"No such thing as a perfect honeybee, it has to be created, bred, in another words.........not created in the strict sense, but developed by the hand of man" ~ Brother Adam
The Buckfast Queen and all her splendor is the product of 70 years of research done by Brother Adam of Buckfast Abbey. Brother Adam sought to create a honeybee genetic line that included everything a beekeeper needed in a queen to produce a strong, healthy beehive. Qualities that are highly sought after are temperament, disease resistant, prolific brood layers, hard working gatherers, and low inclinations of swarming.
What is remarkable about Brother Adam is his humble beginnings. At the age of 12 he joined Buckfast Abbey, it was the year 1910. He loved masonry but his physical abilities could not allow him to pursue his dream. He was sent to work in the Abbey's apiary. When he first arrived the Abbey's apiary they had the Black Bee of England and a few Italian Hybrids. The Black Bees had a temper and were susceptible to Acarine Disease (also known as Isle of Wight, Tracheal Mites). In 1915 all of England has a huge loss of Honeybees due to this disease and all that were left were a handful of Italian Hybrid hives in the otherwise prolific apiary. Devastating losses, or a mass extermination if you will, across the countryside. By 1918 Brother Adam was head of the Buckfast Apiary and in 1925 he had the brilliant idea of creating isolated breeding stations starting with a handful of the Acarine disease survivors.
After World War II, Brother Adam decided to travel the world to find better genetics to add to his quest for the perfect honeybee. He found 5 that stood out above and beyond the rest:
1) French - Had superb honey gathering skills
2) Greek - A well tempered gentle bee
3) Egyptian - Calmness
4) Saharan of Morocco - Prolific if crossed
5) Anatolian from Turkey - Thriftiness, could winter with minimal stores due to their conservative nature and attention to their pantry.
From queens from these locations, Brother Adam started working with 16 dominate and recessive genes. There is much more that goes into altering genetics, drones have a mother but not father and carry only half of the queens chromosomes, and without putting you to sleep I will leave it at that.By 1980 he narrowed it down to 5 strains to select from. Now watching for uniformity of color in the workers. Through years of Artificial Insemination and experimentation, Brother Adam produce a genetic line with everything he was looking for. Named Buckfast from the Abbey Laboratory in which it was created.
Brother Adam heard of a Black bee high on Mount Kilimanjaro, at the age of 90, he started an expedition in search of a pure strain of this bee in hopes of adding a cold hardy trait to the Buckfast line. So the year was 1987 and off he searched for apis mellifera monticola, a good tempered black bee surviving in the high elevations of Tanzania. What the expedition found was a hybrid. Apis mellifera scotellata, an extremely defensive lowland honeybee crossed with apis mellifera monticola, the mountain honeybee and no true pure line could be confirmed although samples were collected. When asked about the Apis mellifera scotellata, Brother Adam said "surpassed all experiences in the past" confirming it was for the beekeeping brave. He also did not like the bees instinct of swarming at a moments notice.