As a beekeeper, you understand the importance of maintaining and upkeep of the beehives. Tung oil is a simple solution for treating the hive and naturally preserving it. If you're afraid of the safety of your bees, you aren't alone. Honey bees are dying at a rapid rate across the world due to human activity. That is frightening when you consider that more than 80 percent of the variety of food we eat would disappear. So, you definitely don't want to use something that is going to contribute to the plight of the bees.
Fortunately, you can make sure they are safe and healthy with the right supplies for your beehive.
What is Tung Oil?
Tung oil is extracted from the tung tree. It is native to China and some other Asian countries. The natural blend is chosen quite often as a finishing coat for wooden objects because it serves two functions. It acts as a waterproofing sealer, and it naturally preserves and protects the wood.
Why Choose it Instead of Other Drying Oils?
You have several alternatives to choose from when deciding on a drying oil for beehives. As a beekeeper, this oil is a safe alternative because it is environmentally friendly and non-toxic. When you use a blend that is pure, it is 100 percent safe to apply to the beehive, and it won't cause any danger to the colony. Additionally, it is easy to use, versatile, and you can use it to nearly any wooden grain surface.
Is it Safe for Bees?
Yes, it is safe for bees. As long as you apply pure tung oil to the beehive, it won't cause any detriment or danger to the bees. In fact, pure blends don't include any synthetic or toxic sealants or dyes. As long as you don't apply thinning solvent or chemical agents to thin the oil, it is safe to use. It doesn't pose any safety issues you should worry about to the bee colony.
How the Oil is Beneficial to Preserve Your Beehive
There are several benefits to choosing this oil, instead of other drying oils. First off, it creates an "all natural" dark wood finish for your beehive. In addition to this, some benefits include:
You can apply it to any wooden object
It dries quickly so requires less time to coat the hive
This oil blend bonds into the wood grain texture creating a natural waterproof exterior
It creates a protective waterproof barrier for the hive
The oil also helps prevent wood rot or damage to the exterior surfaces
You can safely apply the tung oil to the interior and exterior surfaces of the beehive. It will create an antique-style finish which is safe to house your bee colony in once it is completely dry.
Applying Tung Oil
Application of the oil onto the beehive is straightforward. Any beekeeper can complete the coating process in a few days. When using the oil, it is important to remember to give it enough time to dry. After you apply the first coat, you should allow it to sit for at least 24 hours before you add the second coat.
Buy the oil
- The first thing you need to consider is the oil you are going to use to coat the beehive. No matter which brand you select, make sure it is 100 percent pure. If it contains thinners, solvents, or other toxic additives, it is dangerous for your bee colony. Otherwise, an additive-free tung oil should be safe to apply to your beehive
- To apply the tung oil onto the exterior and interior surfaces of the beehive, you should use a bristle brush or cloth. Make sure it is a new brush or cloth, rather than one you previously used. If using a cloth or rag, make sure the material is lint free. That prevents piling or small strands of fiber from adhering to the wood. A sponge is also a good option for applying the oil because of its porous nature.
Clean the surface
- Before you even begin the coating process, you should start with a clean surface. Removing grease, dirt, and other debris from the beehive should be done for the best results. You should also sand and strip the surface before coating it. If there is a previous coat on the hive, remove it. Sand the surface with sandpaper after removal to create a smooth base for application of the tung oil.
Go with the grain
- Once you have the brush or cloth, apply the oil directly onto the brush surface. When using the outer coat, make sure you apply it with the grain. Spread the oil in a side to side motion for the best results. It will soak in and naturally penetrate the exterior surface. It also ensures the paint will appear natural once it is dry.
Apply a generous first coat
- Don't try to save or limit the use of the oil. You want the drying oil to penetrate the wood grain as much as possible when coating it. You should apply the oil liberally onto the surface. The reason for this is that tung oil isn't like a varnish which will only sit on top of the paint. Instead, the tung oil has to saturate the wood grains as much as possible to ensure its effectiveness. Once applied, allow the coat to absorb and dry as long as possible before applying the second coat.
Allow the oil to sit
- Just because it appears dry after a couple of hours doesn't mean you should apply another coat. Make sure you allow the initial coat to dry for a minimum of 24-hours. If you can wait up to 36-48 hours, do so. The longer it sits, the more naturally it will blend in with the wood.
Applying subsequent coats
- If you are painting the beehive and want to create a decorative or ornate finish, you might apply more than one coat. With subsequent coats, you don't have to use as much oil as you did with the initial coating. However, you should still allow for one to two hours before applying a third coat if you choose to do so. Once you notice the wood won't absorb any more oil, it's ready for curing.
Disposing of Painting Supplies
Beekeepers, or anyone working with tung oil, should understand it is highly flammable. Therefore, once you finish painting, you have to dispose of rags, cloths, or paint brushes correctly. You can wash these items off with water and allow them to dry. Once they are, dry, you can safely dispose of the painting supplies.
Curing the Beehive
Once the beehive completely absorbs the tung oil, you shouldn't place the bee colony in the hive just yet. For the best results, you should allow the oil to cure for up to 30 days. After the oil has been sitting for a few days, you can touch the surface. Avoid doing so with greasy or dirty hands.
While the beehive is curing, it is also best if you keep it out of direct contact with sunlight. You should wait for at least 10-15 days for the best results, and to avoid fading. Over time, the oil will naturally penetrate the wood grains, and create a waterproof base. Once the 30-days have come to an end, you can safely place your bee colony in the beehive.
Do I have to Apply a Waterproof Coat to my Beehive?
The answer to this question honestly depends on where you plan on keeping the beehive. It also depends on the external conditions and local weather where you work as a beekeeper. Hives are made of wood grains like cedar or pine. Using these grains is beneficial because the wood weathers well and you don't have to paint it. With this being said, a waterproof coat is always helpful, primarily when working in outdoor conditions.
Some reasons to consider waterproofing with a drying oil, like tung oil, includes:
The fact that it naturally preserves the wood grain
It creates an additional barrier of protection for the beehive and your bees
Naturally extends the life of your beehive
The application is quick and easy
Additionally, beekeepers don't need to have special knowledge of how to apply this oil. It is a quick and easy process and is straightforward. Although there is a waiting period after using the initial coat, it is well worth the wait. Not only because of the protective capabilities but also because of the gorgeous finish it will create for your beehive.
Our Verdict: The Usability of Tung Oil for Beehives
Beekeeping is more than a job. It is a craft which requires beekeepers to learn the intricacies of safety for their bees. Beekeepers also have to learn how to create an environment where they'll thrive. When it comes to building and finishing a beehive, tung oil is highly beneficial for any wooden surface. In addition to creating the natural waterproof barrier, it will extend the wooden object's life for several years. Preventing rotting, warping, and other forms of damage, are additional benefits of applying the oil.For beekeepers who want to create a thriving environment for their bee colonies, creating the best living conditions is the first step. When building your beehive or improving on the one you own, tung oil is a natural solution for protection. Above all else, it is safe for your bees, and won't cause any detriment to their health, when you choose a pure oil.