History Of Buckfast Bees In Ontario

Many bee breeders have adopted Brother Adam of Buckfast Abbey’s methods and used his stock. In the 1960’s, Dr. Maurice Smith of the University of Guelph brought Buckfast honey bee eggs and semen to the Weaver Apiaries in Texas from Buckfast Abbey. Until 1990, the Weavers were the only ones breeding this stock in North America. 

Tracheal mites became a major pest of honey bees in the United States in the 1980’s and colony losses were extensive. Prior to the arrival of tracheal mites in Canada our University of Guelph honey bee research program, led by Dr. Gard Otis and Dr. Cynthia Scott-Dupree at the time, completed many projects in the northern United States to study the effects of tracheal mite and to test control measures. It was discovered that the best control measure was to breed bees for resistance to the mite and began the tracheal mite resistance breeding program, similar to Brother Adam’s breeding program.

Buckfast stock was imported from Buckfast Abbey in 1989 to gain presumed tracheal mite resistance within bees known for their beneficial attributes. This was the first time honey bees had been imported into Canada from a European country since imports were banned in 1927 due to the Isle of Wight disease. The import process required quarantine procedures and a great deal of effort to ensure foreign pathogens were not impoted.  Subsequent research projects demonstrated that, as suspected, Buckfast stock were highly resistant to tracheal mites.

Buckfast stock importations continued in the following years, first from Buckfast Abbey and later from the breeder Brother Adam recommended, Keld Brandstrup of Buckfast Denmark Ltd. Ontario beekeepers Barry Davies, Paul Montoux, Rick Neilsen and the University of Guelph all invested in purchasing breeder queens, established isolated mating stations, and became registered Buckfast breeders. Registration required a commitment to use Brother Adam’s breeding system and to pay royalties to the Abbey. Only registered Buckfast breeders are allowed to use the term Buckfast when advertising colonies or queens for sale.

The stock gained widespread approval in the province and was maintained and improved through continued selective breeding by the Ontario Buckfast Breeders. This includes the University of Guelph Honey Bee Research Centre, Ferguson Apiaries, and Munro Honey. The HBRC is proud to be associated with these efforts.