Dr John Anderson & The Glen Hive by Taylor Hood.

Paul Carter’s renovated Glen Hive.


This week Taylor Hood returns with another slice of Scottish beekeeping history. I’m interested in the Glen Hive too having helped a new beekeeper manage his first colony of bees in one of these monster hives. You certainly need to eat your spinach and develop the muscles of Popeye to manipulate this one. You can read an account of one of my visits to Paul Carter’s hive here: Elderflower Cordial, Glen Hive, and Propolis Recycling. (beelistener.co.uk)

I’m also fascinated to learn more about Dr John Anderson who worked hard to promote beekeeping education in Scotland. I feel honoured to be a holder of the John Anderson Memorial Award and now I know much more about this leading figure thanks to Taylor’s guest blog. Thank you, Taylor.

The Glen Hive.

In 1918 John Anderson designed the 15 frame double walled hive known as the Glen Hive.  In the February 1926 issue of The Scottish Beekeeper, he wrote “I recommended hives take not less than 15 BS (British Standard) frames”.  One firm put those on the market; probably J & A Ogilvie of Union Street, Aberdeen.   

The benefits of the bigger hive were :

1.  Better swarm control with less frequent swarms

2.  Less manipulation of the hive was required

3.  Sufficient space for the queen to lay and to store surplus honey, resulting in bigger honey yields and better overwintering of the bees.

4.  Height of the hive with supers was reduced for large yields of honey in comparison to a single or double 10 BS hive and its supers.

Anderson was not fixed on using BS standard frames, in his article in the July 1925 Scottish Beekeeper he stated that it should be 15 BS frames or equivalent. However, due to the variability of our Scottish climate and weather he stated that the hive should be double walled (which allowed for packing e.g., straw) and that the roof should/would be waterproof. 

Dave Cushman’s website describes the Glen Hive – “ Looks like some type of WBC hive which holds 15 frames per box and was believed to be intended for honey production on Scottish moorland.  They were very heavy and difficult to move.  I have read that they were moved like sedan chairs with stretchers to carry them.  I have also heard that horse- drawn carts were used to take them to the heather.  I think though it is interesting that Anderson himself in one of his articles (Bigness) wrote. “ Many will urge that big stocks in big hives with big stores will be difficult to lift”……. But, as Dadant said, “why lift them”.  We never need to need to move those hives, and we shall not lift even the supers,….. When extracting, we shall take out the super combs one by one, shaking or brushing off the bees.  So, I wonder if the transitory use of Glen hives was more inventiveness by other Scottish beekeepers rather than something Anderson had considered, planned or even intended doing. 

I think it is hard enough moving a 10 BS framed single- walled hive to the heather, never mind a 15 BS framed double-walled hive.

If you are interested in seeing how a Glen hive is worked check out the article about Paul and Jean Carter’s renovated Glen hive in the 3 July 2020 article written in the wonderful blog of the Beelistener (Ann Chilcott), or speak to Alan Riach (Scottish Beekeepers’ Association Education & Promotion of Beekeeping) who has worked one at the EMBA (Edinburgh & Midlothian Beekeepers Association) apiary although I think it is more of an exhibition hive now rather than a working hive.

Dr Anderson.

Dr Anderson spent his early life on Orkney, he graduated from Aberdeen University in both Arts and Science and later was awarded his Ph.D.  He was a science teacher at the Nicolson Institute on Stornoway and it was there that in 1910 he designed the Nicolson Observational hive which he used for educational purposes.  An article was published in the May 1911 British Bee Journal on how to use the Nicolson Hive. 

I don’t think there are many Nicolson Hives about now, the only one that I am aware of is owned by Alan Riach and is part of his great talk on Hives Through the Ages.  There may be one at the Nicolson Institute where in the early 1960s one was still being used for educational purposes.

Beekeeping Education.

In 1915, John Anderson became the first lecturer in Beekeeping at the North of Scotland College of Agriculture.  He was the person who set up the apiary at Craibstone and lectured and demonstrated all over Scotland.   He wrote articles for The Scottish Beekeeper, other British and Foreign Beekeeping Journals.   He was considered to be an expert in handling bees and was described by Mrs Shepherd as one of the best she had ever seen.

He was chairman of The Aberdeen District Beekeepers’ Association which at that time had more than 1,600 members and was the largest beekeeping association in Britain.  He was Honorary President of The Glasgow and District Beekeepers’ Association and also had been President of The Apis Club.  He was president of the Scottish Beekeepers’ Association in 1919, writing the lead Article in the first editions of The Scottish Beekeeper, then becoming its editor from 1926 until his sudden death in 1939.

John Anderson believed strongly that it was better to keep bigger colonies than small ones and he used The Scottish Beekeeper to publish his articles supporting this point of view. However, in the first edition of the Scottish Beekeeper he wrote about “A Higher Standard”. In this article he puts forwards the objectives of the SBA and The Scottish Beekeeper.  The objectives were to achieve a higher standard of knowledge of beekeeping in Scotland.  He discussed how this was being achieved at that time; through the education system and college lecturers in beekeeping.  The need to be more consistent in delivering good and better honey seasons by raising beekeeping standards.  He wrote of the need to increase business standards supplying consistent quantities of honey at a fair price (i.e., stop the inconsistency of low harvest and high price of honey, or good harvest and low honey price, caused through supply and demand. With good hive management there should be no bad seasons) along with the need for beekeepers to highlight to the wider public the virtues and benefits of honey.

He also wrote about the need for beekeepers to have a higher standard of co-operation and camaraderie.  He suggested that all beekeepers “shall work together for common ends and that we shall not tolerate petty jealousies or sectional activities.  Nature’s gifts are diverse and we have come by different ways, but we all have something to contribute to the common fund and none should withhold his contribution but give freely according to his talent”. These words still resonate and I am sure many Associations as well as the SBA trustees try very hard to meet those objectives and expectations today.


He believed in natural resistance of bees to disease and argued that by treating bees for diseases – (e.g. AFB and Isle of Wight disease) only promoted the survival of unfit stock and breeding in susceptibility.  He tried to breed and promote breeding from disease resistant stock however, his work did not get sufficient support and his work came to nothing.

He collaborated with Dr John Rennie and his work around the Isle of Wight disease (IOW), helping in a small way to identify that Acarine disease was caused by the tracheal mite – Acarapis woodii. Later, Dr Leslie Bailey would identify Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus as the cause of the IOW disease. Chronic Bee Paralysis remains a problem for beekeepers today.

His second lead article in the August Scottish Beekeeper 1924  was titled “Bigness” where he advocated the need for bigger hives to meet the needs of brood and a good queen.  Dr Anderson used what he describes as simple arithmetic his reasoning for a bigger hive.  He argued that a moderately good queen could lay 3,000 eggs per day so the minimum space required by the queen over a three- week period would be 63,000 cells with another 20,000 cells being required for food (no less than 10lbs of honey and space for sufficient pollen) a total of 83,000 cells – 15 BS frames (83,000/5600 =14.82 rounded up to 15).  It is interesting that around 50 years later Ian Craig used similar simple arithmetic in an article in The Scottish Beekeeper to support his 8 + 8 BS double brood chamber management system.

When Dr Anderson died suddenly in 1939 from a heart attack the Scottish Beekeepers’ Association set up their highest award in his memory. 

Dr John Anderson Memorial Award.

The Dr John Anderson Memorial Award is given in recognition for work and service in the furtherance of Beekeeping in Scotland and beyond which very much supports John Anderson’s work and philosophy on improving the standards of beekeeping in Scotland, through improved practical skills, better knowledge and education.

Much of the work that is carried out by the Scottish Beekeepers’ Association today is still influenced by the actions and thoughts of Dr John Anderson.

Dr John Anderson was a Giant in Scottish Beekeeping during his lifetime and will be remembered forever as one of Scotland’s greatest beekeepers. 

Beelistener Comment.

What a pity that Dr Anderson’s wise words about disease resistance and breeding good resistant stocks came to nothing back then, and that it has taken us so long to understand that he was correct in this thinking. We have finally got the message and are doing something about it over 120 years later!

A recent lecture by Professsor Giles Budge from Newcastle University about Chonic Bee Paralysis Disease (CBPD) is a reminder of just how such a disease, that has been about for so long, is still such a problem and only now is being given the attention and research resources required. There is still no clear advice for beekeepers on managing the problem. However, we know that good apiary hygiene will reduce risks, and not having colonies close together in lines where drifting might occur can help. Not buying in queens from far afield is advised too.

Having collected a swarm last year that developed CBPD. I shall be wary of collecting them this season and will definitely be isolating them for some months if I do. Like some of my local beekeeping colleagues (including 2 beefarmers) I plan to euthanize any colonies that present with this disease and not compromise my healthy stocks in the off-chance that the diseased colony recovers.

9 thoughts on “Dr John Anderson & The Glen Hive by Taylor Hood.”

  1. Fascinating! I would have loved to have met Dr Anderson and had the chance to ask him lots of questions. If you looked at the list of people who have received the Award, I guess you realised how much you are ppreciated, Ann. Well done and many congratulations.

    1. Certainly the Glen hive could achieve large (and confident) colonies. My father kept one which had the reputation of being over confident having attacked Rosie the Clydesdale as she was being used to run (weeding harrow) turnips over the wall from the “Glenners”. They certainly produced honey as did the one i populated in the Edinburgh apiary. I think Ian Craig’s 8+8 is a more practical solution for large populations and has the advantage of being easy to vary e.g reducing back to one brood with 11 frames in the 3rd week of July to prevent them filling brood frames with honey

      1. Hello Alan and thank you for adding a bit more history which conjures up dramatic images of Rosie among the neeps. I agree about the double brood box system with 8 and 8. Fred Mollison made me some brilliant wide dummy boards with kingspan in the middle for insulation which I use for this. It also means that the brood nest is similar to what it would be in the wild with the chimney effect and vertical expansion.

  2. Thank you Ann. There is so much in what Dr Anderson set out to achieve that is relevant to-day, if not in Scotland, then certainly south of the border. Seeking a “higher stander of co-operation and camaraderie”, “setting aside petty jealousies”, e.g. the way we choose to keep our bees and whether we treat forVarroa or not. We all have something to learn from each other.
    However to me the biggest challenge seems to be how to persuade those that have bees to become better beekeepers.

    1. Hello again, Richard, I so agree with you comments and thank you for sharing your thoughts. Since covid, we have had an enormous amount of educational material via Zoom to choose from, so surely by encouraging beekeepers to tune in we can move that aim forward. I was listening to Professor Jamie Ellis’s presentation on swarming the other day and thinking that it was one of the best most easy to understand presentations. Do you listen to his “Two Bees in a Podcast”? This could be recommended material for beekeepers starting out or joining an association.

      1. I have read several articles by Professor Ellis but was not aware of his podcast. I will find it, thank you. It is particularly pertinent as I am due to give a talk to my branch on swarming next month and no doubt he will have some interesting observations that I can pass on.

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