Bees and Bicycles

the monk and the honeybee




TV:  3 x 30’

From his monastic cell at Buckfast Abbey, Devon, England, Brother Adam directed an incredible global enterprise.  He scoured Europe, the Middle East and Africa in search of genetic material from which during 70 years he synthesised the world-beating Buckfast strain - culminating in an extraordinary expedition, undertaken in his 90th year, to hunt the elusive black bee of Kilimanjaro. 

Filmed in the Buckfast apiaries, the German Alps and the mountains of Tanzania, THE MONK AND THE HONEYBEE combines biography and adventure with science and natural history.  A fascinating insight into the workings of the beehive and the genius of greatest beemaster the world has ever known.

THE MONK AND THE HONEYBEE is the story of a relentless quest for perfection, a brilliant 20th Century application of the work of an earlier monk, Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics.  Further, it is a fascinating insight into the mind of a religious man who has wholeheartedly embraced the world of practical science.

Brother Adam died on September 1, 1996.  Such was his pre-eminence in bee genetics, his obituary was carrIed by TIME magazine.


DVD: 90 minutes

The Monk and the Honeybee is available as an all-zone DVD. 

Producer David Taylor says: “Arguably, Brother Adam was and remains the world’s greatest bee breeder. He was a SIF – a single idea fanatic – driven by the ideal of a commercial honeybee second to none.”  

Taylor adds:  “In many ways Brother Adam was a difficult man and quite shy of the media. I was privileged to gain his confidence. We became friends. The film is an insight into the life of a pioneer, a genius in the intricacies of apiculture and honeybee genetics.”

The Monk and the Honeybee is also an insight into the workings of the hive, essential viewing for anyone taking up beekeeping - a precious visual study of a master breeder at work, the practice of a supreme bee-handler.

A decade after Brother Adam’s death, The Monk and the Honeybee is now a classic – the only complete documentary record of the life and times of this extraordinary Benedictine monk.

The film was shot over a season in the apiaries of Buckfast Abbey Devon, England, where Brother Adam had lived and worked since arriving from his native Germany at the age of 12 in 1910. The movie traces his early battle with acarine, which devastated the monastic hives, and spurred him to breed a disease-resistant bee. The quest took him on heroic journeys through Europe, the Middle East and Africa in search of genetic stock from which he eventually synthesised the Buckfast strain.

Taylor’s camera follows Brother Adam to Sweden and Germany and a Buckfast isolation apiary in the Bavarian Alps. The film accompanies him on a remarkable expedition to the slopes of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania where Brother Adam hunted the elusive Apis Mellifera Monticola, a breed whose docility and resistance to cold he wished to incorporate in the Buckfast bee.

Says Taylor: “Brother Adam was an incomparable beekeeper. But more importantly, he was a breeder – a self-taught geneticist.  Unlike Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics, Brother Adam understood the multi-mating of the queen bee. He established the first isolation apiary on Dartmoor in 1925.

And in developing the Buckfast strain, he never took his eye off five essential qualities - good temper, disease-resistance, prolificacy, a propensity for hard work and a disinclination to swarm. To this end he scoured the world for genetic material.  He even developed instrumental insemination.”

Did Brother Adam achieve his ambition? Devotees had no doubt. The Buckfast strain was a superbee in demand across six continents. Brother Adam was beemaster of the world.

He had built a global enterprise - exporting queens and establishing overseas breeding stations. But critics said his strain did not breed true and the argument goes on to this day. Brother Adam himself was never satisfied, constantly seeking new genetic material to weave into his strain.

One thing is certain - beekeepers and beebreeders owe Brother Adam an enormous debt.