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.

WCB BEEHIVE

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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