The most important piece of equipment any beekeeper needs is a hive to house their honey-producing charges. Most man-made hives are crafted of wood, and since the hives must stay outdoors and withstand four seasons of weather, the hives must be painted. Unpainted wooden hives will rot, and are also more susceptible to termite and other wood-boring insect invasion. You will need to protect the exterior of your wooden beehive, and painting it is the best way to do so.
Select the right paint and primer. It can get hot inside a beehive during summer months, so choose a light-colored paint to reflect most of the sun's rays away from your hive. White is common, but some beekeepers select a light blue or green for aesthetic purposes. Oil-based paints can generate fumes that are toxic to your bees, so a primer created for outdoor surfaces and an exterior latex satin paint are best.
Separate the layers. It's easier to stack the beehive layers on top of each other for painting, but be sure to place a sheet of wax paper between each layer. This will prevent the paint from gluing the bodies together. Once the paint is dry, remove the wax paper and reassemble your beehive outdoors.
Paint the beehive. Start with a generous coat of primer, two if you live in an area that receives a lot of rain or snow each year. This will keep the moisture out of your wood. Once the primer is dry, apply the latex paint. Again, two coats will offer maximum protection to your hive material. Allow all surfaces to dry completely before reassembling your wooden hive outdoors.
For decorative purposes, you can paint flowers, bees, gnomes or trees on the outside of your hive. It won't affect the reflective property of the light-colored paint, and the bees won't care.