Gretchen Bee Ranch
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  KWED AM 1580-Seguin Daily News-SeguinToday.Com
  Gretchen Bee Ranch's new course teaches the basics of beekeeping
Author: Jessica Domel

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 blog."

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 local stores.

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 in doing.

"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 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 site, at

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 one.
Photos by Jessica Domel.

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