Erik is a well-known beekeeper and bee breeder from Sweden. He took us through his career so far, spanning 35 years (not much longer than me!). He started with mongrel bees: non – Italian but angry. However there was an isolated mating apiary for Italian bees close by so that might explain their anger. He crossed his bees with Buckfasts and then became hooked on Buckfasts. He recommends that anybody wishing to pick up stories about Brother Adam and his methods and idiosynchronies takes Peter Donovan (who worked with him for many years) to the pub at Buckfastleigh and buys him a pint. Not a bad idea. Peter came and talked to us in Dorset getting on for 20 years ago. In 1978 Brother Adam started using African bees: Apis mellifera Sahariensis and Rif. He obtained from the mountainous rain forests of East Africa Apis Mellifera Monticola, trying to avoid ‘killer bees’ or absconders. Monticola have a shorter development time, as do Unicolor from Madagascar. Apis cerana queens will mate with mellifera drones but the result is sterile.
After a visit to Dee Lusby in Arizona, he converted to 4.9mm cell size in the brood nest and 5.1 in supers. Dee sent me some of her 4.9 foundation and it was very dark with propolis, leading me to wonder whether it is the propolis content rather than the cell size that is the reason for her success.
There is, according to Erik, a difference in moisture content between the centre and the outside of the comb. I must check that with my refractometer.
For breeding bees, remove the least good; breed from the best + a few extra from the very best. He has visited John Kefuss, the American in the south of France who has devised the Bond method (Live and Let Die) of keeping bees to select for varroa resistance.