Painting the inside of beehives
Oops, I painted the inside of 2 out of 5 bee boxes. What is the reason for not painting the inside?
First off, don’t worry about the ones that are already done. Chances are good that everything will be fine. But for future reference, I can think of several good reasons for leaving the insides unpainted:
- Most paints, even the low VOC types, contain all kinds of nasty things that you don’t want your bees to eat. As you can see in the photo below, I painted some entrance reducers (not good) and the bees chewed both paint and wood when they tried to make a larger opening.
- Even the low VOC paints off-gas for a long time. The smell, even if not harmful to the bees, may drive them away or interfere with pheromone signals within the hive. The smell of wood is something they evolved with—the smell of paint is not.
- Unpainted wood can absorb moisture whereas painted wood cannot—which is precisely why you paint (or otherwise seal) the wood on the outside of the hive. Unpainted wood adds some amount of moisture control within the hive, although the effect is not huge. If you have good ventilation in your hive it won’t make too much difference.
- In nature, bees live inside hollow logs which, of course, are unpainted. So unpainted interior surfaces simulate their natural living conditions more closely. How important is that? I really don’t know, but refraining from paint seems like a reasonable thing to do.
- Most wood seems to have natural antimicrobial properties, particularly antifungal ones. By sealing the wood with paint those properties are lost to the hive. However, nearly all paint comes with fungicides added to it. These are chemical pesticides not suitable for bee décor. Far better to let the natural fungicides do their job, than to add commercially produced ones.
For now, just air out the painted boxes as much as possible before you use them and don’t be too hard on yourself. Believe me, I’ve made far worse beekeeping mistakes.