The WBC honeybee hive, the typical English country garden hive, is no longer used for practical beekeeping. It has many disadvantages over the much more popular modern designs. I once borrowed an empty WBC hive with the idea that I would make my own. When I saw how complicated it was, it completely overawed me. I’m sure it was one of the factors which delayed my starting beekeeping.
If you like the idea of making your own, here is a link to some WBC Honeybee Hive plans on Beesource.com. I wish you the best of luck, you’ll need it. This hive is very small and difficult to manage.
It is essentially two stacks of hive boxes, one inside the other. The idea I believe was to provide an insulating air-gap to help the bees keep warm during the winter. Even in climates much colder than England’s beekeepers rely on the bees to keep themselves warm. That’s why they evolved to make and story honey in the first place.
Good ventilation is much more important as condensation can build up inside the hive and encouraging fungus to grow. Many more colonies die out through poor ventilation than cold over the winter. Modern honeybees have been selected for their reluctance to swarm. Bees kept in skep hives were encouraged to swarm since it was necessary to increase the number of hives during the season. At the end of the season some of the colonies were culled to harvest the honey.
In fact the bees are well able to keep themselves warm by eating honey and turning it into heat energy by vibrating their wings. They cluster into a tight ball between the combs, there is a continual movement of the bees on the outside of the cluster moving into the center of the cluster to warm up.
The English seem unable to develop any standard, at least for beekeeping. (I can say that since I’m an English Beekeeper). In addition to the WBC honeybee hive there are seven different types of hive available, most of the components are not interchangeable from one type to another.
Once you have bought a few hives and filled them with bees it is a great frustration to find that a different hive might be better, if you then buy a different type, you’ll need to sorts of frames, supers, feeders etc etc. The different types are the National Hive, Commercial hive, Langstroth hive, Smith hive, Dadant hive, Warre hive, The Kenya Top Bar Bee Hive or KTBH , some people even keep bees in skeps, illegal in the United States. For once America has got it right, for better or worse, most be keepers use the Langstroth.