The Hive At Gettysburg

Today I built a nuc! There is not much for an aspiring beekeeper to do around here in November, so I thought this might be a good distraction. I’m not the best woodworker, and I’m not sure I really need this for my first year, but you never know. The day went fairly well and I’m happy with the result.

My Nuc Box

My new nuc box that matches the interior shape of my current top bar hive

My existing top bar hive is built using 1 by 6 and 1 by 12 boards, which of course are 3/4 inch thick and 5.5 and 11.25 inches wide. I’ve heard that board sizes like 1 by 6 historically referred to the nominal size of the original green and rough lumber before it was dried and planed, but this is another story and has little to do with bees, so never mind.

Anyway, I purchased some six-foot boards in both sizes one evening, and used another evening to mark the cut lines, so today I just had to cut and assemble the pieces. I’ve read that a typical nuc can hold five frames of comb, so given the top bars in my hive are 1.5 inches wide, I needed a box that was around 7.5 inches. I aimed for just under 8 inches to make sure I had enough space available. Hopefully the extra space doesn’t hurt.

Boards for a Top Bar Hive Nuc Box

This morning was a bit chilly, and threatened to rain, but the weather held and I was able to do the work outside. A typically brisk fall day for Virginia, with maple and oak leaves spotting the yard. In a very short time I had my pieces ready. This is when I remembered that a circular saw does not cut perfectly straight, especially when I use it. I sanded everything down and hoped it was good enough.

The assembly was a bit tricky, as I wasn’t sure how to line up the boards. The divider in my existing hive turned out to be a reasonable template, so I marked the screw locations in the end boards and drilled them out. Doing so allowed me to recall that I don’t drill straight either. Oh well…. In the end only one screw “missed” the target. Fortunately, it broke through on the outside of the wood, so while the nuc may be less secure it shouldn’t interfere with any bees that might end up working inside.

Another View of My New Nuc

This is also where the not-quite-perfect edges came into play. I was able to tighten the screws, eleven on each side, and create what appears to be a reasonably secure box. I suppose I’ll get some non-toxic silicone to caulk the outside from possible wind and rain. It never occurred to me to drill out an entrance, and I didn’t want to tackle a cover today, so I was finished. I’ll save the caulking, drilling, and covering for another day. My existing top bars fit perfectly, or nearly perfectly, so  I call it a day well spent. If nothing else, this was good practice if I eventually decide to build a second hive for the spring.

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) was an influential American Quaker and abolitionist. His 1888 poem The Hive at Gettysburg is based on a Hebrew myth that Samson killed a lion and the carcass became home for a beehive, from which Samson later took honey for strength. In the poem “A stained and shattered drum / Is now the hive where, on their flowery rounds, / The wild bees go and come.” In the final stanza he says “And Samson’s riddle is our own to-day, / Of sweetness from the strong, / Of union, peace, and freedom plucked away / From the rent jaws of wrong.”

2 thoughts on “The Hive At Gettysburg

  1. That’s a very impressive nuc. I’ve found it invaluable to have a nuc or two spare in summer for unexpected artificial swarms and increases. You’ll be so glad to have a nuc with frames ready at the side of the hive. Spare dummy boards and crownboards also.


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