Who Was Brother Adam? The Life Of Karl Kehrle

Brother Adam or Karl Kehrle profile illustration

Brother Adam was a highly respected beekeeper, author, and Benedictine monk. He was born in Germany on August 3, 1898, and spent much of his life at Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England.

Brother Adam is best known for his development of the Buckfast bee and for writing Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey.

Did you know? Brother Adam’s birth name was Karl Kehrle.

Quick Facts

NameKarl Kehrle (Brother Adam)
BornAugust 3, 1898
Place of BirthMittelbiberach, Germany
DiedSeptember 1, 1996
OccupationBenedictine monk, beekeeper, author
Notable Beekeeping AchievementsDeveloped the Buckfast bee and wrote Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey.

Early life

Brother Adam was born Karl Kehrle in Germany on August 3, 1898. He spent his childhood in rural surroundings with his parents, Anton and Anna Kehrle.

Adam developed a deep affinity for nature from an early age. After completing his early education, Karl entered the Benedictine monastery of Buckfast Abbey. He was just eleven years old.

At the Abbey, he adopted the name “Brother Adam” and discovered his true calling in beekeeping.

Also read: Who are the most influential beekeepers in history?

How did Brother Adam get started in beekeeping?

Brother Adam’s interest in beekeeping was sparked during his time at Buckfast Abbey in England. The Abbey had a long-standing tradition of beekeeping, and there was a resident beekeeper whose writings and expertise captivated young Karl Kehrle.

Adam recognized bees’ crucial role in the ecosystem and the importance of their survival. This realization led him to devote himself to studying and practicing beekeeping.

The research and writings of F.W. Sladen, Samuel Simmins, and Professor L. Armbruster profoundly affected Brother Adam’s approach to bee breeding.

Contributions to beekeeping

Brother Adam’s contributions to beekeeping revolutionized the industry. He played a pivotal role in safeguarding honeybee populations for future generations.

1. Development of the Buckfast Bee

One of Brother Adam’s most notable achievements was the development of the Buckfast Bee breed. Facing the threat of honeybee extinction due to diseases and harsh environmental conditions, he embarked on a selective breeding program to create a resilient and productive bee.

Brother Adam bred different strains of bees from across Europe, creating a hybrid race known as the Buckfast Bee. These bees exhibited exceptional characteristics such as gentleness, disease resistance, productivity, and adaptability, making them highly sought after by beekeepers worldwide.

2. Research and Publications

Brother Adam’s extensive research and observations in the beekeeping field led to the publication of several influential books and articles.

His writings covered many topics, including bee breeding, hive management, bee diseases, and forage plants. His most famous book, Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey, became a seminal reference for beekeepers worldwide, providing invaluable insights and practical guidance.

3. Education and Training

As the head beekeeper at Buckfast Abbey, Brother Adam actively trained and mentored countless beekeepers.

He organized workshops, lectures, and training programs to share his knowledge and expertise.

4. International collaboration

Brother Adam recognized the importance of sharing information and working with beekeepers worldwide.

He actively fostered connections and partnerships with beekeepers, researchers, and organizations across different countries.

5. Preservation of native bees

Besides his work with the Buckfast Bee, Brother Adam was also a staunch advocate for preserving native bee species. He emphasized the significance of maintaining diverse bee populations and their crucial role in pollination.

His efforts raised awareness about the importance of protecting and conserving native bees alongside managed honeybee colonies.

The later years

In his final years, Brother Adam was actively involved in beekeeping and promoting sustainable practices. Despite facing age-related challenges, he remained committed to his work.

Brother Adam spent his time conducting workshops, giving lectures, and attending conferences, where he shared his wisdom and insights.

Brother Adam also dedicated his efforts to preserving and conserving honeybee populations. Recognizing the global decline of pollinators, he worked to raise awareness and promote responsible beekeeping practices that prioritized the health and well-being of bees and their habitats.

In addition to his active involvement in the beekeeping community, Brother Adam continued writing and publishing during his final years. He authored articles, contributed to scientific journals, and continued to share his expertise through his writings.

He remained influential in the beekeeping community until his passing on September 1, 1996.

What is Brother Adam’s legacy

Brother Adam’s legacy lies in his transformative contributions to beekeeping. His breeding techniques and the Buckfast Bee breed have significantly impacted honeybee populations globally.

An emphasis on sustainable practices, education, and conservation continues to shape the industry and inspire future generations of beekeepers.

Commonly asked questions

What is the Buckfast Bee?

The Buckfast Bee is a hybrid breed of honeybee developed by Brother Adam. It was created through selective breeding and is known for its gentle temperament, productivity, disease resistance, and adaptability to various environments.

Where did Brother Adam live and work?

Brother Adam spent most of his life at Buckfast Abbey in England. This space provided him the room and resources to pursue his beekeeping experiments and research.

What were Brother Adam’s key publications?

Brother Adam authored several notable publications, including Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey, In Search of the Best Strains of Bees, Breeding the Honeybee, and The Introduction of Queen Bees.

Fun facts about Brother Adam

  • Widely respected: received an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his contributions to the study of bees.
  • Leadership qualities: Was the vice president of the International Bee Research Association
  • Longevity in beekeeping: he dedicated over 70 years of his life to beekeeping. His commitment and passion for bees made him a true icon in the field.
  • Traveling beekeeper: traveled extensively, visiting different regions to study and collect bee colonies. His journeys took him to countries like Morocco, France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey, where he observed and gathered diverse bee genetics for his breeding program.
  • Inspiring the next generation: his teachings and mentorship have inspired many beekeepers. His apprentices went on to become successful beekeepers, carrying on his legacy and promoting his principles of sustainable beekeeping.
  • Beekeeping Innovations: developed various beekeeping equipment and techniques. He invented the “Brother Adam Hive,” which featured large boxes and adjustable frames.
  • Honorary Doctorates: received two honorary doctorates awarded two honorary doctorates, one from Exeter University in England and the other from Uppsala University in Sweden.

Did you know? Brother Adam helped raise the profile of the a hive designed by Charles Dadant.

Brother Adams Timeline of Key Events

  • 1898: Born in Mittelbiberach, Germany.
  • 1913: Tracheal mite (acarine disease) reaches the U.K. from the Isle of Wight, decimating vast local bee stocks.
  • 1916: All native bees die at Buckfast Abbey. 16 colonies out of 46 survive, all A. m. carnica and ligustica.
  • 1917: Buckfast bee Version 1: Brown ligustica x British bee drones crossed.
  • 1919: Brother Adam takes over as head beekeeper.
  • 1920: Initial attempts at crossing F1 with A. m. cypria.
  • 1924: Half the Abbey’s British standard frames are converted to Dadant 12 frames.
  • 1925: Establishes a mating station at Dartmoor, which still operates today.
  • 1930: Crosses a Buckfast drone with a French queen.
  • 1950: Takes first trip through Europe in search of new breeds like A. m. cecropia to incorporate into the Buckfast stock.
  • 1954: Travels abroad to countries like the former Yugoslavia, Greece, and Turkey.
  • 1959: Crosses Buckfasts with a Greek breed that results in a more docile bee and less prone to swarming.
  • 1960: The Buckfast is enriched with a cross of A. m. anatolia x Buckfast stock.
  • 1971: Becomes Vice-President of IBRA.
  • 1973: Becomes an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE).
  • 1984: Travels to the United States to assist with the Buckfast breeding program.
  • 1996: Dies, aged 98.

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