A colony is only as good as its queen. The Buckfast strain combines several desired characteristics: hardiness, low swarming, gentleness, ease of handling, resistance to disease, and honey gathering ability.
The most important aspect of hive management concerns the nature of the queen. That is why the acquisition of a genuine Buckfast Denmark queen can make beekeeping more enjoyable and more profitable at the end of the day.
We have been breeding Buckfast bees since the late seventies. Original breeding material from Br. Adam at Buckfast Abbey has been used and developed by pure mating, use of island mating and with the knowledge of the pedigree for both queens and drones.
Anyone can select a queen for breeding purposes. The breeding at Buckfast Denmark is based on statistical evidence and selection. We keep extensive breeding records, and a detailed evaluation method to spot the queens we are using in our breeding program.
At Buckfast Denmark, we always keep different breeding lines and combinations. To obtain reliable statistical data, we evaluate groups of colonies headed by sister queens to determine if a particular sister group performs well and as desired throughout the entire beekeeping season. The difference between the lines provides knowledge about their ability and forthcoming use.
Whenever we examine a colony, it is given a grade on a scale from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) upon fixed criteria for the following characteristics:
swarm tendency, aggressiveness, and comb behaviour. Notes are also taken on honey production, nosema resistance and hygienic behaviour.
From the group of evaluated sister queens, a list of potential breeders is gradually obtained. The choice between one sister queen and another is often a fine balance, mostly because it is rare to use two sister queens from the same line as breeders the same year. Ultimately, the knowledge and experience of the producer about their stock is required to make the right choice.
Age and performance
Most queens are two years old when they are used as breeders. They often remain in their colonies throughout their working life and their performance can therefore be monitored long after their daughters have been raised and mated, giving further valuable information about their performance.
At Buckfast Denmark, we use the same queens as the ones we are providing to the beekeepers. All our colonies, except the cell building system, are headed by island mated queens. It gives us substantial experience about the differences in characteristics between the various combinations and basic knowledge about the lines.
Furthermore, we get vital feedback from our customers. It is crucial to get information about the adaption of different combinations to different geographic locations.
The Buckfast Denmark bee is a mixture of genes from several different strains. To avoid inbreeding, our stock needs a periodic introduction of new genes. To obtain certain desirable genetic attributes, we test new combinations for possible future incorporation into our stock. The introduction of new queens is one of the cornerstones in our breeding program; it is given high priority to secure the future. The development of drone lines normally takes at least 10-12 years, so it is imperative to conduct a thoroughly planned program to ensure their quality and success.
Our production of queens normally begins by Mid May. The entire process of queen production is monitored closely, with thorough planning being essential to the rearing process. Every stage, grafting of larvae, starter and finisher colonies, hatching and packing of mini nucs etc., is carefully planned and carried out. Larvae from successive breeder queens are grafted daily in numbered cell cups, up to 80 cells per starter. After 24 hours, the cells are relocated to strong double-queen finishers. Once sealed, the cells are finally transferred to the incubators for hatching in a controlled environment. To secure traceability, all newly hatched virgin queens are marked with a specific colour code, so that any queen raised during the season may be positively identified without any risk of error. Finally, they are introduced to numbered Apideas with young bees and transferred to one of our islands after at least 48 hours in dark and cold storage.
Alternatively, they can be brought to our remote land-based mating station to get mated with a wide selection of Buckfast drones and later shipped to beekeepers as random mated queens.
Once the nucs are ready, they are brought to one of the islands (selected for the actual combination). The islands are populated by strong sister colonies which ensure many identical drones. The nucs are situated at the island for a maximum of 18 days, checked for laying queens, and subsequently brought home. The queens remain in the nucs until a sealed brood is detected and the first new bees are emerging. Once picked, the queens will be shipped by courier within 24 hours.