Building a Nucleus Bee Hive

2012 June 27
by Chris Vernon
Nuc hive

The finished 14x12 nuc hive

A nucleus hive is a small bee hive. Where a conventional hive holds 10-12 frames in the broodbox and can be expanded upwards by adding supers for honey storage, a nucleus or ‘nuc’ hive only holds 3-6 frames of brood. They are typically used for housing small colonies that result from a captured swarm or a split from a large colony. They are handy to have around, as the late Dave Cushman wrote:

Many beekeeping problems can be solved by either putting something into a nucleus or taking it out.

Whilst we bought our 14″x12″ National hive, I decided to have a go at making a nuc. Since we’re using extra deep brood frames, I’m building the nuc to take these. Browsing the web with this in mind a few weeks ago I came across Martin Adams’ album on Photobucket. Home made nucs and plans! The Internet really is a remarkable thing, we’ll miss it when it’s gone! I’ve copied the plans below in case the Photobucket site is unavailable in the future.

With cutting list in hand I bought a single 8′ by 4′ sheet of 12mm external plywood from B&Q. They helpfully made a few appropriate cuts so I could get it in the car. There’s enough material for two, with a good bit of spare. You can get five out of two sheets, but I figured that might be too much of a good thing! With the cutting done, it was simply glued and screwed together with powerdrive (deep cut thread) screws. Click the thumbnails to enlarge:


Half a hive

Edges glued and screwed

Frames in nuc

Holds 6 frames

Bee space

Perfect bee space

Hive vent

Mesh over vent

There’s a crownboard not shown in the photos with a hole for a feeder. The roof space is 100mm, enough for the 4 pint rapid feeder. I’ve painted the hive with an exterior grade woodstain, five coats in all, to provide a degree of weather proofing. The nuc is currently out in the garden, with some frames of foundation and a few drops of lemongrass oil. The hope being that a nearby swarm might move in!

In all the nuc cost just under £20 to build.

Nuc hive

The finished hive before five layers of woodstain.

Plans from Martin Adams, click to enlarge:

National nuc hive

14"x12" National

Nuc hive

Regular National

11 Responses leave one →
  1. June 28, 2012

    Good job – I hope your nuc is humming with activity soon.

  2. Peter permalink
    July 1, 2012

    Thanks a million for this. Just what I’ve been looking for! You’re spot on…The Internet really is a remarkable thing!!!

  3. Richard permalink
    July 11, 2012

    Great article, and a good looking box as well.

    My Local B&Q will cut these sheets exactly to size if you ask nicely, and go when they are not that busy.

    Could I ask which brand of wood stain you used? And did you only paint the outside?

  4. Chris Vernon permalink*
    July 11, 2012

    On this one I just used a generic Homebase water based wood stain designed for external use. I gave it five coats.

    Since this photo was taken, I’ve also added some roofing felt for added protection.

  5. Nate H permalink
    December 13, 2012

    any inhabitants yet Chris?

  6. Chris Vernon permalink*
    December 13, 2012

    Left it out on the garage roof, as a ‘bait’ hive. Saw a few scouts investigating but no one moved in.

    The bees in our main hive seem to be doing well though – well fed and left for the winter now. Fingers crossed they’ll make it through!

  7. Kenneth Ridgeway permalink
    April 8, 2013

    Hi. Lovely hive.
    The drawing showing the area the frames rest on shows a piece of wood with a rebate cut out.
    The picture of the hive shows the rebate is formed by one piece of wood being shorter than the side piece and the handle part forms the buffer for the end of the frames.
    Which is correct please as it is this problem that has not let me start building my nucs.
    Thank you in anticipation

  8. Chris Vernon permalink*
    April 9, 2013

    Hi Kenneth. I didn’t cut a rebate as shown in the plans.

    This image should be fairly clear:

    From the inside out I have the hive wall then a ~1 inch wide spacer (to accommodate National frame’s long lugs) then finally the end piece which forms the handle.

    There’s no one right way to do it, as long as bee space is provided and it’s strong enough any solution can work.

    Good luck! 🙂

  9. roy charman permalink
    March 6, 2014

    like the plans I have just copied one I bought at one tenth of the price

  10. Charles Yoxall permalink
    January 24, 2018

    Just looking at plans and stumbled across your post.
    I’m not sure if you finally got any bees into the nice.
    May I suggest you try some old frames in it as bees love the smell and if you can spare it some with capped honey as a sacrifice. It seems to work well and is a small price to pay for a swarm

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