Brother Adam, a monk at Buckfast Abbey, began beekeeping for the abbey when he was twelve when he was apprenticed under Brother Columband. In 1915, when Brother Adam was 16 they lost the majority of their beehives to a plague of acarine disease named after the parasitic tracheal mite which caused the wipeout of so many hives. The sixteen hives that lived were all either pure Italian or of Italian descent. The hives also did not show any trace of the disease that killed so many others. This observation inspired Brother Adam, who began to selectively breed his queens. The government asked the abbey to increase the number of hives they had in order to help replenish the bees that died to the plague throughout the country.
Brother Adam took to studying the traits of pure strains of bees from foreign countries and importing them to an isolated valley where he could breed his bees in peace. It seems to have taken him about ten years per strain to achieve a stable cross of desired genes. The end result became the Buckfast bee which is a famous be around the world.
Brother Adam’s success is one of the first and biggest modern selective bee breeding program. He used bee breeding stations to let select the queens and later be able to select the drones. He bred his bees and then left them for a time to allow them to be naturally selected for. He only used queens that came from successful hives in his breeding program. And as I mentioned it took ten years to get a trait to stick. He was patient with his bees and gave them time. Brother Adam knew how to learn from the bees and find the best balance that works for both bees and humans.
The problem we face today is much more widespread than Brother Adam’s plague. I was unable to find specific information on whether colony collapse affects Buckfast bees. Regardless, I would like to suggest that a gentler, more patient approach to selectively breeding bees than artificial insemination may be more effective in the long run.