BUCKFAST BEEKEEPERS GROUP

Welcome to the Buckfast BeeKeepers
Group website
This website has been created to provide information to English speaking beekeepers that are interested in keeping and breeding Buckfast type bees.

INTRODUCTION

The Buckfast bee was developed by Brother Adam (1898-1996) at Buckfast Abbey, Devon, England. Brother Adam, whose civil name was Karl Kehrle, was born in Mittelbiberach, Germany and became a monk at the age of eleven when he was sent to the monastery by his mother.

The development of the Buckfast bee commenced when a significant portion of the British black bee was wiped out in the second decade of the last century due to an epidemic of acarine disease and or paralysis. The British strain of Apis mellifera mellifera was especially susceptible to the onslaught and was decimated across large areas of Britain; it seems that only a very small population managed to survive. At Buckfast the only colonies not affected by the disease were those headed by Ligurian queens and hybrids of these queens with British black bees.

This started Brother Adam on a lifelong quest to breed a strain of honey bee that would contain as many desirable qualities as possible for beekeepers with a goal of maximum production for a minimum of input on the part of the beekeeper. In order to do this however, it was necessary to be able to control the mating of the selected queens with selected drones and thus a mating station at a remote spot on Dartmoor was established in 1925, this was in continual use until the mid 1990’s. Buckfast theory includes that desirable characteristics in other bee populations are introduced into the main Buckfast lines. This is achieved by a process of crossing, selecting, culling and backcrossing. During these unique genetic combinations, characteristics that are not present in the parents often appear and if these new characteristics are deemed to be of value, an attempt is made to fix them within the line and then include them in the main Buckfast bee line.

THE BUCKFAST BEE TODAY

Today the Buckfast bee is in use by many beekeepers around the world, with lines that are selected according to a set standard of desirable Buckfast qualities based on behavior and performance rather than phenotypical/biometrical characteristics as often used by bee breeders using other types of bee.
The result is a healthy and stable bee with the main characteristics being docility, vitality, industry, low swarming, high honey production and economic use of stores amongst more minor ones, for example, low propolis use and lack of brace comb.

Bee breeding groups that have separate agenda to Buckfast beekeepers have disseminated much misinformation about the strain. Some of this is, in part, due to “Buckfast” queens being supplied from unreliable breeders who have not followed the correct breeding methods usually employed in breeding the strain. This has led to some end users being unsatisfied and to incorrect conclusions being drawn. One of the commonest errors repeatedly stated is that as Buckfast bees are hybrids that they will not breed true. The correctly bred Buckfast lines breed true because they are genetically stable, if Buckfast queens are mated to Buckfast drones, of course, the result will be Buckfast. It is doubtful that there is a present day population of bees that does not have some genetic material from other subspecies. The mating of the Buckfast queens is controlled ether by instrumental insemination or by reliable mainland and island mating stations.

The centre of Buckfast breeding has moved from the England to Germany, where numerous matings stations are in operation for the beekeepers to select from. Die Gemeinschaft der europäischen Buckfastimker is the body that unites Buckfast beekeepers across Europe. Their website is: www.gdeb.eu
Many breeders have made their pedigrees available on the Internet and these maybe viewed at the following website: perso.fundp.ac.be/~jvandyck/homage/elver this gives a good indication of the terrific amount of work done by Buckfast breeders carrying on the work started by Brother Adam.

A forum has been created for English speaking Buckfast beekeepers at this address
: bbgroup.forum-phpbb.co.uk

Membership is free and open to all.

THE FUTURE OF THE BUCKFAST BEE

As mentioned above, there are numerous Buckfast breeders, the majority of which are in Europe. These breeders continue the work started by Brother Adam. It is a big responsibility; the work done by Brother Adam cannot be repeated as some of the original material used is not now available in its former state,
the reason being either through heavy hybridization or extinction. Where a population of bees is heavily hybridized through uncontrolled crossings it is difficult, but not impossible, to fix characteristics of use in breeding. It just makes the work more demanding.

The United Kingdom was the birthplace of the Buckfast bee and it is inconceivable that from the mid 1990’s until 2011 there was not a single serious breeding program for Buckfast bees. This situation needs to be rectified and a UK based breeding group has been formed with the primary objective to commence a breeding program, to provide access to reliable mating stations in the UK and genuine Buckfast breeding material. A decision was made to re-activate the mating station formerly used by Brother Adam at Sherberton on Dartmoor as well as establish two more mating stations on Exmoor. In addition to these mating stations, instrumental insemination will also be used in the breeding program that will be backed up with breeding programs in Cyprus and Crete in Greece.

WHY BUCKFAST BEES?

The question is often asked “why should I keep Buckfast bees?
There are many reasons amongst which are the following:
As mentioned above, Buckfast bees are prolific, industrious, vigorous as well as being docile and can be handled with ease , they do not swarm excessively like Carniolian bees; they make economic use of their stores - unlike Italian bees which are prone to turn all their stores into brood and then starve to death; they are healthy and resistant to brood diseases whereas Mellifera type bees often have problems with brood diseases (both types of foulbrood and chalk brood); they are resistant to Acarine disease which the yellow type of Italian is very susceptible to.

BUCKFAST BEES ARE CAPABLE OF VERY HIGH HONEY PRODUCTION.

If there is a honeyflow - these bees will produce a crop.

The Buckfast strain of bee has been bred and selected by beekeepers for over ninety years with the aim
of including as many valuable characteristics as possible with the overriding theme of a bee that is bred for beekeepers to have the maximum production for a minimum of input, both in management and care, as possible.
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