painted apiary

How to Make Gorgeous Painted Beehives

People have been creating intricately painted beehives for hundreds of years. It is a practical and fun way to make hives into a form of garden art, as well as a great way to get children involved and teach them about the importance of bees.

Beekeeper and bee-centric jewelry artist Anna Gieselman created this hive to celebrate the flower–bee connection.

Kim Lehman is the author of the fabulous book Beekeeper’s Lab: 52 Family-Friendly Activities and Experiments Exploring the Life of the Hive and she is here today to give us the skinny on painting beehives. Kim’s book contains everything you need to know about beekeeping, with projects suitable for all ages.

How to Paint Beehives

By Kim Lehman

Beehives are a blank canvas just waiting for inspiration to strike. Pick up a paintbrush and jazz up your apiary with one-of-a-kind creations.

 

This hive, painted by Marjorie Molnar, is inspired by Bauernmalerei, a decorative painting style often referred to as Bavarian folk art.

Bee Buzz
Beekeepers in Slovenia have a long history of beautifully painted beehives going back over 250 years. Beehive painting originated both as décor and with the belief that brightly-colored hives would make it easier for bees to know where to go.

Fun for Kids

To do this project with kids, instead of exterior paint use nontoxic markers, tempera paint, chalk, crayons, or even mud for finger painting. Cover with a clear water-based sealer or repaint when weathered.

Design

Start by brainstorming design concepts for your hive. Here are some things to consider:

  • Will your hive have a theme?
  • What images or subjects would you like to work with?
  • Do you want to make a statement or express a thought or an opinion?
  • Would you like realistic artwork or an abstract design?
  • Do you prefer to paint random and spontaneous shapes, colors, and patterns?
  • Will it be a group or family project, with each person designing and painting one panel of the hive?

painted apiaryPlanning

  • Be bold, big, and colorful with your design. Details are difficult to see from a distance.
  • Sketch many different designs for the art hive on paper. Do not spend time on details. Pick out your favorites to further develop.
  • Choose the colors you will need. Black is great for outlines. Primaries (red, blue, and yellow) make it possible to mix your own colors.

How to Paint Beehives

Materials

Make it!

  • Completely cover the hive with a base layer of exterior latex paint.
  • Lightly sketch the design on the hive using a pencil. Do not worry about putting the lines on perfectly. Sketch your design
  • Draw with your full arm, not just with your fingers.
  • If you are painting the outlines in black, do that first. Allow the paint to dry. Go back and fill in with color. Acrylic paints dry a little slower and contain more pigment for better coverage. Exterior latex is much cheaper.
  • Paint away! If using acrylics, apply a protective polyurethane coat to the finished painting. Paint a beehive

 

Take it Further

finished painted beehive

  • Make a collage by gluing photos and pictures onto the hive. Cover with a protective polyurethane finish.
  • Promote artistic expression and honeybee awareness at a public event. Supply permanent markers for people to decorate a hive or write a message of gratitude to the bees or a beekeeping advocate.
  • Have a “Wild and Wonderful Beehive Tour” by displaying hives painted by local artists in public places, such as the library, city hall, grocery store, farmers’ market, or other local businesses. Auction off the hives or cast monetary votes as a fundraiser.

Reprinted with permission from Beekeeeper’s Lab: 52 Family-Friendly Activities and Experiments Exploring the Life of the Hive by Kim Lehman © 2017. Published by Quarry Books.  Photography © Anna Gieselman.

About the Author

 Kim Lehman, author of Beekeper's Lab

Kim Lehman has been sharing the many benefits of honeybees, nature’s tiny treasures, for over twenty-five years. Known as a dynamic educator, musician, and author, Kim has presented hundreds of programs at schools, libraries, museums, and nature centers. As part of her column for kids in Bee Culture Magazine, Kim began the Bee Buddies Club which now has members in every state. She founded the American Beekeeping Federation Kids and Bees Program and directed this educational service about honey bees for the public in 17 states. Check out her book Beekeeper’s Lab: 52 Family-Friendly Activities and Experiments Exploring the Life of the Hive.

  1. Linda Butler
    Linda ButlerMay 24,17

    We are considering bee keeping as a retirement hobby.

  2. Denise C
    Denise CMay 24,17

    This is genius! Why all bee hives aren’t painted with something beautiful is beyond me! I love the color! I am interested in art and bees so this would be so very cool to try!

  3. Debbi
    DebbiMay 25,17

    My daughter and I have been going to bee seminars while trying to sell my husband on bees. A friend with hives was telling him what a great hobby it is so I think we are making progress!

  4. Kathy Beveridge
    Kathy BeveridgeMay 25,17

    Bees are Bee- you tea full! They make my garden the buzz of the neighborhood.

  5. jen
    jenMay 25,17

    We just set up our first Flow Hive and installed Italian bees – very excited!

  6. Leslie Ramirez
    Leslie RamirezMay 25,17

    You inspire me to want to decorate/paint my hive! Thanks for sharing ideas from your book! If I win, I’m going to add this book to my clubs library, so others can be inspired.

  7. Sue Raddatz
    Sue RaddatzMay 25,17

    I’m so happy to discover you as a resource! My husband works with behaviorally challenged teenagers and we raise bees. When he gets home tonight, I’m going to share this blog with him for his Horticulture class. Thank you!

  8. B. Donna Hall
    B. Donna HallMay 25,17

    My parents and grandparents had bees when I was growing up. Their beehives were always painted plain white. I love the idea of painting my own beehives. The examples in your article are very colorful and attractive. I’m definitely in favor of putting fun into my beehives.

  9. Vickie
    VickieMay 25,17

    I recently took a Master Beekeeping course offered through Oregon State University – I’m not sure whether other land-grant universities offer this type of course, but it provided a wealth of information. Since I’m not very artistic, my bee boxes will just be different shades of lavender and purple since I grow lavender.

  10. JOANNA
    JOANNAMay 25,17

    We have 5 hives and we painted each one a different pastel color. I never thought to go further and decorate them like this. I definitely want to add some of these ideas. They are beautiful!

  11. Basilbecky
    BasilbeckyMay 25,17

    I have 3 hives…I need to paint them but failed to do it before the bees arrived so they are white and yellow. Perhaps if they are vacated, I will be able to “fancy” them up. I love seeing my bees on all my hundreds of flowers. I come from a long line of beekeepers, just trying to learn about them and keep the tradition going…

  12. Colleen
    ColleenMay 25,17

    I’ll “bee” darned! The bright Bee houses are such an inspiration and would brighten any area. I say yes, lets celebrate the wonders of Bees and give them beautiful bright places to live. Lets learn and teach how important those bees are to all of our survival

  13. Laurie Nykaza
    Laurie NykazaMay 25,17

    Love to learn more about Bee keeping love discovering your blog too.

  14. Beth Crowell
    Beth CrowellMay 25,17

    The pictures of the decorated hives in this article are a real inspiration!

  15. Stephanie Spraetz
    Stephanie SpraetzMay 26,17

    I enjoy bees in amongst my flowers, busy pollinating. Thinking of adding hives also in retirement next year.

  16. Megan Cain - Creative Veg Gardener
    Megan Cain - Creative Veg GardenerMay 26,17

    I did paint my hives in a slightly creative way, but this post makes me think I could do more! Time to add more art to my hives!

  17. Kathie Hogan
    Kathie HoganMay 28,17

    I have a beekeeping group (with 82 members and counting) that meets monthly at our local library, and I would love to give this away as a door prize at our next meeting.

  18. Ashley D
    Ashley DMay 28,17

    Just set up a bee garden today and bee bath. Looking into starting keeping next year. Right now just hoping they will help pollinate my squash family of plants.

  19. Rebecca
    RebeccaMay 29,17

    I plan on bee keeping in the future. Right now I am the information gathering phase.

  20. Gretchen
    GretchenMay 29,17

    I’m trying to convince my husband to get a bee-hive for the backyard but no luck yet …

  21. Heidi
    HeidiMay 29,17

    What a fantastic idea! My husband and I have been looking into having a beehive in our backyard, your book looks interesting. Thank you for this opportunity, hoping to be the lucky winner. :)

  22. Marty K
    Marty KMay 31,17

    Bee-utiful hives! They would be a joy to look at in the garden. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of the book!

  23. Christine
    ChristineMay 31,17

    Lovely! Painting the beehives is a great idea. It adds so much beauty to the garden. I am considering adding a beehive to my garden and this just make me want to even more! Thank you! Love to win the book to get me started on many more projects.

  24. Jennifer M Levesque
    Jennifer M LevesqueJune 1,17

    This is a great opportunity as I am just starting gardens at my home and I was wondering about starting beehives!

  25. Cyndi
    CyndiJune 1,17

    We are learning more about bee keeping so we can add them to our garden. Wonderful ideas to create art while doing good to the eco system of our space!

  26. Marge
    MargeJune 1,17

    Bees are back here in SW Ontario

  27. Sheila
    SheilaJune 1,17

    I’m not working now and considering beekeeping. Your hives are so cheerful, I love them.

  28. Giselle
    GiselleJune 1,17

    I’ve been wanting to start with beekeeping for the last couple of years. This book looks like a valuable resource; just may gou out and purchase it.

  29. Patty B.
    Patty B.June 1,17

    Sounds interesting, I have a friend at work whose husband is a beekeeper. Thanks, Patty B.

  30. Demi McCarthy
    Demi McCarthyJune 4,17

    I love bees! These are wonderful ideas for beehives and we are thinking of keeping bees in the future.

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseJune 13,17

      Great news, Demi! You won the book. Please check your email for details.

  31. Sue Ames
    Sue AmesJune 4,17

    I may be highly allergic to these beautiful insects but my father and grandfather were beekeepers so I know the value and I have always been fascinated by them.

  32. Maria Cotto
    Maria CottoJune 5,17

    This is my first year of beekeeping and I absolutely love it. My reason to start beekeeping was to help bees, I think it’s important to do everything we can to ensure bees thrive. They need our help.

  33. Ben Formaker-Olivas
    Ben Formaker-OlivasJune 5,17

    To bee or not to bee, that is the question.

    Silliness aside, I’m curious if there are beehive alternatives for people who want to encourage the bee population but don’t want to do the upkeep yourself. Bee motel? Hydration station?

  34. Jenna Donovan
    Jenna DonovanJune 6,17

    My husband has been keeping bees for three years and we are still learning! Thank you for sharing!

  35. Linda Anthony
    Linda AnthonyJune 13,17

    We have a hive, and know others who have hives, but NONE of us has come up with this brilliant idea! (I’m saying “Duh” to myself right now.) I can’t wait to add some color to ours. Thanks for a great idea, Kim Lehman, you rock!

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