A photograph of some of the monks from Buckfast Abbey transporting bee hives on a lorry on the edge of Dartmoor. Mr Horace Knowling is the lorry driver and the lorry belongs to the Co-op. Fr Aloysius is on the lorry.
Soon after the re-foundation of the monastery in 1882, bees were kept at the Abbey and it is likely that bees were kept at Buckfast since Medieval times. Bees were a valuable source of sugar and wax for candles.
Early in the twentieth century, a monk set about rebuilding the colonies of bees which had been devestared by a disease. He wanted to use cross-breeding to develop a new bee which would be hardy, disease-resistant and a good honey producer.
He travelled all over the world to get breeding stock. The result of all this, as well as experiment at the breeding station on Dartmoor, was the Buckfast Bee?. This bee is a good pollen gatherer, gentle, has a lower tendency to swarm and is disease resistant.
Buckfast queens are now kept by beekeepers all over the world.
The Buckfast apiaries continue to thrive today and the total number of hives in production is 240 which are spread throughout the locality in 9 apiaries. In 2004, more than four tons of honey were produced.