Abstract The time-of-flight method has been used to study the neutron spectra from the reactions of 6Li and 7Li with 9 MeV protons. Neutron groups were observed corresponding to transitions to the ground state of 6Be and to the three lower states of 7Be, as well as a continuous distribution of low-energy neutrons due to more complex reactions. Observation of the group of neutrons from the reaction 6Li( p,n) 6Be is the first experimental evidence of the existence of the 6Be nucleus. The Q-value of the reaction 6Li( p,n) 6Be is equal to −5·2 MeV and the width of the ground state of 6Be is less than 0·3 MeV. The differential cross-sections for neutron formation were measured at angles of 0, 15, 30, 60 and 120°.