An Introduction to the WBC Beehive Used in the UK

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Current techniques of keeping honey bees are highly advanced when compared to where beekeeping has come from. The modern hive is a neat and well-stacked rectangular box with ideal interior design to provide a habitable home for honey bees. Throughout history, a number of beehive styles have been used, with most of these designed and redesigned through trial and error. One such design is the WBC beehive. The initials stand for William Broughton Carr. We shall delve into more details about this beehive type in this article.

About the WBC Beehive

The WBC beehive came into the picture in the year 1890, when William Broughton Carr came up with the details of the hive.  The earlier design of the hive was very different when compared to what we have presently. These modern WBC hives can be attributed to the modifications made by James Lee back in the year 1899. The hives are known for the white paint and their telescopic lifts. These were introduced by James Lee. The hive is mainly common in the UK and is regarded by some as the ultimate beehive.

Mind you, the WBC beehive is regarded as the only hive with double walls that is still in use. The designs have changed over the years. The original design has straight sides and plinths underneath that helped direct water off the hive. The current telescopic design comes with a lift that covers the inner boxes made of thinner timber. This design helps insulate the beehive.

WBC hives were standardized in the 1946. Before then, most manufacturers designed their own sizes and this created a lot of problems. The various designs varied in terms of size and shape, with some characterized by a flat roof, sloping from the front to the back. Other designs were square and with different dimensions. The covering used included canvas, metal, and felt. The designs were precisely varied and without any similarity. Presently WBC hives from all manufacturers are compatible.

Double walled beehives provide great habitation for honey bees during winter since they tend to be much warmer when compared to single walled beehives. They provide excellent insulation to honey bees unlike other hive designs. These hives however require excellent maintenance to prevent damp from getting in through the loose corners, more so, during winter months. If this happens, honey bees will be predisposed to diseases and infections.

Most beekeepers that lack prior experience often discredit WBC beehives. You can attribute this to a lack of knowledge and experience. However, anyone who has used these hives before will concur with the fact that these are excellent. They are ideally best suited for beekeepers who would love to raise honey bees at home.

Fortunately or unfortunately, WBC hives have more equipment given their designs. These require space and it often takes much longer to inspect a WBC hive unlike any other. Bees when taken good care of, rarely have any issues with where or what they are raised in. Therefore, these hives provide a good habitat just like any other modern hive you will find out there.

The good thing with WBC hives, is that its parts are interchangeable with those of Nationals. In terms of costs, the parts and the hive are pretty much within the range of what you would expect of any other type of beehive. The hive takes 10 frames and can generally raise a healthy bee colony without the risk of starvation. You can harvest large crops of honey from these hives during peak seasons without impacting their survival during periods of dearth. Nonetheless, you need not finish up all the honey stores prior to winter.

Secondhand WBCs are available, however beekeepers are discouraged from purchasing such. They are often fitted with homemade supers and brood boxes that do not have the required size. Some are badly made and are characterized by improper repairs. You should stick to commercial and accredited WBC hives and parts instead since these come in standard size that can fit any WBC hive. They are also interchangeable and replaceable.

Distinguishing Features of WBC Beehives

WBC Beehive

The WBC hive is easily recognized as a wooden beehive with a signature pitched roof, sloping sides, multiple stories, and short legs. It was the first hive that used the standard brood frame of the British hive. These are the frames used by the common National Hive.

The distinctive features of the WBC hive include:

  • Pitched roof – this is mostly covered with metal and with cone shaped roof gables that act as an escape route for stray bees. This exit way is normally confused by many and mistaken for a main entrance.
  • Short legs with a level front floor. And a sloppy front half extending to the lifts. This sloping floor creates a gap below the brood box front edge, acting as the main entrance.
  • Outer lifts that have sloping sides with a lower lift that features a porch that has slides. This can be pushed across so that it blocks the entrance.
  • Narrow and thinner inner boxes – these are similar to those of the national hive but have a simpler design.

Pros and Cons of the WBC Beehive

Just like any other hive, you will appreciate the advantages of the WBC beehive. It also has its share of disadvantages.

Advantages

  • Comes with an attractive overall design.
  • Double-skinned and therefore it provides excellent insulation when compared to other hive designs. It is well suited for hot or cold weather.
  • It is so much easier to disassemble, with its lifts functioning as stands for the supers. This makes heavy lifting a breeze.
  • You can raise a huge bee colony with ease with this design without the risk of starvation. It provides sufficient space for honey bee breeding.
  • It is so much easier to carry out routine maintenance or honey harvesting with this kind of beehive.

Disadvantages

  • The WBC hive has more parts than any other beehive design. The amateur therefore regards it as complex and difficult to assemble.
  • The hive is bulky and difficult to carry around and its inner boxes are not fully bee-tight.
  • The WBC entrance is hard to block.

WBC Hive Parts

WBC hives parts are available as assembled or for DIY.

Assembled

These include the following:

  • A WBC beehive starter kit that comes with options. Ideal for both the novice and expert beekeeper. It makes an ideal starter kit and certainly the right package for the beekeeper. The right beekeeping supplies will make your work so much easier right from the onset.
  • The assembled WBC beehive that comes as a complete hive with standard deep box. An excellent addition to your existing hives. You can understand how much time it takes to assemble and simply figure out what goes where. This hive makes all that a breeze. It is particularly an excellent choice for those who haven’t assembled a hive before. Additionally, it saves plenty of time for the professional.
  • A complete WBC beehive assembled and with extra deep 14×12 box. An already assembled hive that will make your work so much easier. The extra deep box will also come in handy once your honey colony expands.
  • The assembled WBC Beehive expansion kit. A fully assembled kit that meets your needs when the honey bee colony expands. The additional space required for honey and brood will be catered for by this expansion kit.
  • As assembled WBC Beehive outer case. It is delivered as a ready assembled beehive accessory. You require the outer case to protect the honey bees from elements of nature such as rain. Sunlight, winds, and other distracters. The honey bees behave in similar manner as humans. When too hot they need to cool off. They also require some fresh air hence the need to ensure hives are well-aerated.
  • The assembled WBC gabled roof. Comes fully assembled, complete and ready for use. The supporting wood work is nonetheless untreated solid timber. Provides excellent shade and protection to honey bees.
  • The WBC assembled timber clad roof. The timber clad roof for the WBC hive comes in a classic style and is complete, assembled and ready for use. It is easy to paint and is made of solid and untreated knot free timber.
  • The assembled WBC beehive outer lift. This is fully assembled and is made of solid timber that is smooth and knot free. The outer lifts serve as the purpose of providing additional insulation to the beehive.
  • The WBC beehive crown board. Designed to fit the smaller WBC boxes. It is a clearer board with bee space on both sides in addition its two holes that can be used for clearing or feeding.
  • The extra shallow box for WBC bee hive, assembled. It is designed using know free woodwork that is untreated. Similar to standard size super but only 90mm high. It can serve many purposes. It will be filled with comb, which is never the case with standard super.
  • The standard shallow box for WBC beehive that is assembled. This comes as a complete set and is ready for use.
  • The standard deep box for WBC Beehive, delivered as complete and assembled.
  • The assembled Extra Deep Box 14 x 12 jumbo for WBC beehives.
  • The Varroa mesh floor for WBC beehives assembled. An excellent addition to your WBC beehive to keep off varroa mites.
  • A pair of hive entrance slides and mouse guard for WBC beehives.
  • A plastic queen excluder for WBC hives.
  • A WBC open mesh floor.
  • WBC legs.
  • WBC Nuc box.

 

Do-It-Yourself (DIY)

These include the following:

  • The complete WBC beehive. Comes with assembled roof, floor and crownboard. All other components need to be DIY assembled using nails, glue, or pins. Instructions are included to make assembly hassle free.
  • Beehive outer case for WBC beehives. These can also serve as garden storage equipment.
  • Outer lift for WBC Bee Hive. This is made of smooth and knot free wood. Makes an excellent addition and a practical one for your beehive.
  • Extra shallow box for WBC hives.
  • Standard shallow box for WBC beehives.
  • Standard deep box for WBC.
  • Extra Deep Jumbo 14 x 12 Box.
  • The WBC beehive entrance porch and door.

 

WBC Hive Dimensions

Standard WBC beehive dimensions are as follows:

  • Overall dimensions of the floor are 26 x 19 7/8 inches.
  • A total number of 10 frames and wax sizes.
  • The size of frames in inches is about 14 x 8-1/2.
  • The brood box inner dimensions are approximately 381 x 422 x 225 mm.
  • Exterior dimensions may vary depending on the manufacturer. It will also vary if it is home made.
  • 16mm wide lifts, 2 per hive. These are made from an 8 x 5/8 thick board. It is designed with lock-jointed corners.
  • A pitched roof or flat with a horizontal or sloping top. Inner dimensions of the roof are 20-1/4 x 20-1/4 inches.
  • 2 entrance slides have dimensions of 35 x 11 x 250 mm.
  • A 76 x 16 x 505 mm back board.

WBC Brood Box

The interior chamber of the WBC beehive comprises the brood chamber and honey supers that can be covered by crownboard or canvas quilts. The brood box can accommodate 10 standard frames. A shallow box accommodates 10 shallow British standard frames.

The brood chamber has dimensions of about 8-7/8 x 17-1/8 inches in height and length. Since the interior chamber can only accommodate 10 frames, it gives the queen a smaller area. It is therefore recommended that the beekeeper procures a deeper 14 x 12 brood box. This will provide plenty of space for the queen to lay eggs.

Advantages of Modern Hives

Honeybees devote plenty of their time building combs, collecting nectar and pollen, and making honey. This takes much effort, however modern hive makes it possible for the beekeeper to remove single combs at a time when checking for signs of diseases, evaluating honey storage, health and productivity of the queen, or when ascertaining the available space in the hive.

These crucial activities should be undertaken without destroying the honeybee nest structure or impacting the effort put by the bees in building the combs. It is also important to expand hive capacity, reduce capacity, or direct bees to specific areas of the hive whenever necessary. Furthermore, hive inspection should be carried out with minimal disturbance to the honeybees. Modern beehives make it possible to do all these, unlike earlier designs.

Honeybees in the wild instinctively perfect their comb-making skill. They generally make vertical beeswax and honey combs, irrespective of where they establish their bee colonies. Preferred habitats for wild honeybees include rock crevices, trees, or openings in high mountains. Others even build their homes inside abandoned underground burrows, even though this rarely happens. Honey bees prefer locations that are above the ground, for their security. You might even find some honey bees clustered on the roof in residences.

Honey bees combs are elegant and efficient. The hexagonal cells helps maximize available space with the beeswax providing a strong bond that helps maintain the structure of the combs. A spacing of about 1-1/2 inches separates combs with the bee space of about ¼ to 3/8 inches provided in-between the combs. This allows a couple of worker bees to carry out their functions. They can move from one comb to the other and back to back without blocking the way for other worker bees.

The natural architecture of the wild honey bee hive has been used as a basis for making modern beehives such as the WBC beehive. This discovery paved way for the design of modern hives that provide the required bee space, making it possible for honey bees to develop and thrive.

One of the things that honeybees excel at is their innate ability to make use of every available space. Any space that exceeds the required bee space is utilized by building wax honeycombs. This is used as food stores, that is, for honey and pollen. The combs can also serve as brood combs that are used for raising their young ones. Any remaining space that is below the required bee space of ¼ inch is sealed with the resin referred to as propolis.

Propolis, being a natural antiseptic is sourced from trees. It is an effective antiviral and antibacterial substance that helps honey bee colonies keep off fungi, bacteria, and viruses. The design of modern hives makes it possible for the honey bees to collect and accumulate propolis in targeted areas within the hive.

A Final Word

The WBC beehive dating back to the early 19th century still remains as one of the most attractive and classic beehives. It represents the original design of hives and is double walled. These hives provide plenty of insulation and will work well during cold or hot months. The hive is rectangular making its parts incompatible with other beehives.

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[…] parts. The standard recognizes only two types of hives as standard, that is, the National and the W.B.C hive. At its first stage the committee considered the Langstroth and Dadant designs as desirable […]

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[…] parts. The standard recognizes only two types of hives as standard, that is, the National and the W.B.C hive. At its first stage the committee considered the Langstroth and Dadant designs as desirable […]

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