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Upon making enquiry to the Devon Bee Association, UK, we were graciously responded to by Roger and Monica Lacey of Toad Pit Lane, West Hills/Ottery St. Mary, Devon, UK.   An invitation to stay at their house and do a presentation to the Association was offered, and we delightfully accepted.

Roger Lacey is Chairman, Treasurer, and Examinations Secretary for the Devon Bee Association. 

Roger Lacey

We were to arrive late the afternoon of the 25th October 2010 from London and dine together at the house.

Roger on phone - working Monica in kitchen Grounds Grounds - 2 Creeping blooms

INVITE GRAPHIC includes the following:

web invite


October 26, 2010

9:30am breakfast
10:00am – prepping and review of the presentation
11:30am - luncheon at Buckfast Abbey with Clair Densley, Head BeeKeeper at the Abbey
3:00pm - Basterfield Bee Farm educational facilities
5:30pm - dinner at house
7:30pm – 10:00pm – Klausesbees Presentation to Association
11:00pm – drinks and discussion


Klaus and Erika in the am Klaus, Monica and Roger Klaus with walking stick Lacey hives
Hives in waiting Looking out window

October 26, 2010 9:30am

Devon Bee Association’s aim is to promote and further the craft of beekeeping and to advance the education of the public in the importance of honeybees in the environment.

As an eleven Branch Association The Devon Bee Association accomplishes this by:
* Promoting and supporting good beekeeping practice.
* Educating with courses http://www.devonbeekeepers.org.uk/resources2.html, lectures and study.
* Collaborating with organizations such as the Devon Apicultural Research Group http://dargbees.org/ and the National Bee Unit https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/beebase/.
* Ensuring that the latest information, underpinned by research, is available for all our members through the Devon 'Beekeeping http://www.devonbeekeepers.org.uk/resources5.html journal and our website.

The Devon Beekeepers Association (DBKA) is a not-for-profit organization run on a voluntary basis for the benefit of bees and beekeepers. It is affiliated to the British Beekeepers Association http://www.britishbee.org.uk/index.php (BBKA). We actively encourage membership to provide the help resources needed to promote beekeeping and to support beginners and 'old hands' alike.

Founded in 1875 DBKA has a long history which is described in interesting detail in Ron Brown's 'One Thousand Years of Devon Beekeeping'. Copies of this booklet are held in all branch libraries. 'BEEKEEPING', our Association journal also forms an interesting historical record. It has been published continuously since 1935, 10 issues per year. There are three complete archival sets in the county - two held by the editor at the moment and one at the Devon County Records Office.

It is reported that http://www.britishbee.org.uk/news/current_news/bbka-honey-survey-results-announced.shtml
* 3.5 million pounds of honey harvested this summer for the nation’s tea tables by amateur beekeepers
* 50 per cent increase in the number of bee colonies in the last six months
* four times the value of BBKA members’ honey harvests goes to the economy through pollination
* 5,000 members of the public sign up to lend their support as ‘armchair’ beekeepers


October 26, 2010 11:30am

BUCKFAST ABBEY at Buckfastleigh.

Buckfast map

The name "Buckfast" means "stronghold" - traditionally a place where deer and buck were held, and "Leigh" would have been the pasture belonging to Buckfast — hence the meaning deer held in a pasture (buck-fast-leigh).


Buckfast probably existed before Buckfastleigh as it is mentioned in the Domesday Book and in 1018 a Benedictine Abbey was founded and endorsed by King Canute at Buckfast.

Buckfast Abbey was founded by Earl Aylward in the reign of King Canute in 1018. In 1147 it became a Cistercian abbey and was rebuilt in stone. In medieval times, the abbey became rich through fishing and trading in sheep wool, although the Black Death killed two abbots and many monks — by 1377 there were only fourteen monks at Buckfast.

Looking toward the Abbey Plan of site Buckfast conference

On 25 February 1539, William Petre arrived at Buckfast and declared the abbey to be dissolved by order of King Henry VIII. The monks were compelled to leave and the buildings were looted and destroyed. The abbey then stood in ruins for over two hundred years.

Bloom Expanse across Gardens

On 28 October 1882, six Benedictine monks arrived at Buckfast having been exiled from France. The land had been leased by monks from the St. Augustine's Priory in Ramsgate and it was later bought for £4,700. The first new abbot was Boniface Natter, who died in a shipwreck in 1906. His travelling companion Anscar Vonier became the next abbot and pledged to fulfil his dying wish, namely to rebuild the abbey. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckfast_Abbey


The monks lived among the ruins and gradually rebuilt the abbey church upon the foundations of the abbey constructed in 1147. The church itself was restored between 1905 and 1937. Over the thirty two years, there were never more than six monks working on the project at any one time, although the whole community had repaired the ancient foundations up to ground level. Construction methods were primitive — wooden scaffolding was held together by ropes and no safety protection was worn by the monks. One monk fell 50 feet but survived and three monks fell off a hoist without serious injury in 1931. Construction continued through World War I, with the German monks being unable under local law to leave the abbey grounds.

The Abbey was consecrated on 25 August 1932, but the building was finally finished with the laying of the last stone in late 1937.  

The Abbey The Abbey - Ceiling rafters Looking into the Abbey The Abbey - top ceiling center Berries on tree
Sculpture Toward the Beehouse Water Wheel



Dom Charles trained at the Royal College of Art and used his talent throughout the church throughout his long lifetime. 

Beginning with stained glass, he moved on to paint the lantern tower ceiling in egg-tempera in 1939 (one of his helpers remembers hearing the news of the outbreak of war while finishing some of the gold-leaf work). In 1948 Dom Charles designed the marble pavement in the choir and laid the floor in the Lady Chapel in 1958. In 1968 Dom Charles completed his most striking embellishment of the church ­ the huge east window in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. This employs the technique known as dalles-de-verre ( which he studied under Pierre Formaintraux and Gabriel Loire in France) in which ‘tiles’ of coloured glass are chipped into shape and laid, mosaic-fashion, in a matrix of resin. Following this work, windows were made at Buckfast for many churches throughout the country.

The design is produced to suit the size and location or the window. Full size patterns are cut and positioned to show each glass colour. A aluminum frame is laid around the whole design. A special epoxy resign is made up.  The slabs of glass are cut and shaped, chipped and sliced with a tungsten hammer creating variations in thickness (sometimes nearly 3cm thick) which allows the refracted bent light to gleam through. Resin is then poured over into the frame filling up the spaces between the peices of glass.  Charles Norris was commissioned to do churches in Plymouth, international commissions in the Middle East and America.  In 2002 he was approached to produce a window to be given to the Fire Department in New York as commemoration after the attack on the World Trade Centre. 

He was awarded the MBE and died in 2004.

Stained glass Stained glass 2 Tile

Self sufficiency

The Abbey is self-supporting, with a farm where vegetables are grown and bees, pigs and cattle are kept, a shop which sells wine, honey beeswax, fudge and other items made by religious communities throughout the world, and a gift shop, book shop, and restaurant.



The wine was first produced in the 1890s by the Benedictine monks at Buckfast Abbey using a recipe brought over from France, as indeed is the wine base used today.

The wine was originally sold in small quantities by the Abbey itself, as a medicine with the slogan "Three small glasses a day, for good health and lively blood". In 1927 the Abbey lost its license to sell wine, as a result of which the Abbot signed a deal with wine merchants to distribute the wine on the Abbey's behalf. At the same time, the recipe was changed in order for the wine to appeal to a wider customer base, resulting in increased sales. The modern bottle carries a notice that it does not in fact have tonic properties of the type claimed in the former slogan.

In recent times, Buckfast has achieved popularity in working class and bohemian communities in certain parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Buckfast is also particularly popular among the Scottish ned culture and Irish students. Buckfast sold in the Republic of Ireland has a slightly lower alcoholic strength, arrives in a darker bottle, and lacks the vanillin flavouring of the British version. Buckfast sold in Northern Ireland is the same as that in the rest of the UK. The drink has also entered the popular culture lexicon in Scotland leading to it being given a number of nicknames, including "Wreck the Hoose Juice", "Commotion Lotion" and "Mrs. Brown". Other nicknames are "Bucky", "Lurgan Champagne", "Yak", "Buckshweng", "Devil's Water", "Tonic", "Toni- C", "Sauce", "Spice Weasel's Blood", "Bannside Brandy", "Stingy Pish", "Coatbridge Table Wine",[ "Ton-Ton" and "Bo".

Within the above areas, Buckfast is alleged to be the drink of choice for drinkers who are prone to committing anti-social behaviour when drunk, especially drinkers under 18 years. Its high strength (15% ABV/14.8% in the Republic of Ireland), relatively low price and sweetness are characteristics that are thought to appeal to underage drinker. The drink also has a very high caffeine content, with each 750ml bottle containing the equivalent of eight cans of cola.



Early in the twentieth century, one of the youngsters who came to Buckfast from Germany with a view to joining the community was assigned to assist Br. Columban. This was Br. Adam Kehrle. He began helping Br. Columban at the tender age of twelve, but he was destined to continue working with the bees for over seventy eight years and to become an international authority in the field.

Klaus and Roger

Soon after Br. Adam joined Brother Columban, thirty out of the Abbey's forty-six colonies were wiped out by a disease known as Acarine. All of the bees that died were of the native British black bee variety. This bee was renowned for being hardy, but somewhat ill-tempered. The bees that survived the outbreak were all of Italian origin.

Adam Buckfast logo artwork

Brother Adam (born Karl Kehrle in 1898 in Germany, died in 1996) was put in charge of the Abbey's beekeeping in 1919, and began extensive breeding work creating the honeybee known as the Buckfast bee. Brother Adam had to replenish the bee colonies as 30 of the monastery's 46 colonies had been wiped out by a disease called "acarine", all the bees that died were of the native British black bee. The remaining 16 hives that survived were of Italian origin.

In 1919, after Brother Columban retired, Brother Adam was put in charge of the bees, and he set about rebuilding the colonies. His intention was to use cross-breeding to develop a new bee which would be hardy like the black bee, but disease-resistant like the Italian bee, and a good honey producer.

Brother Adam made extensive journeys all over the world to get breeding stock. He concentrated on countries with a distinct indigenous race of bees, going chiefly to isolated country regions where the purity of the native strains had been maintained. He even went to the Sahara. Over the years, he traveled more than 100,000 miles in search of bees.

The result of all these travels, as well as many years of patient experiment at the breeding station on Dartmoor, was the Buckfast Bee™. This bee is a good pollen gatherer, and is normally gentle. It also has a lower tendency to swarm than many other varieties, and is resistant to Acarine

Buckfast queens are now kept by beekeepers all over the world. Brother Adam wrote three books about the Buckfast Bee™, including "In Search of the Best Strains of Bees" (1983), and "Beekeeping at Buckfast" (1975). In 1974, he was awarded the O.B.E. for his work.

Br. Adam resigned from the Bee Department at the age of 93.

Cemetery Adams grave stone

He died in 1996 in his 99th year.   http://www.buckfast.org.uk/page-beekeeping.html

Today's Inspector and Master Beekeeper of Buckfast Abbey is Clare Densley. She and her assistant, Segundo, welcomed us with enthusiastic arms. We talked about the bees in general and of some techniques and additives used to entice the bees to better health.

All walking to Beehouse Clare Densley

The following are some insights and comments from Clare Densley, from discussions of the day:

"The mites you saw on the screen boards were a result of the treatment we had used in August through to September - we just havn't cleaned them in a while. Apistan no longer works for us here as the mites have become resistant. We use thymol grease patties which we make ourselves and this year they seem to have been pretty sucessful. In December or very early January we will use a 3.2% solution of oxalic acid diluted in sugar syrup. We use the trickle method for this - the solution is trickled between seams of bees. Aparrently it dissoves the varroas feet and they drop off. We used it last year and it was very successful because the bees have no brood at this time and all the varroa are on the bees not in the cells.

We really don't have a problem with tracheal mites in this country. I have never encountered them and I have been keeping bees since 1992. Many people think that its because the stuff we have been using for varroa has also dealt with tracheal mites also. Varroa was first found in this country in 1993. Brother Adam reckoned that the Buckfast bee was resistant to tracheal mites but I'm sceptical about this. I've heard that Italian bees are especially prone to the mite but I don't know why or what mechanism a bee might employ to make them more resistant - Hygenic behaviour, more or less hair around the spiracles? I would like to know.

We use garlic as it naturally contains mild antibiotics in the form of sulphur compounds which are also anti- michrobial, anti- fungal, anti- viral, and also full of amino acids which form protein. We mix it into sugar syrup and the bees love it. Think about it - they naturally feed on the allium family; chives, onions wild garlic etc. Any way early days- we shall see!

Original Beehouse now Hives on raised platforms

We may give some of the overwintering nuc,s some fondant during the winter but we fed them well before the ivy flow and they really shouldn't need anything until spring.

We generally split colonies as part of swarm control - either artificially swarm, or make up nuc's. This can happen any time from April through to early July. We are going to be doing more queen rearing next year and so will probably make up plenty of nuc's which we can sell if we don't use them ourselves. We are not a honey producing unit anymore and our priorities will be on teaching and some gentle research. Selling bees is also more profitable in this country than selling honey.

We don't have small hive beetle in this country yet.

We see a little EFB but never here at the Abbey. If we did I would get the local bee inspector in - it's a notifiable disease and the standard treatment is to shake the bees onto fresh equipment unless the infection is bad and then it's destruction. We are not allowed to use terramycin in this country and if you find AFB there is no treatment but destruction. This sounds harsh but the consequence is that AFB is very rare here now.

WE don't use plastic foundation because we have always used wax foundation. No other reason.

An original numbered hive Hive box

We don't remove drone brood. This is a personal crusade of mine! The more drones the better. We have a pretty good gene pool here in Devon and I believe that the more polyandrous the queen is the better chance a colony has of surviving. The bees only make as many drones as they feel they can support and this is closely regulated by feed back from both drone and worker brood pheromones. I believe in the wisdom of the hive and as most of the problems bees have are our due to our meddling and greed, I think we should trust them to develop the kind of colony best suited to their survival rather than our needs. This is fine for me to say as I don't rely on honey for my income but I'd rather have a healthy colony than a frustrated and stressed one.

The Buckfast bees are quite swarmy but I see this as an asset because it enables us to split the colonies and again this is what keeps bees healthy.Its how they would stay healthy in the wild. We like to go with what the bees would naturally do instead of fighting their natural urges. Last year we hardly lost any colonies.

Water content varies from year to year depending on the weather. It is very variable and the weather determines the honey crop also. the ;last few years it has been very average - maybe 2/3 supers per hive.

Clare Densley in discussion

We are focusing on education at the Abbey now. Courses, research, and some queen rearing. The kind of queens I want are less 'eggy' than some of the ones we have now. I'd like them to be gentle and more self sufficient in terms of disease control, also better able to feed themselves and regulate their brood/food balance. In other words I want the bees to be survivors with a moderate honey crop rather than being over fecund and needing lots of help to get them through the year. Does that make sense?

Sun is shining now and the bees will be flying. Not much coming in terms of food now but still a few young bees stretching their flight muscles and learning where they live." (Clare Densley)

Clare, Klause and Segundo (assistant to Clare Densley) Monica, Klaus and Clare

This was an enchanting day at The Abbey Buckfast – filled with insights into ideas and visuals.  One wonders the fate of the ABBEY as only a handful of monks remain (elderly and soon to pass on) and as of yet no institution or National Preservation group has come to rally the importance of The Abbey as both historical to the bee community of the world, or for the splendor of the artistan(s) that created the glass and tile floors, the building of the abbey itself, the splendid grounds  and their conference availabilities … the gardens, the shops and the most marvelous restaurant. Truly a wonderful escape to a more peaceful time of reflection and insight.

October 26, 2010 3:00pm

Basterfield Bee Farm Educational Facilities
Family owned beekeepers

Ken and Dan Basterfield run a family owned honey farm and facilitate neighbouring beekeepers with extraction and jarring, and an educational centre for both new comers as well as those long in the field. A working laboratory will be set up with microscopes and equipment to examine the nature of disease attacking the bee. The heating for water pipes which comes from the free standing well is ground source.

Watershed and storage barns Storage - honey boxes and drums Owner David and Monica Klaus, Basterfield, Monica Honey buckets and strainer
Chief bottler Honey product Chutney with honey Warming room for extraction Honey frames with removed honey
Klaus and Basterfield Warming pipes from ground water heated Basterfield and David to Bee Laboratory Facilities


October 26, 2010 7:30pm-10pm

Klausesbees Presentation to Bee Association

The evening Show and Tell / Question and Answer was held at Kenton Village Hall, Kenton. Erika Decker-Koepfli put a Power Point presentation together that covered Beekeeping in California – Klausesbees style. This presentation was open for discussion as materials were shown ranging from the locations to actual beekeeping methods.

On the road again Through the village Past the church yard

Beekeepers came from all around, not just the Devon region, and it was quite exciting to see the Brits out in force, welcoming and challenging the Californians.

Back seat vision Around the curves Guy Fox bonfire Beekeepers Beekeepers 2 Beekeepers 3
David, Monica and Beekeepers Beekeepers 4 Klaus and guest beekeeper Nigel Lawrence and son Beekeepers 5 Beekeepers moving in

The Question and Answer segment was handled by Klaus Koepfli and introduced by Roger Lacey – Everyone appeared to have a good time – much laughter – hard questions – resolute answers.

Klaus and David - presentation

We closed the meeting with coffee and tea, a tasting of Klausesbees honey samples (avocado / sage/ alfalfa/ wild flower/ orange/ buckwheat), a look at the honey soaps, candles, and market cotton bags. A favourite was the buckwheat and the avocado – wildflower is always appreciated. Klausesbees honey is markedly different in texture, colour and texture. Klausesbees honey is darker and varied in colours, with distinct fragrances, clear in texture. The Devon honeys were predominantly white/pale in colour verging on crystalization or ‘pearl like’ texture. The flowers are not as varied or as fragrant/strong or pungent. But they are very good. The water moisture is much higher. The evening had to be called to a close as the hall had been reserved for specific hours but the beekeepers all wanted to participate in questions/comments. It was a great evening – great fun. A wonderful exchange of ideas and theories.

We retired to Roger and Monica Lacey’s house to close out the evening with more questions and discussions over some ham/cheese sandwiches and wine/brandy. Klaus shared a schnapps from Suisse.

The questions ran from product uses to rid mites – feeding habits – existence of foul brood and measures taken – drone brood and re-queening – hive losses and moisture content ....

Here are the answers to these questions:

  • We use Apiguard after the honey take off in August. Then at the end of Nov we trickle oxalic acid between the frames
  • Feeding usually starts at the end of Jan by putting fondant above the cover board.
  • Depending on the spring build up, we would probably split once or twice around May/June time.
  • We do not see trachea mites and the bee inspectors do not test for them.
  • We do not have SHB in the UK.
  • Foul brood – occasional AFB but EFB is more of a problem. If minor infestation, then we shook swarm into a new box with fresh foundation. If bad then burn frames, and scorch the box.
  • Plastic frames have not really caught on here yet – wood with a wired foundation is still the most popular
  • Drone brood removal is carried out to reduce varroa. But some are now leaving it in the hive to ensure any queen is mated properly.
  • Good beekeeping should minimize warming and many cut the wings of the queen to prevent the bees flying too far from the hive.
  • National average of hive loss each winter from one source or another is around 25%.
  • Water content of honey on an average sample is around 17%.
  • Depends on the year but on average around 30 pounds per hive.

Hope I have answered all your questions which are of course only a personal view. (Roger Lacey)

A wonderful trip was had indeed with much interchanging of ideas and thoughts on the subject of disease and maintenance of hives and beekeeping, in general. More wonderful friends for future.


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