Beesource Beekeeping Forums banner
1 - 20 of 33 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
32 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Apparently, painting hive boxes traps moisture in the hive, contributing to hive box rot - (especially with box-joint corners.) Whereas an unpainted body surely is more breathable; a better thing for both the box and the bees.

However, smooth, planed surfaces do not last long in outdoor conditions, (a major reason beekeepers paint them.) A planed surface will last maybe three years before totally succumbing to deterioration.

Yet, seeing as how rough sawn planks last decades in barns and out-buildings - in full sun and rain - wouldn't they last just as long as hive bodies?

Has anyone ever used rough-sawn lumber for hive boxes? I would really like to know.

Also, different wood apparently has different longevities. I've heard some say poplar is a very poor hive box wood, but others say it lasts a long time on barn walls and the like. I think the naysayers are judging them as painted, planed boxes, (which likely deteriorate quickly from the inside.)

I've also heard pine - both white and yellow - are good box wood choices. Again, does anyone have any experience using these woods - rough-sawn and unpainted - as hive bodies?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
106 Posts
I'm not currently painting the new boxes I'm making. I too feel that painting may do more harm than good. They are Eastern White Pine. They will be planed enough to bring to 7/8 thickness. I guess I'll see how long they last. Somewhere I recently saw reference to bees painting the inside of rough boxes more readily with propalis thus sealing that surface.

I have rough cut pine boards on my garage that are ok after 25 years. I think the longevity of boards on barns, etc. may have more to do with being hung with the grain vertical allowing the moisture to channel off rather than being trapped in horizontal grain.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,425 Posts
Apparently, painting hive boxes traps moisture in the hive, contributing to hive box rot - (especially with box-joint corners.) Whereas an unpainted body surely is more breathable; a better thing for both the box and the bees.
Any supporting info for this?

The reason I ask is that I am living in a hundred year old painted clapboard house and though it seems to have held up well over these years, well, you've gotten me a little worried....

But seriously, I've seen little in the way of catastrophic failure in painted boxes. How serious a problem do you believe this to be? How is an unpainted box "a better thing" over a properly ventilated, painted hive?

Wayne
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10,025 Posts
Most barns have a bit of eave to keep rain, sun and most degrading forces off the siding. Aren't the boards unplaned because it is cheaper not because it lasts longer? Creosote poles sure last longer down south than untreated. Come to think of it my cedar shingles, the deck, and the fence last longer with sealer. Planed wood sheds water better in my experience and I never paint the inside so the moisture has somewhere to go. I would like to see your hive with an eave or maybe a wrap-around porch. A little porch swing for the warm evenings! A wind vane on top, now that would be the coolest hive ever!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,265 Posts
Apparently, painting hive boxes traps moisture in the hive, contributing to hive box rot - (especially with box-joint corners.) Whereas an unpainted body surely is more breathable; a better thing for both the box and the bees.
As a former yacht refinisher I have my own opinion concerning wood "breathing"...

Remember that in the winter the bees will be collecting water from the condensation on the hive walls. I seal up all of the end-grain of my boxes with Titebond glue. IMO wet (unpainted) wood in the winter would loose some of it's "R" value.

If you go "au naturel" I would certainly use Titebond 3 on and over the joints. Otherwise the joints will do what they naturally want to do... absorb water.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
32 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Any supporting info for this?

The reason I ask is that I am living in a hundred year old painted clapboard house and though it seems to have held up well over these years, well, you've gotten me a little worried....

But seriously, I've seen little in the way of catastrophic failure in painted boxes. How serious a problem do you believe this to be? How is an unpainted box "a better thing" over a properly ventilated, painted hive?

Wayne
Your comment about well ventilated is exactly the point.

Bee hives have lots of moisture, due to evaporation and expiration. Solid bottom boards and top covers exaserbate this situation, leading to a lot of moisture build up and interior deterioration - especially at the box joints.

Using screened bottom and top boards helps with this. (I assume your house is likewise ventilated. :)) But many hives are not, and suffer internal rot accordingly.

Boxes with rabetted joints, left rough-sawn and unpainted, should be better ventilated, due to the lack of latex paint covering the pores. I'm trying to determine whether they will last as long as planed, painted boxes with box joints.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
32 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
As a former yacht refinisher I have my own opinion concerning wood "breathing"...

Remember that in the winter the bees will be collecting water from the condensation on the hive walls. I seal up all of the end-grain of my boxes with Titebond glue. IMO wet (unpainted) wood in the winter would loose some of it's "R" value.

If you go "au naturel" I would certainly use Titebond 3 on and over the joints. Otherwise the joints will do what they naturally want to do... absorb water.
Good comment on the joints. I plan on using rabetted joints, which expose less end grain than box joints. Running a little Titebond on them ought to be a lot easier and cheaper than putting two good coats of paint on them all.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
32 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I have used rough sawn wood for hives. I have painted and not painted it. I have used cedar and pine. I don't see that it lasts any more or less but it does get propolized more inside.
Thanks for the input, Michael.

Any differences between rabetted and box joints?

Cedar is supposed to last much longer than pine. Is that your experience?

What is the overall longevity for the average hive box, in your experience?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
32 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I have rough cut pine boards on my garage that are ok after 25 years. I think the longevity of boards on barns, etc. may have more to do with being hung with the grain vertical allowing the moisture to channel off rather than being trapped in horizontal grain.
I've seen horizontal clapboard siding - I don't know how many years old ... perhaps at least 50 - holding up well enough, even after so many years. Vertical siding as well. (Poplar seems to be a very strong choice, here in NC.)

Some have told me Poplar is a poor choice for hive boxes, because it breaks down quickly. Yet, as mentioned, many pole barns and sheds have poplar siding that holds up quite well over the years - exposed and unpainted. In fact, some have said poplar holds up so well because the grain is twisted and tough - it does not cut well after a year or so of weathering.

Thus, my comment about internal moisture being the main culprit for hive box deterioration. Sustained exposure to water will break down virtually any wood. (Exotics like teak and cypress notwithstanding.)

I'm honestly trying to discern this issue for hive boxes. Any experienced comments are greatly appreciated.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10,025 Posts
When the bees propolize the inside of the hive, which they do more with rough wood, it will be sealed stronger than any paint or coating you can buy. Once sealed on the inside with propolis, the outside is the only surface exposed and will swell when wet cupping or warping concave to the dry inside. I use old brood comb as a coating that is a combination of beeswax and propolis, melted in a crock pot and brushed on. It not only seals and preserves the wood but attracts bees with that "downhome, home sweet hive" smell better than lemongrass oil.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
32 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I use old brood comb as a coating that is a combination of beeswax and propolis, melted in a crock pot and brushed on. It not only seals and preserves the wood but attracts bees with that "downhome, home sweet hive" smell better than lemongrass oil.
Is propolis water repellent the way wax is? I've never known?

Mike Bush coats his hives in beeswax and gum rosin. Supposed to last a long time.

I'm wanting to simply use rough sawn exterior to avoid painting or coating at all - depending on the roughness for longevity. The inside I don't mind planing relatively smoothly. My understanding is bees coat the inside with propolis by course. I suppose a rough surface gets more of a coating, but I'm not certain of its effects on hive box longevity.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
606 Posts
As a former construction super, here is what I know about paint. I paint the exterior and edges of my boxes with one coat of primer and 2 coats of exterior latex. I will leave the interior decorating to the bees. I do know people that paint both sides, however. The difference between exterior and interior latex is the resin. Interior resin is harder to resist dings and dangs, while exterior resin is more flexible to take up the expansion and contraction of the wood due to moisture, etc.
Latex paint is waterproof, but not vapour proof, which is why you use a separate vapour barrier on the warm side of your house insulation. Any water that finds its way through the propolis and into the wood, therefore, should find its way out through the paint.
Three thin coats of paint are far better than two thick ones, BTW, and it's important to take a brush and fill all the cracks and holes in the wood.
 

·
Vendor
Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
Joined
·
54,199 Posts
>Any differences between rabetted and box joints?

Yes. But as far as longevity, I'd say it's not as clear as you might like... The box joints get soft sooner, because it absorbs more water, but are mechanically stronger. It seems to kind of even out. The rabbet exposes less grain and doesn't get soft as soon, but the screws (or nails) have only 3/8" of wood to hold them and then only in one direction so they are mechanically weaker to start with and it takes less rot to cause them to come apart. All in all I decided I liked the box joints better.

>Cedar is supposed to last much longer than pine. Is that your experience?

It does not last "much" longer than pine. I'm not even sure it lasts any longer, but it might. The difference would be slight. I think old growth cedar, old growth redwood and old growth cyprus last longer, but they are no longer available.

>What is the overall longevity for the average hive box, in your experience?

In Western Nebraska I would say maybe 50 years, certainly 30 years. In Eastern Nebraska I'd say 20 years if you don't let them contact dirt, of course. In Arizona...? It's water the is the issue, of course and it rains a lot more here than it did in Western Nebraska.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
12,000 Posts
The rabbet exposes less grain and doesn't get soft as soon, but the screws (or nails) have only 3/8" of wood to hold them and then only in one direction so they are mechanically weaker to start with
I install screws both directions on my rabbet joints. You just have to angle the screws on one side a little bit. Nothing wrong with rabbet joints.
 
1 - 20 of 33 Posts
Top