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Got honey? He does

June 30, 2006 (Lowell Sun)

TYNGSBORO -- Rick Reault has been a beekeeper for 10 years. He is president of the Middlesex Beekeepers Association and owner of New England Beekeeper Supply, which sells honey and beekeeping supplies, and provides swarm-removal services. He currently keeps bees in Tyngsboro, Dracut, Lowell, Andover, Acton, Carlisle, Westford, Fitchburg and Lunenburg. Reault can be contacted through his Web site, www.nebees.com.
Q: What attracted you to beekeeping?

A: My uncle kept honey bees, and I used to watch him and my grandfather. About 10 years ago, I asked him if he was still keeping bees, and he wasn't because the mites were a problem and he lost all of his colonies. I decided to give it a shot because I thought my location here is great. I ended up getting my uncle right back into it.

Q: How many bees do you keep?

A: I have about 60 colonies, and I run about 20 starter colonies for replacement bees that die. A honeybee colony will come through the winter with about 20,000 to 30,000 bees in the early spring, and they can build up to 100,000. An average colony in the summertime will be around 60,000 bees.

Q: How much honey does a colony produce in a year?

A: The average colony in Massachusetts will produce about 50 pounds of honey a year. I find that healthy colonies will produce in excess of 100 pounds. I've had hives that have produced up to 250 pounds.

Q: What do bees eat?

A: They live off of mainly two things. The nectar that they bring into the hive that they convert into honey (is the first). The second is pollen. Nectar serves as their carbohydrate source, and pollen serves as their protein source.

Q: How often are you stung?

A: All the time. As you get more immune to the stings, the pain goes away very quickly.

Q: Do you eat a lot of honey?

A: Yes. I have honey on a daily basis in coffee, in tea, we put it in frosties in the blender with fruit. We also can make some mead (a fermented honey wine beverage) with the honey. I also make vodka and brandy with honey and raspberries, blackberries and peaches, and let it marinate for a month or two. It is a really good, sweet after-dinner drink.

Q: Do you do anything to the honey before jarring it?

A: We do absolutely nothing. We don't filter honey at all. It is not a processed food. We strain it but don't filter it. A lot of the commercial places, looking for a longer shelf life, warm it and run it through filters. That's why the local honey has a richer taste and a lot more of the pollen and proteins.

Q: What are the medicinal properties of honey?

A: There are reports that it is good for certain stomach ailments. It is certainly good to give you energy and stamina. And it is good as a dressing for burns because it is antibacterial and keeps the wound moist, and helps regenerate the skin.

Q: What is the strangest bee-related experience you've had?

A: I was getting a swarm of bees out of a tree and I cut a branch. When I cut the branch, all of the bees fell down to the ground, and when they started flying back up, the queen landed on my back, so the whole swarm just crawled onto my back. I stood at the top of the ladder just waiting for all of the bees to land on me, and then I came down the ladder, took my jacket off and shook it over an empty hive with some frames in it and then I had a new hive

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