This page has not been written for any reason other than to offer the beekeeper a critical look at both Payne's and
Maisemore polynucs, based on my experience of them up until October 2015. There are other designs, but these two are those most
At the Wisborough Green BKA teaching apiary we run 20-30 nucs
during the summer, mainly for queen rearing, so the nucs are constantly handled and the boxes probably get much more use than
the ordinary beekeeper will give them. Any nuc's that I consider to be strong enough, or weaker ones with a good queen, we will
try to overwinter, so the boxes must be suitable for permanent exposure to the elements.
When Payne's polynucs appeared, they looked remarkably like those supplied by a company that is no longer in business. I had a
good look at them and although there were a few features I didn't like, I thought they were good value, so we bought 6 for use in
the teaching apiary. We used them for 2-3 years, during which time I found what I considered to be some rather annoying
Maisemore Apiaries introduced a new design about the end of 2014, which overcame some of the problems I saw with Payne's
polynucs, but they managed to retain some of the features I disliked. We bought 6 of these too, so what I write here is based
on a full season's use. Of course I accept that others may disagree, but I'm telling you my views and reasons for them.
With experience in the teaching apiary, where we use several different nuc boxes, other beekeepers and my own bees, I get the
compare different things. There are benefits to polynucs, but overall I still find well designed and well made wooden nuc boxes
vastly superior to polynucs for my purposes. My
own design of nuc box has proved to be very satisfactory for what I
use them for.
What I like about Payne's and Maisemore polynucs:-
- Polynucs are light if you are moving them. As a fairly strong chap, that is no great benefit to me, but it might be for others.
- There is a mesh floor. The good thing is it is only partial, so it doesn't weaken the construction much. Bees can ventilate
them very much better than a solid floored box.
- There are feet moulded into the base. When on a flat surface air can easily get into the nuc box. The feet can lock into
depressions in the roof, which could be a benefit if the boxes are stacked for transport, although of little benefit to the
- The entrances in both types are quite small, but large enough for the strongest nuc. They are closed off with a circular
closure, although the queen excluder slots won't even let workers through!
- Within the same type they are identical, so everything fits. That's a real benefit when you are dealing with quite large
- The ends are well designed, with good hand holds.
- The cost is low enough that I think many beekeepers would buy one or more, where they may not buy a wooden nuc box. That is a
good thing, because it will give them an opportunity to get a queen mated, make a small colony for
increase or to replace losses.
- They are good for collecting swarms, where often you need a light box, especially up a ladder.
- When removing wild colonies from buildings you often need a fair sized bee proof box that is light. These are ideal.
Now what I don't like:-
- In my view the material of both types is too soft. They damage very easily. Extreme care is needed at all times, which is
not easy, especially when using hive tools and bumping the boxes on the ground to remove bees.
- The top of the box and roof on both types has a recess all round, presumably to prevent movement during transport. The idea
sounds good until you use these boxes several times, when you discover the bees love to fill any gap with propolis. This idea
was used many years ago by Steele and Brodie on their "Wormit" hive. There are many references in old Scottish literature to
the problems of separating the boxes! I would much prefer a flat surface as in a conventional hive. Having used the six Maisemore
boxes with feeders in their first autumn, I found the polystyrene breaking up when removing the feeder. I accept that smearing
with petroleum jelly might reduce the problem, but it is an inconvenience I can do without.
- In my view neither type has a satisfactory crown board. The Payne's we have and Maisemore don't have one, but the later
Payne's boxes have a thin clear plastic sheet, that seem like an afterthought.
- I use a piece of tough plastic sheet that is cut from animal food bags on top of the frames. This causes problems when
putting the roof on, because it won't sit properly.
- At first I thought the internal feeder of the Payne's box was a very good idea, but the wooden float easily gets lost,
especially when the box gets turned upside down to knock bees out. I know several beekeepers who have cut the internal wall of
the feeder out to make space for an extra frame. If the nuc gets large and there is a nectar flow on, the bees build comb in the
feeder, then if the "queen excluder" is lost, which is very easy, the queen lays in the comb in the feeder. I know someone who
didn't clear the comb out quickly enough and wax moth bored holes in the feeder, so it leaked!
Maisemore got over the internal feeder
problem by using a Miller type feeder, which had the benefit of reducing the width of the box. One very good feature of this is the bottom
of the compartments slope towards the middle, so the bees can use all the syrup without the hive having to be level.
Unfortunately the edge is recessed, making it difficult to remove the feeder if the bees propolise up the joints, as they are
bound to do in the autumn. I am writing this a few hours after fighting my way into half a dozen of them!
- Both these are rapid feeders. There are times when I like to feed a nuc slowly, which you can't do with these. If you use
a slow feeder, such as a honey jar with a few holes punched in the lid, you need to make a "crown board" of some type and an
eke that is taller than the feeder.
- The ledge where the frames rest on Payne's box is flat, so the bees propolise the lugs down. Maisemore got over this by
recessing the ledge, so there was less contact. Well done, I thought, until I used them a few times. Because the material is
soft, the lugs make a sizeable depression in the "runner". The answer would be to use harder material or insert a tough
- There is far too much room between the frames and the floor, so the bees build comb under the frames. This has to be
removed when the nuc is transferred to a standard hive. The bees build a deeper bit of comb where the mesh is, because of
the depression. In my view the internal dimensions are 25mm too deep.
- With a wooden box you can scrape propolis and wax off with a hive tool, but these polynucs are so soft you soon damage
them. I know you can use petroleum jelly or washing soda solution, but
I need to reduce time, not increase it.
- Both types are advertised as accommodating 6 frames, but that is stretching it a bit! You can just squeeze 6 Hoffman
frames in because they are 35mm wide, but the standard metal or plastic end is 38mm. The former
"rolls" bees when you remove the first frame, the latter you can only
get 5 frames in. There are 35mm wide plastic ends available, but you need to measure them. I prefer 5 frames and a
division board, which works
well for me. In my view there would be great benefit in increasing the internal width by 20mm. This would then make it a
genuine 6 frame nuc and much easier to use.
I know that beekeepers have different ideas and they favour what suits them, but although I use Payne's and Maisemore
polynucs and will continue to do so, I probably wouldn't buy any more until many of what I see as problems are addressed. As
an engineer I don't see many of the suggestions as being difficult to achieve.
For a nuc box, I think it is better to have top bee space, because you
just need a flat piece of plywood for a crownboard.
I see a lot of these polynucs, but very few are
painted. I think this is a big mistake, as they will last much longer
if they were. Many have obvious degradation of the surfaces, telling me they won't last long. Many of my wooden nuc boxes are
in excess of 20 years old and even after quite a hard life, they are still in very good condition.
Some of the issues I have mentioned can partly be overcome. I suggest the following may help:-
- Paint the outsides and if you can the inside of the feeder.
- When not in use keep inside covered up from the light.
- Smear petroleum jelly on all working surfaces.
- Be careful not to damage them, either in handling or with the hive tool.
- DON'T stand a smoker on them. They melt!
In writing the above I have tried to be helpful. If either supplier wishes to ask me I am happy to speak to them. It is
certainly not my intention to discourage beekeepers from buying or using either type, as there are benefits. These are simply my views of them after
giving them a fair trial, but bear in mind they have probably had heavier use than many beekeepers will give them.
If you have found ways of overcoming any of the issues I have raised please
Email me and if I
think the comment useful I will include it here.