In my day to day beekeeping hobby, I use many nuc boxes in my apiary. With the experiences I have under my belt, I thought it may be a good idea to share my thoughts with you, and have decided to write a Paynes poly nuc review. So without further ado let’s crack on.

But first, a brief overview of a nuc hive

Every beekeeper at some point will find it useful to to have at least one or maybe several nucleus hives in their arsenal. These days they are often known as nuc’s for short. Thank goodness for that, it rolls off the tongue far easier don’t you think?

I won’t go into great detail on all the potential uses of how a nuc can work for you but I’ll just mention the very basics.

What is a nuc hive?

Essentially, a nuc is a box that houses a small colony of bees, usually with a capacity of holding 5 or 6 frames. It pretty much operates as a full sized hive would as it has a laying queen, brood, worker bees and food stores, only on a smaller scale.

Why use a nuc hive?

A Nuc hive can help you out with your beekeeping in many ways. It can be used to prevent overcrowding of your main full sized hives by transferring some frames from the congested, healthy hive into the nuc to free up some space.

Another way of using a nuc is to use it as a mating hive. This is when a freshly emerged queen uses it as a residence until she has mated and begun to lay eggs. She is kept company by a small band of worker bees on a few frames until the colony is built up sufficiently enough to be transferred to a full sized hive.

Why did I choose the Paynes poly nuc?

As mentioned earlier, I use the Paynes poly nuc in my small beekeeping operation….. Quite a few of them in fact.

In the early days when I only had a couple of hives, early in the season I encountered my first swarm cell. Just the one, but it was enough for me to spring into action. At the time I was fortunate enough to live within a 30 minute journey from Paynes bee farm in Hassocks. I counted my blessings that I didn’t have to wait for an online supplier to ship a nuc box out to me. A swarm there and then would have frightened the life out of me, so I hastily jumped in the car and headed there with a couple of poly nuc boxes on my shopping list.

Paynes offered just what i wanted, a nuc box that was well built, economical and a capacity for 6 national frames.

Why polystyrene?

It’s all down to the insulation. Honey bees need to keep a constant temperature in their colony. A well insulated hive puts less strain on the bees as they try to keep warm in the winter months and they consume less stored honey in the process. Anecdotal evidence suggests hives made of polystyrene yield up to 25% more honey than one made of cedar wood. Of course, this figure can vary year on year and needs to take in all sorts of other variables to stand true. Here is an interesting fact though, because the poly nuc hive walls are warmer, brood rearing can take place on the outer frames of the colony. On a wooden nuc, brood rearing is usually limited to the inner or middle frames.

Bees at entrance of a poly nuc

I have personally found that I have earlier, and better spring build up in my colonies by using poly nucs.

Paynes poly nuc features

If you buy a Paynes poly nuc, what can you expect? Well, you can expect a long useful life from it that will see you through season after season. Paynes themselves claim that it will last for 20 years or more. I can’t personally vouch for that, but other than a few little digs and scrapes, some of mine look as good as new after 5 or 6 years. There is no reason I can think of why they won’t remain that way for many more years. That being said, I have had the odd nibble here and there on one or two, possibly by a rabbit. But that doesn’t make much difference in being able to use it.

Unpainted Paynes poly nuc hive

The material

The polystyrene used is a very high density material. Get any thoughts of it being the same stuff used in packaging because it isn’t, this is three times stronger. You can give the side of the nuc box a good firm rap with your knuckles and you will hear a nice resounding thump. It’s pretty robust with no flimsiness whatsoever. The roof fits nicely so you won’t get cold draughts in the brood area.
When you open the lid you will find:

  • Clear cover board
  • Poly hive care sheet
  • Wooden feeder float
  • Entrance disc with fixing screw
  • Feeder queen excluder

Adding a lick of paint

I would advise anyone who decides to buy a poly nuc, to paint it. Mine are painted with two coats of a good exterior masonry paint using a good old fashioned paint brush. A lot of mine are painted with the Sandtex brand but I know Paynes also suggest you can use Cuprinol shades.

Painting a Paynes poly nuc hive with masonry paint

The purpose of painting the nuc is to give an extra layer of protection to the polystyrene so it will last longer. Painting will protect it from the sun’s UV rays and will also seal the very small gaps between each of the fused together polystyrene balls on the surface structure. Doing this minimises frost damage too during the winter.

Built in feeder

The Paynes poly nuc hive comes with a built in side feeder. This is a handy feature in itself. It enables you to give a quick and easy feed to a split you have just made without having to worry about extra feeders. It comes supplied with a wooden float, which does just that. Floating on top of the syrup in the feeder, it will enable the bees an easier route to climb back out instead of drowning. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work. With thousands of hungry bees rushing to consume the feed, it’s no surprise we get some casualties.

Paynes poly nuc feeder with float

There is no need for the queen to be exploring the feeder, so she is restricted access by way of a tiny queen excluder.

Nuc feeder queen excluder

It is nice to know that Paynes do supply a separate top style feeder for the poly nuc hive though. This can hold larger amounts of sugar syrup so can save you extra trips to the apiary to feed some hungry colonies.

Open mesh floor

As it looks like the Varroa mite is here to stay, it is important a nuc box is fitted with an open mesh floor. The idea is the Varroa mite falls off of the bee and through the mesh into the outside world. With no way of getting back in the hive it then dies. The firm mesh also gives good ventilation in the hive so it helps to stop condensation buildup which can trigger certain diseases. The feet on the underside of the nuc box provide a nice gap to ease air flow if placed on the ground.

Paynes poly nuc mesh floor

A traffic controlled entrance

The entrance disc gives a nice range of entrance sizes to your poly nuc box depending on the season. The disc is fixed to the nuc entrance by a single screw. You can choose for the entrance hole to be half closed, closed completely, or closed with fine mesh.

Paynes poly nuc disc entrance

Crown board

The Paynes poly nuc is supplied with a clear coverboard. Just remember to peel off the plastic film layer before use.

Paynes poly nuc coverboard with film still on

Using a clear coverboard makes it easy to view into the brood area without disturbing the bees too much, but after a while it does become difficult to see through because of wax and propolis buildup.

Any drawbacks?

Cleaning the Paynes poly nuc

As far as the Paynes poly nuc design stands, I can’t really fault it. There are a couple of points i’d like to mention though. As with all (not just from Paynes) poly nucs and full sized hives, you need to take particular care when cleaning it. Paynes recommends using soda crystals to dissolve any propolis and wash away dirt. Any chunks of wax will need to be removed by scraping away with a hive tool beforehand though. Obviously a metal hive tool can easily damage the surface of the polystyrene nuc, so keep the hive tool nice and flat as you scrape away.

If you wish to sterilise your Paynes poly nuc, a 10% bleach solution is recommended. Bleach containing hypochlorite is required for sterilisation against American foul brood. Just make sure to use suitable protection including goggles when carrying out this task.

Last but not least

What I am about to tell you is what I believe is the best feature of this poly nuc hive. Paynes bee farm have developed a range of add ons for this product that can turn it from a stand alone nuc box into essentially a full sized hive. You can purchase from them an extra brood box which slots on top, giving you a total capacity of 12 brood frames! What’s more, you can also get a super so your bees can even store a surplus of honey. It seems all bases are covered as they can supply an eke too which is helpful when applying treatments to the colony.

Ok, I’ll be honest with you. Having all the add-ons fitted to your nuc hive will not be beekeeping in it’s the most practical way. But I love the idea of being able to cater for and expand a temporarily housed colony by adding the extra brood box. In fact I do this every year.

A newly raised colony of bees will quickly outgrow a 6 frame nuc, but by adding another nuc brood box to it, I know they will be strong enough to survive through the winter.

Paynes poly nuc with double brood box

When spring arrives they are thriving and soon bursting at the seams. And it is that which convinces me to keep on buying Paynes poly nucs. I give them my thumbs up and I think you would too.

 

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