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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For anyone considering using pine tar on their hives as a protective covering, I’ll add my experiences so far:

I have two new Langstroth hives, I’m going foundationless and want to try to raise my bees without all the chemicals

I decided that one hive will be painted with exterior latex paint and one treated with stain or oil (the latter for aesthetics).

The hive was first coated a few days ago with Eco Wood Treatment. In the future I probably wouldn’t do that (more later on that).

After research, but not bothering to conduct any test I decided to go with 50/50 mix of pine tar and raw linseed oil.

Both purchased thru Amazon

The pine tar is Horse Health Products and the clear value choice at $15 for 32 oz. Its 100% pine tar. It’s literally pitch black and about 4x thicker than peanut butter.

The raw (specifically raw and not boiled) linseed oil is Sunnyside brand, $20 for 32 oz.

I needed to heat the can in a pot of water to get it thin and pourable.

I had one complete 8 frame hive to treat:

Telescoping cover
Bottom board
Two deeps
Two mediums

I mixed two batches of 3 oz of tar and 3 oz of oil and have about 2 oz leftover.

Once the tar was heated and thin, it mixed perfectly with the oil. I was afraid that it would be too dark but that wasn’t the case. Since I didn’t want to apply the mix to the inside of the hives, I stacked them and just brush painted the outside using a little downward pressure on the stack to keep the boxes from shifting.

The boxes were stacked upside down to make painting inside the handholds easier.

Rubber gloves were much appreciated

I used a 2” China bristle brush and that was perfect. The mix went on very easily and was not black as it looked in the jar and ultimately is turning a reasonable variegated amber/brown color. From the measure and mix to completion of the brushing was about 45 minutes.

Although the sun was out shining, it was 50 degrees out and after an hour since the boxes were still tacky so I moved them into the living room. Wife not pleased, but after all these years she knows me.

During the day I applied the heat gun to them sporadically - some boxes and some parts of the boxes soaked the mixture up quickly and others slowly. I used my brush to smear around any drips or gravity pooling I saw.

The smell isn’t pleasant (faint burnt smell) but it’s not awful.


After sitting overnight, half of the panels are bone dry and the others have a slight oily sheen - not tacky from tar which I worried about.

The mix could take a few days to completely soak in. In my reading I learned that

1). the mix is intended to be applied to raw unfinished wood and

2). that mineral spirits or turpentine should first be applied to the raw wood to penetrate the wood and help the pine tar mixture seep in easier and

3). The first coating should be a thin wash of mostly oil and a little tar (80/20?).

I, of course, did none of that. I wanted to use the Eco Wood for UV protection; I didn’t want to introduce mineral oil or turpentine to the bee environment; I didn’t want to waste time with multiple coats - it’s not fine furniture...

I wonder if the Eco Wood Treatment inhibited the saturation of the wood. If I do it again I think I’d leave out the Eco Wood. I would do a thin wash first, or perhaps a wash of just the LO to prep the wood.

The end grain of the finger joints really soaked it up and stand out a quite dark. The mixture painted on more like oil than paint or tar - it was easy. Like a stain, the mixture did not soak in to areas where there was glue squeezeout or messes. Sure, I could have sanded first, but my bees are coming in a few weeks and I don’t have time to aim for perfection.

Time will tell how they hold up. I’ll have a new freshly painted hive right next to it to compare with.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Nope - not at all. Like I said the tar has soaked into the wood, it's dry to the touch on most boards, just a light sheen of oil on others
 

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Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
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> I didn’t want to introduce mineral oil or turpentine

But pine tar has turpentine in it naturally (not added). Basically it's burned pine rosin, or the results of making pine rosin. It's used in hoof dressings for horses because it kills fungus and bacteria and it's sticky enough to stay on. It's used in soap etc. mostly for it's antiseptic qualities. It is a carcinogen as are most by products from burning. It is very effective as a preservative for the properties already mentioned--antifungal and antibacterial as well as being a waterproofing agent. Keep us posted on the results.
 

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Not trying to be confrontational, but it strikes me as odd that you don't want to use chemicals, but are using a carcinogen to preserve your hives. I am not saying there is any evidence that the chemicals from the pine tar will effect the bees or honey, but the same can be said of some "chemical" treatments. Some non treatment people I know do not paint or treat their boxes with anything. J
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I'm not a chemist and haven't done any research here, but my thought is that there is a big difference between putting chems inside a hive intended for contact with the bees and with the honey itself, versus the coating of the exterior of the hive where the bees have limited contact. I expect that any harmful stuff in the pine tar would off-gas or diminish with time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Update after a year: I'm not impressed with the pine tar/LO treatment - it faded and seems to have also attracted a mold on one side

The latex paint, no surprise, looks great.
IMG_4727.jpg

IMG_4728.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
So how did the bees do? any difference? the pile looks "beeless"

GG
Thanks for asking:
I don't have any reason to think the bees noticed or did better in either type of hive. I as I managed splits, my hives became mixes and matches of painted and pine tar/LO bodies. I went into the winter with 4 hives, two survived: one of the survivors was the original pine tar bodies, the other was a mix and match hive
 

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So I am a furniture maker and I work on a tall ship part time. So these finishes are right in my wheelhouse. The linseed oil pine tar mixture we call "slush". But we also mix in turpentine with the mixture which helps to apply easier and to dry quicker. Turpentine is a derivative of pine tar, so a very natural solvent. In fact I know a guy whose grandmother used to feed them a spoon of pine tar as some kind of "remedy" I am sure it did nothing, but it also didn't poison him. Boiled linseed will polymerize faster than raw, but I think you will have about the same result with both.

I can say that wood that is treated with slush lasts an incredibly long time, but it should be re-applied with some regularity. The oars of our long boats get treated yearly and it does make your hands smell a little pine-tary when rowing but doesn't really transfer much or make your hands dirty. We also treat steel rope with slush, then it gets wormed and served, that is wrapped with linen then wrapped with fine Dacron line very tightly. We re-did a few of these that were about 20 years old, exposed to the element and the sea. The wire rope under it looked brand new and shiny. The stuff is great.

I'd be really interested to know how this works long term on beehives. It will smell faintly in the sun likely forever though.
 

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Things I would never dreamed up. Triple boiled linseed is used to seal steam turbine halves together. Even 1200 lb steam plants.
 
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