This website has been
created to provide information to English speaking beekeepers
that are interested in keeping and breeding Buckfast type bees.
to the Buckfast BeeKeepers
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.
Membership is free and open to all.
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
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.
The Buckfast strain of bee has been bred and selected by beekeepers
for over ninety years with the aim
The question is often asked “why should I keep Buckfast
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.
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.