Which is the best poly nuc? Over the last few years a number of manufacturers and suppliers have started selling polystyrene nucleus (poly nuc) hives in the UK. Some of these are specifically designed around the popular British National frame dimensions, others take advantage of the larger size of Langstroth frames to provide a box that will accommodate National frames, or that can be readily modified to take them.
I’ve used three of the most widely available – in order of increasing price – from Paynes, Modern Beekeeping and Thorne’s. I’ve also commented on the use or modification of each of these poly nucs elsewhere on this site. To simplify the comparison I list below what I consider to be the best and worst features of each of these poly nucs, with a few additional comments on their use.
Paynes poly nuc (£31)
- British National dimensions (6 frame), no modification needed
- Eke available for 14×12’s or to feed fondant
- Reasonable price, particularly if you buy in the sales or in bulk (good discounts can be had)
- Convenient handles for carrying
- Easy to paint
- Box plus lid, no removable floor (wire open mesh floor)
- Can be readily converted to a (more useful) 8 frame poly nuc
- Internal feeder is too narrow and is difficult to empty if the box is occupied with bees
- Box plus lid, no removable floor
- Roof is far too thin and flimsy (build an insulated eke for winter use), side walls are just about OK
Modern beekeeping (Paradise Honey) poly nuc (£37)
- High quality build with dense, thick, poly
- 6 frame
- Entrances at both ends for conversion to dual, three frame nuc – which can also be achieved with National frames and a bit of DIY
- Thick roof requiring no additional insulation
- Removable floor with integral plastic mesh
- Good handholds for carrying
- Langstroth dimensions (only an issue if you don’t use Langstroth frames of course)
- Too many nooks and crannies to make painting easy – at least with a brush
- Requires strapping together for transport (removable floor)
- Entrance reducers are a daft price (but Correx makes a good substitute)
Thorne’s Everynuc (£47)
- High quality build with dense, thick, poly
- 5 frame (plus a dummy board)
- Excellent thick, solid roof
- Clear plastic crownboard
- Removable floor with integral wire mesh
- Varroa monitoring tray
- Integral syrup/fondant feeder (users of Langstroth frames can buy a nicely designed polystyrene Miller-type syrup feeder)
- Smooth roof and side – easy to paint
- No convenient handholds for carrying
- Entrance is much too large and no entrance block supplied
- Bee space is a bit wayward in places
- Langstroth (but already converted to National, so not really a con at all)
You will likely see lots of the Paynes poly nucs in visits to apiaries. They were one of the earliest to the market and can be bought in bulk at a big discount. However, price aside, there are too many compromises in my opinion to make them a good investment, particularly if you intend to routinely overwinter colonies. Nevertheless, when converted to 8 frame boxes (as originally described on the BBKA forums), they are excellent for collecting swarms – light enough to carry up a precarious ladder, no removable floor to drop and large enough for all but the very biggest prime swarms. Some people also use them as bait hives, though the volume is not ideal according to Tom Seeley.
Quality-wise there is little to choose between the MB/Paradise Honey and Thorne’s Everynuc. Other than the issue of painting, if you use Langstroth frames, either would be an excellent investment. However, the Thorne’s Everynuc can be purchased with an integral feeder that also converts the box to take National frames “off the shelf“. Despite the higher price, this convenience and the removable Varroa tray, probably makes the Everynuc the best choice. The deficiencies of the Everynuc can be readily fixed. With care, poly nucs should last a couple of decades at least, which makes the price premium for the Thorne’s offering (actually built in Germany) pretty much irrelevant.
Thanks for taking the time to do this review, very useful.
Thanks for the review, David. There is one other poly nuc on the market, sold by Park Beekeeping in Blackheath, London.
It can hold five National, National 14×12 or Langstroth frames, comes with a top Miller feeder and OMF. I’ve used them for about five years and have had no real problems, though I’m unsure of the need for the glued metal castellations on the updated model. £49.
Poly is not as smooth as Thorne’s but perfectly good (100g/l), and it comes ready-painted.
Thorne offer a standard National poly nuc at £27 alongside the Everynuc, but it only has 22 mm. thick walls.
Thanks for these details Eric. I’ve not seen this product but have looked it up on their website. The price seems good value considering the inclusion of an eke and feeder. It’s not clear from the rather limited details how the volume is reduced to accommodate National frames in a Langstroth-sized box. I’d agree with you that castellations are an odd inclusion but assume they could be replaced with runners. A prepainted box is appealing. I’ll look out for it in the conventions next Spring.
I have seen the thinner and less expensive model from Thorne’s but wasn’t particularly impressed with it – we used it in our association queen rearing course for mating. Poly boxes should last well if given reasonable care (with European beekeepers using them for 20+ years already) and I’d prefer to pay a little extra upfront for a product that has better insulation and features.