Mark and Thien Gretchen,
operators of the Gretchen Bee Ranch,
held an introductory beekeeping class
at their home in Seguin over the weekend.
By Jessica Domel
(Seguin) -- Oohhhs and aahhs could
be heard across the yard at the Gretchen
Bee Ranch Saturday as a local couple
opened the eyes of seven people to the
exciting world of beekeeping and honey
making. Students hailed from as far
as Austin and Boerne to participate
in the hands-on class taught by Mark
and Thien Gretchen.
Mark, who has been beekeeping for
several decades now, told radio station
KWED and the Seguin Daily News that
the idea to host the class in Seguin
was actually presented to the couple
by Round Rock Honey. The Gretchens partnered
up with the beekeeper in Austin who
had been wanting to teach a class in
the San Antonio area.
Mark says he and Thien love to teach
people about bees and beekeeping, so
they immediately accepted the partnership
to share the story of bees with others.
"We tell people about the basic
equipment, what a hive consists of,
what kinds of bees are in the hive,
and then we go and actually look through
some hives and show them the things
that we talked about," said Gretchen. "We
see the queen. We see the worker bees.
We see the brood (and) the eggs. We
see lots of honey hopefully, pollen
and all the components in the hive that
we and the bees both benefit from."
Saturday's class was the first
taught at the Gretchen Bee Ranch. Mark
says he looks forward to offering other
classes in the future at the local site.
"We're offering them every
Saturday in July, and then periodically
on Saturdays between the end of July
and through December. So for the rest
of the year, we'll offer classes,"
said Gretchen. "If people will
go to our blog, the Gretchen Bee Ranch
blog, we list all of the dates of the
classes. If you just Google "Gretchen
Bee Ranch" it will take you to
The two-hour class was attended by
both men and women of varying ages.
Students spent 30 minutes learning about
the basics of beekeeping and the basic
parts of a bee hive. They then were
allowed to don beekeeping suits, provided
by the bee ranch, and see a live hive.
Mark pulled out the frames of the the
hive to show students the queen bee,
the brood and what to look for when
checking on one's bees. The students
were then given the opportunity to pose
for photos holding a frame of the hive
with live bees sitting calmly on it
and flying through the air.
Following that segment, the class
followed Thien into the couple's
honey house. In that building, Thien
and Mark explained to students how honey
is extracted from the frames of a hive
and put into jars for sale or use.
The final segment of the class allowed
students the opportunity to taste different
types of honey that are available from
the Gretchen Bee Ranch and in several
Mason Steffens shows
off a bee that has landed on his glove
during the introductory beekeeping class
at the Gretchen Bee Ranch.
Mark says the class is geared toward
anyone who wants to learn more about
bees and the honey-making process.
"It's really a mix. Some
people just want to know what a hive
looks like inside and want to take some
pictures of a hive. Other folks are
interested in becoming beekeepers. Some
are young people that their parents
bring them, and they just want to show
them what a hive looks like because
their grandfather, uncle or dad used
to keep bees and they want to share
that with their kids," said Gretchen. "It's
just a learning opportunity for all
different kinds of reasons."
Pete Cowger of Boerne says he traveled
to Seguin for the class Saturday because
beekeeping is something that he is interested
"I think it's a great one
for people that are getting ready to
retire or just getting into something
different," said Cowger.
Following the class, Cowger said
he believes the first introductory to
beekeeping class at the Gretchen Bee
Ranch was fantastic.
"They went through the basics
and showed us the bees. I've got
much more appreciation for bee colonies
and what they do. I was telling Thien
and her husband that it's almost
like they're little people in colonies.
It's pretty cool," said Cowger.
For anyone else who is interested
in beekeeping or just learning how honey
is made, Cowger says he recommends the
course at the Gretchen Bee Ranch.
"I think it's good that
you're able to taste the honey,
really understand what it's about
- the simplicity of it as long as you've
got the right equipment," said
Cowger. "Again, like we suggested
to have a list of the different suppliers
because you walk away from this with
a bag full of honey, and you want to
order your hives."
The next introduction to beekeeping
class at the Gretchen Bee Ranch will
be taught from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday.
Classes are $40 per person.
Information on the classes and the
Gretchen Bee Ranch can be found on the
couple's blog at
www.beeranch.wordpress.com or by
searching Gretchen Bee Ranch on Facebook.
A short video of a portion of Saturday's
class can be found on KWED's YouTube
Honey from the Gretchen Bee Ranch
can be purchased at Gift and Gourmet,
Maldonado's Nursery on Highway 90
West and the Moo Jesus Dairy in Seguin.
It can also be purchased at Ta's
Coffee in Marion and Lily's Cookies
in San Antonio.
Mark and Thien Gretchen
opened the doors to the Gretchen Bee
Ranch Saturday for their first-ever
introduction to beekeeping class. The
couple will continue to host the course
through December. See the story on page
Photos by Jessica Domel.