Thursday, January 31, 2013

Buckfast Bees, The Vigorous and Parasite-Resistant Honey Bees

The existence of this superior Buckfast bee is a result of a long and diligent work of Brother Adam Kehrie from the Buckfast Alley an old monastery in England. He dedicated almost all of his entire life to beekeeping. When he died in 1996 at the age of 93, the Buckfast bees has been recognized as a superior breed that possesses al the good traits of a honey bee and highly admired by beekeepers around the world.

The story begun in the early 20th century, when Karl Kehrie a 12 years old boy came over from German with a view to join the community of Buckfast Alley which is also recognized for keeping bees to fulfill its need for sugar and wax for making candles. He became a young monk under the name of Brother Adam Kehrie who was then assigned to help Bother Columban in keeping the bees.

Shortly after his assignment almost two third of his colony, 30 out of 46, were invaded and killed by the acarine parasitic mite or Acarine disease, an outbreak that killed thousands of bee colonies in the British Islands at that time. This mite attacks the bee tracheal tubes making them choked leading to a shorter lifespan.

Brother Adam found out that the remaining 16 colonies were hybrids between the Italian bee and British native black bees. The truly native black bees died during the outbreak, although they are well known as tough bees but rather bad tempered. Upon the retirement of Brother Columban, Brother Adam was assigned to manage Buckfast beekeeping.

He made a plan to rebuild the colonies with a clear objective to develop a new breed that is strong like the black bees and at the same time possesses resistance against disease like the Italian bee by the means of cross-breeding.

He spent time to travel more than 100,000 miles to search for distinct original bee races mainly in countries were the native strains had been genuinely kept and maintained. After years of long and diligent breeding experiments carried out at the breeding station of Dartmoor the final result was the Buckfast bee.

The superior Buckfast possesses many positive traits that include: a good pollen collector, highly tolerant to tracheal mites, very gentle, low sting instinct, chalkbrood resistant, low swarming instinct and they do well in winter times.

However there is a main disadvantage of the Buckfast bees which is that they are very generous in the use of propolis to adhere the surfaces of their hive, which is against the principle of the modern hive where the comb should be easily removed for inspection.

Today the Buckfast apiary still thrives and looking forward to proceed in the development of more superior breeds especially those which are Varroa resistant as well as new breeds with higher productivity. Thanks to Brother Adam.


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