HIVE: What is a “WCB Beehive”?

24 September 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

WCB are the initials of William Broughton Carr a London beekeeper and writer who lived from 1837 to 1909. Carr was both editor of the “Bee Journal and Record” and the inventor of the WCB Beehive.



The WCB beehive is not so different from the commercially popular Langstroth beehive. The Langstroth hive was built with drawers to allow beekeepers to remove a single drawer with a single honeycomb for honey harvest. This caused little disruption to the honeybee colony and, therefore, dramatically increased honey production.

The “trick” incorporated into the Landstroth hive are precisely measured frames which, when inserted into the hive, stop bees from attaching the honeycombs to other honeycombs or even the surrounding walls. This made it possible for keepers to neatly and cleanly remove single drawers with single honeycombs for harvest. At the same time, the lack of attachments assured the least possible disruption to the hive and colony.

The WCB beehive exclusively used the British Standard brood frame, which is a standard sized frame still used in UK hive drawers today. The WCB’s main “innovation” was a double wall. Intended to insulate the bees from heat and cold, there is no evidence that it accomplishes this purpose.

But the double covering made the WCB extremely unpopular with modern commercial beekeepers. The removal of the outer shell each time a beekeeper needs to examine the condition of the hive and colony made a lot of extra work for beekeepers.

The WCB hive is still popular in circles of amateur beekeepers. These hives are attractive with a pitched roof, sloping sides, and multiple layered boxes. With its short legs, it is said to have a “pagoda-like” look.

Like most hives popular with amateurs, but unpopular with commercial beekeepers, WCB are often constructed with non-standard parts. This means that when new parts and structural supplies are needed, they can be difficult to find. Also, sometimes, replacement parts must be hand-made to order adding expense to normal maintenance.

These hives are easy to move because modular parts allow the hive to be disassembled into relatively lightweight parts. But the same hive may turn out to be quite difficult to move, because the WCB design makes it almost impossible to complete exclude (remove) all bees from the hive during the moving process.


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HIVE: What is a “Bee Gum” Hive?

18 September 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

A bee gum hive is a section of a hollow tree used to provide a hive for commercially raised bees.

During the 19th century, in the eastern and southeastern United States, hollow sections of the black gum trees were set up in apiaries.  These “hives” were called “gums” after the black gum trees from which they came.  Occasionally, small sticks were placed over the open top of the “hive” to provide support for honeycomb construction.

Until the 20th century, this basic form of beekeeping was one of the most destructive.  The hive and colony not only had to be destroyed to harvest the honey, but it was common practice to kill the bees with burning sulfur before harvesting the honey.

Bee gum hives are still used in the United States, today, but hive maintenance and honey harvesting are done on the European model.  In Central Europe, hollowed-out tree trunks have long been used as commercial beehives.  But the European version uses removable bars, placed on top of the open trunk.  The bars are not just used serve the bees in building their combs but, also, allow removal of individual honeycombs without destruction of the colony and hive.  And, of course, smoke is used to calm the bees during the harvesting process.

The use of gums in modern honey production gives the resulting product a certain prestige.  In other words, although gum-produced honey is little different than any other type, producers advertise their honey as exclusively produced through the use of gum hives – and charge more for it.


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HIVE: What is a “Mud and Clay Bee Hive”?

11 September 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

When you talk about building a beehive and, then, hear the words mud and clay, you might think of a natural beehive built by the wild honeybees. But the “Mud and Clay” beehive is actually the most ancient type of hive built and used by commercial beekeepers.

Throughout the Mediterranean, including ancient Egypt, the Middle East, Greece, Italy, and Malta, unbaked mud, straw, clay and dung were shaped into a long tubes — something like the modern baked clay tile. These tubes provided hives for domesticated honeybees with the bees building their combs in the tubes.

wasp nest 009

The ancient, and some modern, beekeepers stacked the tubes to provide a dense neighborhood of hives. Both ends of the tube-hives were left open. When the time came to harvest the honey, the beekeeper would “smoke” one of the open ends of the tube to drive the bees to the other end. This allowed the keeper to harvest the honey.


This method is still used, today, throughout the Mediterranean. But, today, baked clay tiles have largely replaced the unbaked mud, straw and dung tubes. In many areas, clay pots, like those used for garden planting, are pressed into beekeeping service. The pots need little preparation beyond knocking out their bottoms to form a short, stout tubes.

The mud and clay beehive was one of the first practical solutions to some of the problems with early beekeeping. But the mud and clay hive had the disadvantage of requiring the honey-harvester to remove and destroy some of the combs that, with modern hive arrangements, might have gone undamaged. The less unnecessary damage done to the hive during honey harvesting, the more time the bees can devote to gathering more honey instead of repairing and restoring damaged or removed honeycombs.


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HIVE: Re-Direct:

4 September 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

The violet carpenter bee (formally, Xylocopa violacea) is the common carpenter bee of Europe.

Although all bees are social, like the bumblebee, the carpenter is the nearest thing to a “loner” bee.  These bees don’t fly in swarms searching for flowers.  Individual bees fly, alone, wandering (“foraging”) from flower to flower gathering pollen and nectar.

The violet carpenter bee makes its nest in dead wood.  The queen bee may bore new tunnels into the wood or use old nesting tunnels.  The carpenter queen creates her nest alone.  She bores into the wood to create a series of small cells in which she lays her eggs.  Each cell is stocked with a supply of pollen on which the bee larvae feed.

The adult bees leave the cells in late summer only to go, almost immediately, into hibernation until April or May of the following year.


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