The WBC is so named as it was invented in 1890 by a William Broughton Carr, and it is a double-walled hive. It works very well in our damp and changeable climate as the weather is kept off the boxes where the bees have their combs. It isn’t quite as easy to use if you move your hives, and they are more expensive as they consist of twice the amount of wood! However, they look lovely and as they perform well they have merits over and above being aesthetically pleasing.
A WBC comes with an integral stand and floor, but the feet have a habit of disintegrating if placed directly on the ground so it’s best to site the hive on blocks or paving slabs. Place the lift with the porch facing above the landing board:
It’s important to make sure the lifts sit square on top of the floor and each other – sometimes they need a bit of wiggling to make sure they are in fact enclosing the boxes, and you don’t want any gaps. Remove the inspection tray and keep it somewhere dry if your floor has varroa mesh.
Slide in the entrance doors. Some have a notch, some have little arches for the bees to go though. These can be adjusted to allow the bees to have a wider opening for when they are busier, but bear in mind that they will propolise them in so that concept doesn’t always work in reality! To start with, have them pushed right in:
Next, put in your brood box. As with a National, you can either have your bees facing the warm or cold way, with frames parallel or perpendicular to the entrance. It depends on whether you like to work your bees from the back or the side, but I usually err on having them the warm way. Make sure the box is central over the floor:
Note that this box has room for 11 frames rather than 10 and a dummy board. Some do, some don’t – as long as the frames fit snugly, it doesn’t matter, although a dummy board is preferable, especially for beginners as it is easier to remove the frames for inspections as the bees are less likely to glue the frame to the sides.
Next, put on the crownboard, and the second lift. If you have bee escapes, keep them handy.
There is a nice lot of room above the boxes on a WBC, and this is great for feeding back honey, and it also protects the bees if you just want to take off the lid and have a quick peek through the holes of the crownboard as it’s a bit of a windbreak.
Next, the roof:
As with the National, ensure the roof is on properly. It is best to weight the roof down with a brick on either side as the bees won’t necessarily bother to propolise the roof and they have a tendency to flip off in windy conditions. They will, however, stick the lifts together so you will need your hive tool.
Some beekeepers don’t like the work involved with removing the lifts to access the boxes but really, if you only have a couple of hives it makes no difference. The removed lifts make a great temporary stand for supers so it’s six and two threes in my opinion! I have both types of hive, and although the frames are British Standard for both Nationals and WBCs, the boxes are square on a National and slightly rectangular with a WB so are not really transferable. I would advise getting a spare crownboard as if you want to take off a super, you will need to have one crownboard with bee escapes underneath, as well as one on top, otherwise the bees will simply crawl up between the lifts and the boxes and go back in. Yes, I can vouch that that is indeed what they will do…!