We have designed the Backyard Hives to have good longevity without painting. This includes choosing wood with minimal, cambered, end grain on the side panels and orientating the panels inward to minimize warping. The holes in the hive are all pre-drilled and counter sunk to limit splitting. Not painting the hive is based on the holistic approach to beekeeping. We believe paint fumes can interfere with the bees’ pheromone-based communication. There are, however, several natural alternative paints. Keep in mind many natural paints have beeswax as an ingredient. If you have bears, like I do, you don’t want to use these. But if no bears then here is a great Linseed/Beeswax recipe that is non-toxic to bees and provides some moisture protection while conditioning the wood.
4 cups of Raw Linseed Oil (raw is important, some Boiled Linseed Oils have lead in them)
1 ounce of Natural Beeswax
In an old pan that you don't use for cooking. Gently warm the wax on a low setting to melt, keep if below 150 degrees as wax is combustible! And add the Linseed Oil before the wax is fully melted to avoid clumping, again keep the setting low.
Now the mixture is ready to apply. Use an old brush or rag to apply on the untreated wood. You may want to add more than one coat but you will need to wait at least a week for the first coat to dry.
Painting your hive really comes down to personal philosophy. I suppose science could find nothing dangerous to the bees if the hive was painted with non-toxic paint, but from a Bio-Dynamic point of view, chemical paint is "Energetically" not appreciated by the bees.
When I showed the Backyard Hive to Günther Hauk when he was visiting during the summer he spoke in detail about the importance of not painting the hive. Günther is a highly sought-after speaker on Bio-dynamic gardening and runs several natural beekeeping seminars a year at Spikenard Farms in Virginia. See the link to Günther’s book below. I would really suggest this book as it talks about many of the aspects of holistic beekeeping that you will not find in most books on bees.
Small cracks are going to develop in the hive, whether painted or not, but the bees will seal these up with propolis.
Natural Alternative Paints: Low-VOC Paints
Günther Hauk’s book can be found on our site's Books and DVDs page: Toward Saving The Honeybee
Yes, you want some type of roof for your hive. Find some water-proof material to place on the top of the lid of the hive or purchase a Ventilated Roof to protect your hive from the weather elements, sun, rain and snow. Our Ventilated Roof designs are modeled after the way that most house roofs are constructed, with a vented peak and is designed to breathe and create a lot of air exchange through natural, micro convection to allow proper ventilation for the hive.