Stephen Donohoe who wrote the book "Interviews with Beekeepers" tells us about his friend Peter Little: 

Peter Little ( Dec 1955-July 2021 )

On July 25th the community of beekeepers lost a great man. Peter Little of Exmoor Bees and Beehives moved on to the great apiary in the sky. I met him several times and, of course, interviewed and photographed him for my book. Along with may others, I had long conversations with him on the telephone at ridiculous times in the night, and I held him in great affection. 

Peter was an introvert. However, once we met, he was a friendly and entertaining host. He hated mobile phones and would never own one. He said that aeroplanes were terrible polluting things and suggested that they all be grounded, broken up and turned into pots and pans. He bred Buckfast bees, sometimes using the isolated mating station on Dartmoor that Brother Adam set up. He possessed many items of historical importance from the Buckfast heyday and handed some over to people or institutions that respected the legacy.

It wasn't all about Buckfast, though. He was also involved with establishing the native black bee project on the Rame Peninsula in Cornwall. He loved all bees and the natural world. My wife and I often laugh about the story he told us involving an 'explosion of shrews' that he witnessed up close. David Kemp told me that so much of Brother Adam's talent stemmed from his intuition. That was precisely the word used by Peter when describing how he selects breeding stock. His was forged by hours, days, years, decades with bees - he said that you needed to work bees in all conditions over several seasons to know them properly.

It is no accident that Peter produced great queens. He kept up to date with research papers and was a sponge for knowledge wherever he could find it. Years ago, he spent hours conversing with Joe Latshaw and Sue Coby in the States. They helped him along the way as he took up instrumental insemination of queens. 

Another trait of Peter's was his generosity when explaining what he does and why. He would not force his views on anyone, but out would come a great treatise when asked. You would get every little step of any process, with sound reasons why one way and not the other. Not many people have the patience to do that. Peter was also very self-sufficient and resented overpaying for anything. He made not only hives but much of the equipment used in the business.

Running an enterprise that involves breeding some of the best queens in the country, tending to over 500 hives and building cedar hives for sale is hard work. They have lost a key man, but the show must go on. Peter's wife, Sandra, has always been the backbone of the business, and that won't change. She deals with sales, accounting, ordering and countless other non-beekeeping but essential tasks. Eldest son Denis runs the sawmill and workshop, but he stopped producing hives for sale this year to help with the bees. Peter was always more interested in bees than beehives. The two youngest sons, Andrew and Lewis, both graduates of the Bee Farmers Association apprentice scheme, work full time on bees and queens. Lewis is the main man for swarm control. Peter passed on much of his detailed knowledge of queen lines to Andrew before he died. His friend, John Days, is on hand to offer support too.

He also left two other sons, Richard and Tony. Richard owns a butcher shop in nearby Watchet and has little involvement with bees. Tony, an agricultural contractor, has thrown himself into the business since Peter became sick. Other members of the family, including daughter-in-laws and grandchildren, often help out too. They are in a great location and benefit from three flows; oilseed rape, mixed floral, and heather, so there's plenty to do.

John Days, of Ipswich, said this of Peter: "We were kindred country spirits that shared the same values. We talked about more than bees; he was 100% genuinely a warm gentleman. He encouraged me to learn the Buckfast methodology, guided me to Brother Adam's breeding records and current research papers. He shared so much. A Friday night phone call was never less than ninety minutes. The intricacies about beekeeping and queen breeding that he had at his fingertips were phenomenal. I will truly miss him. The torch now passes to the family to carry on his legacy."

From Richard Noel in Brittany, France: "Peter invited me to stay with him and his wonderful family in July 2016. I followed Peter and his boys around his apiaries for a whole week. Never before had I met a beekeeper that worked a full day in slippers! His knowledge and skill bowled me over, as did his incredible ability to make equipment. We say when somebody great leaves that whoever takes over has some big boots to fill. In Peters case, that's a comfy pair of tan coloured moccasins. His knowledge will live on in all that were lucky enough to have known him."

Michael Palmer of Vermont, USA: "In 2013, I was invited to speak at the National Honey Show. I'd never been outside North America and had no clue what to expect. I'd compared notes with Peter many times on BeeSource and found him a kindred spirit agreeing on many honey bee topics. I asked Peter if I could spend a couple of days with him in Allerford, promising to help out with any pressing bee work. Not only did he not ask me to work for my room and board, he and Denis drove me all over Devon. From Combestone Tor to the Warren House Inn for a nice beef and mushroom pie and a pint of their finest. An amazing side trip to Buckfast Abbey and the Sherberton mating station made the day extra special. What a wonderful restful time spent with Peter, Sandra and two of their sons. Sometime before Peter became ill, I asked if he would like to come to Vermont to visit once he retired and turned apiary management over to the boys. I was so looking forward to that, but sadly, it will never happen. All my love to Sandra and the boys. I hope your paths forward are kind. Vaya con Dios miamigo. I hope we meet again someday".

My last communication with Peter was on July 1st 2021. He told me that he was sorry to say that it was a losing battle and that they had given up treating him for his cancer. A few weeks later, he was gone.

Here is a part of my interview for my book: Steve: My last question is, what are your plans for the future? Peter: The Bahamas sound very nice! My plans are to carry on as long as I can, like most old beekeepers, breeding queens. Steve: You'll probably always do that, won't you?

Stephen Donohoe