This article has been previously published, but contains seasonally relevant information.
If you have bees you need a nucleus hive, but we’ve already talked about that. This is about how you can build a nucleus hive easily and economically – for about $15. This is a 5 frame medium nuc, which I made from one 10′ 1×10 plank – bought at Lowe’s for about $12.50 – and which you can build with only a circular saw, hammer, nails, glue, tape measure, square, screw driver, and a pencil. BTW, you can hurt your self with any of those tools – even a pencil can put an eye out, so follow all safety rules. Especially wear safety glasses when using a Skil saw.
Thou Shalt Not hold me or Cookeville Bee Keepers responsible for death, dismemberment, mayhem, boo-boos, loss of property, life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness which might result from your attempt to do anything – contained on this web site or not. Agreed? If so we may proceed, otherwise turn back now – don’t even peek at the pictures.
The main criteria for this nuc is that it can be easily built with nothing more advanced than a Skil saw, so if you are a woodworker you will no doubt spot things that you would do different, and I agree. But, despite being simple to build this is a solid design.
Cut a 56″ piece from your 10’x1x10 and then rip the 56″ piece down to 8″ wide – you don’t actually have to mark out everything before you start. Save the long scrap – you’re going to use it too.
This nuc has about 1 1/4″ of space under the frames – which is kind of a lot, but I have found that extra space under there is not much of a problem, while too little is. Also that is enough room for you to emergency feed in the winter by simply pouring some sugar in there – it also allows plenty of room in the winter for dead bees that sometimes build up during long spells of bad weather. If you want less bottom space then simply adjust this dimension. You can go as small as 1/4″.
If you want to build a nuc for deep frames you will have to use a 1×12 instead of a 1×10, and you will need to leave the 56″ piece the full width of the 1 x 12. You will still be able to make your deep nuc from one 10′ plank because The small pieces (handles and whatnot) that are made from the rip can be made from the end scrap instead. The top and bottom will still be the same dimensions though.
Next – from the half that you previously ripped down to 8″ cut off a piece about 15 1/4″ long which will end up making both ends – but don’t cut them apart yet!
This is the trickiest part of the entire project – and it isn’t really very tricky. Cut the frame rest by setting your saw to cut only 3/8″ deep and make a cut at 7/8″ down from the top – this is a little bit deeper than standard frame rests, but it allows you to use a CD jewel case as a Small Hive Beetle trap on the top bars of the nuc. After you very carefully make the first 3/8″ deep cut at 7/8″ down make several more cuts close together above the first one, and then break out the waste wood with a screwdriver, chisel or strong knife. It’s easier to do than it is to describe.
Cut a notch in one end to be the entrance using the same technique that you used to cut the frame rest. You really need to clamp the piece in a vise or something to safely make those cuts. You can see in the picture that I haven’t broken out all of the waste yet.
An easier way would be to just cut off one of the corners, which would work just fine, but would look a little different.
I made the entrance 3/4″ x 3/4″ because I think that small hives do better with small entrances – especially during robbing season. If you want a larger entrance then go for it. If you have a drill you can also drill a hole anywhere that you want it – but if it is close to the bottom they will have an easier time removing dead bees and trash from the hive. However if it is up just a little bit from the bottom you can actually feed in the spring by squirting syrup in through the entrance. I never have, but I know that it is done.
Now you can cut the two ends to length.
Cut all of the other pieces to length:
- Sides – 2 each – 8″ x 19 7/8″
- Ends – 2 each – 8″ x 7 1/2″
- Bottom – 1 each – 9 1/4″ (full width of 1×10 lumber) by 19 7/8″
- Top – 1 each – 9 1/4″ (full width of 1×10 lumber) by 23 1/4″
- Top Stiffeners – 4 each – 9 1/4″ by about 1 1/4″ – or however wide your long scrap is.
- Handles – 2 each 9″ by about 1 1/4″ – or however wide your long scrap is.
Assemble everything using plenty of water proof glue – I like TiteBond 3 and nails or screws. Do the best job you can fastening the stiffeners to the lid because lids have a strong tendency to warp. Use a wet paper towel to wipe off excess glue as you go. If you use screws you will get much better results if you pre-drill the holes first to prevent splitting your wood. Other wise small gauge nails work just fine. As a matter of fact the holes around screw heads are quite prone to rot if they aren’t caulked and painted – so plain old nails may be just as good.
The turn bolt closure over the entrance is optional, but it sure is handy if you ever use your nuc to catch a swarm, or want to move it while full of bees.
With a good coat of exterior grade paint this nucleus hive will last for years.
Disclaimer – the main reason that I built this nuc out of a pine 1 x 10 plank is that this material has more appeal to some people – but I build lots of equipment like this out of construction scraps – plywood and Advantech (a great, durable material for all kinds of equipment in my opinion) and the bees don’t mind at all. I have some that are in their 4th year that are still solid as when new. If you can get scraps for cheap or free then I say use them – it will save you money, and it’s recycling. If you actually bought a sheet of 3/4 advantech it would cost you about $22 – $25 and would make 4 of these little hives – less than 1/2 price – and would be less likely to warp. But it wouldn’t be as pretty.
Here is another easy nuc designed to be really economical – the pictures tell the whole story. This is for a deep nuc.