Brother Adam, Buckfast 1983 Tapes
What can BeeScanning learn from Brother Adam and his thinking on healthy bees?
The Buckfast Bee represents a man made effort to help bees survive devastating threats. Brother Adam managed to breed a bee that can cope with modern stressors and has on its own merits spread to become one of the most economically important races of bees on the globe.
We had our first Buckfast queens in 1974. And has ever since had Br Adams thinking as a foundation maintaining a healthy bee. Most of BeeScannings philosophy on beekeeping is based on Buckfast principles, striving for combining economy and aesthetics.
In 1983, we were in the midst developing the FreeBee- beekeeping system. We then had the opportunity, after corresponding with Brother Adam, to visit and interview him on site for the Swedish Radio Broadcasting. Pelle Eckerman journalist, recorded and produced the program. Björn Lagerman organised and is interacting with Br Adam in the interviews. Erik Österlund was invited to join the party in his capacity of breeder and specialist in heritage. We then already had an extensive collaboration in the area around Örebro central part of Sweden to develop better bees. Our focus was on understanding exactly what principles and methods was used at Buckfast.
We did have the favor to listen to Br Adam explaining his method and to examine his pedigrees from 1976-1983 to understand how he actually did it. Br Adam as a consequence in 1985 attended at the Bi-85 conference in Örebro, Sweden where he elaborated on his methods.
Br Adams understanding on breeding principles were not widely recognised at this time and his thoughts on science within beekeeping may be looked upon in that perspective.
Due to health problems Kehrle was sent by his mother at age 11 from Germany to Buckfast Abbey, where he joined the order (becoming Brother Adam) and in 1915 started his beekeeping activity. Two years before, a parasite, Acarapis woodi that originated on the Isle of Wight had started to extend over the country, devastating all the native bees, and in 1916 it reached the abbey, killing 30 of the 46 bee colonies. Only the Apis mellifera carnica and Apis mellifera ligustica colonies survived.
He travelled to Turkey to find substitutes for the native bees. In 1917 he created the first Buckfast strain, a very productive bee resistant to the parasite. On 1 September 1919 Kehrle was put in charge of the abbey’s apiary, after the retirement of Brother Columban. In 1925 and after some studies on the disposition of the beehives he installed his famous breeding station in Dartmoor, an isolated model to obtain selected crossings, which still works today. From 1950 and for more than a decade Kehrle continued his gradual improvement of the Buckfast bee by analysing and crossing bees from places all over Europe, the Near East and North Africa.
In 1964 he was elected member of the Board of the Bee Research Association, which later became the International Bee Research Association. He continued his studies of the Buckfast bee and his travels during the 1970s and received several awards, including appointment as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (1973) and the German Bundesverdienstkreuz (1974).
On 2 October 1987 he was appointed Honorary doctor by the Faculty of Agriculture of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences while in search of a bee on the Kilimanjaro mountains in Tanzania and Kenya, which deeply moved him and he saw as the official recognition of the scientific nature of his research. Two years later he was appointed Honorary doctor by the Exeter University in England.
On 2 February 1992, aged 93, he resigned his post as beekeeper at the Abbey and was permitted to spend some months in his home town Mittelbiberach with his niece, Maria Kehrle. From 1993 onwards, he lived a retired life back at Buckfast Abbey, and became the oldest monk of the English Benedictine Congregation. In 1995, at age 97, he moved to a nearby nursing home where he died on 1 September 1996.