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Last Updated on Monday, 20 December 2010 18:48 Written by Simon Swaerts Saturday, 07 July 2007 09:54

The Buckfast bee is a honey bee developed by "Brother Adam", (born Karl Kehrle in 1898 in Germany), who was in charge of beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey. In the early 20th century bee populations were being decimated by Isle of Wight disease. This condition, later called "acarine" disease, after the acarine parasitic mite that invaded the bees' tracheal tubes and shortened their lives, was killing off thousands of colonies in the British Isles in the early part of the 20th century.


Brother Adam discovered that the surviving colonies were hybrids between Italian and native black bees. Buckfast bees' origin is today in these few surviving hives. Brother Adam became interested in honey bee breeding and he started in very early stage to use the isolated Dartmoor mating station for breeding purposes. There he could mate the selected queens with the selected drones. Drones and queens only mate in flight, and they can fly over 10 km in searching for each other. Brother Adam also became interested in the various honey bee races in the world and made several long journeys in Europe, Africa and Middle-East searching for pure races or otherwise interesting local stocks. The book "In Search of the Best Strains of Bees" tells about this huge and very important work. From these journeys and with the help of new contacts he imported new stock from other nations. Every new bee strain or bee race was first crossed with the existing Buckfast Bee. The new desired qualities were, in most cases, passed on to the new generation and the new combination was then made stable with further breeding work. Every crossing with a new race took about 10 years before the desired genes were fixed in the strain. Little by little – this work took him half a century –he managed to create this vigorous, parasite-resistant honey bee known as the Buckfast bee. It started as a wild hybrid, but today it is a human maintained variety among the other more natural ones. However, the extensive import of bees and queens, which started in the second half of the 19th century, has mixed all bee populations living near human settlement.


The Buckfast bee is popular among beekeepers and is available from bee breeders in several parts of the world. Most of their qualities are very favorable. They are extremely gentle, and some authorities rate them higher than the Italians in most categories. Their main drawback is that they are very liberal in their application of propolis to inner surfaces of their hives, thus acting to defeat one of the main purposes of the modern beehive—that combs should be easily removable for inspection.



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Last Updated on Monday, 20 December 2010 15:18 Written by Simon Swaerts Wednesday, 20 August 2008 10:11