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Uninvited guests create quite a buzz

ROBERT MILLS, Lowell Sun, April 27, 2006

DRACUT -- Jane Guimond isn't allergic to bees, and that's a darn good thing, because until yesterday, she was living with as many as 50,000 of them. Guimond said she noticed the docile honey bees buzzing around as she sat on her porch at 642 Wheeler Road yesterday, and after investigating discovered they were flying into a small hole in her chimney.

A phone call to Tyngsboro beekeeper Rick Reault and a few missing shingles and bricks later, Reault and Guimond discovered a colony of an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 of the flying insects in a cavity inside her chimney.

"It was incredible," Guimond said. "It was incredible."

The bees had built 16 honeycombs, enough to fill the roughly 8-cubic-foot cavity where her chimney narrows about 8 feet off the ground.

Reault is president of the Middlesex Beekeeper's Association and owner of New England Beekeeper Supply, which sells honey, beekeeping supplies and swarm-removal services in Tyngsboro.

"It was as big as anything I've ever removed," Reault said.

Reault said he and his uncle, Don Landry, first pulled some shingles off the house, then put a few holes in the walls inside, before figuring out that the bees were in the chimney. That's when they pulled off about 20 bricks and found the huge colony inside.

Reault then went to work removing the honeycombs and sucking the bees up with a special vacuum that shoots them into a cage.

He used only smoke, which keeps the bees docile, to protect himself while removing them, and wore a veil to keep them off his face only while removing bricks and banging around, he said.

"The bees were very calm," he said.

Reault might have rousted the bees from their home, but not out of a mean spirit.

He is actually a bee aficionado and said the docile honey bees annually pollinate more than $9 billion worth of food each year.

"The pollination they do is a great service to our agriculture and our environment," he said.

From now on, the bees will be doing that service from a hive Reault plans to put them in on a farm in either Dunstable or Lowell, where he keeps bees.

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