October 10, 2016

WBC Hive

The WBC Hive is the bee hive that everyone pictures when they think of honey and honey bees. What picture of an English country garden is complete without a white-painted WBC Hive. The WBC was invented in Britain in about 1890 by the writer and beekeeper William Broughton Carr, hence the name WBC. This design of hive was a variation on the earlier and still used moveable frame Langstroth Hive.

This is a double walled hive, the reason being that the double walls can offer greater protection in adverse weather, especially if you keep your hive in a cold damp windy environment. The inner air space creates a warm buffer zone, protecting the colony from the freezing winds and driving rain, although this can also have the reverse effect of taking longer for the WBC hive to warm up in the early spring sunshine. The inside of the WBC hive is made up of boxes like the Langstroth and British National Hive and the outside is built up with a series of box frames, called lifts, built on a landing porch or board. It is these outside lifts on the WBC that are often painted white.

The disadvantage of the WBC hive design is basically the extra work involved in taking it apart and moving it. The WBC also uses much more wood than other hives and every time an extra box or super needs to be added an additional lift also has to be made or purchased.

The WBC however uses the same frame sizes as the National so the two can be run easily together. There is one major difference between these two hives which is the number of frames in both brood box and honey supers, being only ten in the WBC, as opposed to the usual eleven in National and other hives.

This may seem a minor detail, but one frame can mean a lot, in terms of space for the growing colony and the spreading brood in early spring. If there is less space, then it’s more likely the bees will swarm and also there is obviously a smaller area in the WBC for storage of winter supplies of honey for the bees. However older or less strong beekeepers are often glad to have a lighter super box to have to lift when it is full of honey. But of course that also means harvesting less honey from a WBC honey box.

Despite the disadvantages of the WBC hive they still remain popular amongst hobby beekeepers who see them as a not just a home for their bees but also as a great garden ornament.

More Information on Bee Hives

Bee Boles

Before the advent of more permanent moveable frame  hives in the 18th Century bees were housed in a variety of containers. The most well-known early bee house in the UK was the skep. As they were made from straw it was necessary to protect them from extremes of weather, especially in parts of Scotland, the Lake District and the Devon moors.

Skeps were kept in recesses, called bee boles often in a south-facing garden walls, to ensure the bees had maximum sunlight and each recess or bee bole was big enough to hold a skep. Bee boles, were also called bee holes, bee shells (Cumbria), bee niches (Derbyshire) , bee boxes (Kent) and bee walls (Gloucestershire) depending upon what part of the UK you lived.

Apart from protecting the skeps from the weather, bee boles also offered the owners protection from the theft of their skeps as honey was highly sought after. Often a metal bar would be fitted across the recess of the bee bole to stop them being removed. A wooden board or door would often be fitted over the front in winter as can be seen from the picture above of bee boles in the Lost Garden of Heligan in Cornwall.

If you would like to find out more about bee boles and where to find them, we very much enjoyed reading Bee Boles and Bee Houses by A M Foster, we found it to be very well researched and full of  informative pictures.