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Vital Stats and Materials List for Five-Frame Nuc Hive

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A five-frame nuc (or nucleus) hive is a small beehive with five frames of bees. If you'd like to build a nuc, here are some vital stats you need to know and a materials list for shopping.

[Credit: Illustration by Felix Freudzon, Freudzon Design]
Credit: Illustration by Felix Freudzon, Freudzon Design

Vital stats for a five-frame nuc hive

  • Size: 23 inches x 11 inches x 13-1/4 inches.

  • Capacity: Because this design consists of only five frames, there’s no room for expansion as the bee colony grows in population, so the capacity for bees is limited. Theoretically, you could build additional nuc hive bodies and stack them one on top of the other to allow the colony to grow. But that’s not really the purpose of a nuc hive, unless you’re using the nuc as a pollination source in your garden.

  • Type of frame: This nuc hive uses a Langstroth-style, self-centering frame with beeswax foundation inserts. It has a total of five deep frames.

  • Universality: Because the nuc uses Langstroth-style frames, you can easily purchase them for this hive (they’re available from beekeeping supply stores).

  • Degree of difficulty: This is a pretty straightforward design. However, the metalwork involved with the aluminum flashing used on the outer cover can be a challenge (bending the corners takes a little patience and practice).

  • Cost: Using scrap wood (if you can find some) would keep material costs of this design minimal. But even if you purchase all the recommended lumber, hardware, and fasteners, you can likely build this nuc hive for about $85 (a little less if you use knotty pine lumber).

Materials list for a five-frame nuc hive

To build your nuc hive, take this materials list to your hardware store or home center. In most cases, you can make substitutions as needed or desired.

Lumber Hardware Fasteners
1, 8' length of 1" x12" clear pine lumber 1, roll of 14"-wide aluminum flashing (usually comes in a 10' length) 80, #6 x 1-3/8" deck screws, galvanized, #2 Phillips drive, flat-head with coarse thread and sharp point
1, 2' x 4' sheet of 3/4" thick exterior plywood Optional: weatherproof wood glue 25, #8 x 1/2" lath screws, galvanized, #2 Phillips drive, flat-head with sharp point
1, 2' x 4' sheet of 1/4" thick lauan plywood Optional: A quart of latex or oil exterior paint (white or any light color), exterior polyurethane, or marine varnish

Here are a few tips and tricks to purchasing materials for your five-frame nuc hive:

  • Clear pine is not too expensive as lumber goes. Alternatively, knotty pine is even less expensive. You can also use different kinds of wood for your nuc hive. Cedar and cypress make beautiful hives, and you can really get fancy with a cherry or mahogany nuc hive. It’s up to you.

  • Depending on where you buy it, plywood sometimes comes as 23/32 inch (rather than 3/4 inch). No worries: The difference is minimal, and either way, the plywood will fit just fine.

  • In the case of fasteners, you have a few more pieces than you’ll use because, you’ll lose or bend a few along the way. It’s better to have a few extras on hand and save another trip to the hardware store.


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