up?
The hives are looking good. Just a quick coat once a year and they’re fine. They Get a good patina and no paint scraping. It is strange that it’s so hard to get raw linseed oil. I have to order it, the stores don’t carry it. The good thing is the bees produce their own hive waterproofer. Good luck!
Do you apply this mixture to the inside of the boxes?
No, only apply any finish to the outside. The inside should be left as untreated wood.
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