Brother Adam and the Buckfast Honey Bee

Brother Adam (Karl Kehrle) was born in Germany in 1898. Due to health problems he was sent by his mother at age 11 to Buckfast Abbey where he would become a monk, and eventually the most important bee breeder of the 20th century. Being a skinny boy who the Abbot didn’t think would do well working on the reconstruction of Buckfast, he was sent to be the Beekeeper’s assistant. Brother Adam had a natural gift for working with honey bees and in 1919 he was put in charge of the Abbie’s Apiary. When Brother Adam took control of the operation things were not well. The Abbey had already been hit with tracheal mites killing 30 of the 46 bee colonies. Eventually only 16 would remain and these were populated with A. m. carnica and ligustica. All the native bees had died. He had found a feral colony of bees that seemed resistant and moved them to isolated valley of Dartmoor which became a mating station for selective breeding. With no other bees within range, Brother Adam could maintain their genetic integrity and develop desirable traits His goal was to breed a bee that was hardy and disease-resistant while also being an excellent honey producer that could be the replacement for the old black English bee. His search for genetics would take him all over the world. He would travel some 100,000 miles before he was done, going to France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Sicily, Germany, Algeria, IsraĆ«l, Jordan, Syria, Libya, Cyprus, Greece, Crete, Slovenia and the Ligurian Alps. He would also go to Turkey and the Aegean islands, Yugoslavia, Spain, Portugal and Egypt. He would spend his lifetime developing the Buckfast Bee with each cross taking up to 10 years to stabilize. Brother Adam retired from beekeeping after 70 years of breeding work and later died in his 99th year, leaving us a wealth of knowledge, several books and the wonderfully productive Buckfast Bee.

Characteristics of the Buckfast Bee

Good honey producer
Prolific queens (lay many eggs)
Overwinters well
Frugal – Low amount of brood during fall (uses less honey stores during winter)
Packs brood nest with honey for good wintering
Curtails egg laying during dearths
Brood rearing ceases during late fall
Extremely gentle, with low sting instinct
Low swarm instinct
Highly Tracheal Mite Tolerant
Low incidence of chalkbrood and wax moths due to good housecleaning techniques
Very hygenic
Build-up rapidly once started
Produces little propolis/brace comb
Does well in cold/wet spring

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