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Archive for the ‘bee yard’ Category

Howdy! It’s been busy as we continue to decrease our overall hive count (too many for Mark to care for solo). I wanted to share with you all Mark’s latest newsletter to his students and our customers. You can also find an updated Beekeeper Workshop list for the remainder of 2017 on our website. Hope you and your bees are all well!

Mark’s Update:

We visited our large bee yard in Medina County this morning, and while it is dry there (no rainfall from Harvey) we still saw a good pollen flow and even a small nectar flow. I am always amazed at how resourceful the bees are! Here in Guadalupe County (about 10 inches of rain from Harvey) we see a good honey flow in some locations and a heavy pollen flow everywhere. We often see a dearth of both of those this time of year, so this abundance of pollen and nectar pleases us as much as it does the bees. We are mostly seeing strong, healthy hives as a result of this boost in nourishment. When I do come across a weak or dead colony I attribute it to either a failing queen or a heavy mite load. We are working hard now to replace all of our queens and to make sure that every colony has an acceptably low mite count. For mite treatments we used Apivar in some locations, and in other locations we are trying multiple rounds of oxalic acid vaporization. We expect good results from both methods.

I am teaching our September Intro to Beekeeping class for paid registrants this Saturday, therefore we will not have our usual free beekeeping workshop. Nevertheless, please feel welcome to drop by if you need a queen or any supplies, or just want to visit. We always enjoy hanging out with beekeepers! Please visit our website if you’d like to see a full list of our upcoming workshops.

I wanted to share a photo of something that you may not have seen before: worker bees killing their queen. The bees form a tight ball around the doomed queen and proceed to sting and overheat her until she is dead. What a way to go! This was a young queen that perhaps entered the wrong hive after a mating flight, or perhaps had some defect that the colony found unacceptable. I noticed that many of the workers in the ball continuously exposed their stingers. When I picked up the ball with my bare hand I was immediately stung.

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Agarita at the Lange Road bee yard

Hello friends and beekeepers! Our apologies for being absent for so long but so much has happened in the past six months that it’s hard to know where to begin. First off, I got laid off my IT training job which was full time. It was hard at first but was obviously a blessing also because we experienced the most hectic (in a very good way for a small business) holiday season. I do believe there were a couple of times Mark and I looked at each other and acknowledged feeling overwhelmed by the amount of business and wondered if we could do it all. But we did and we loved it. We were, however, happy for the season to slow down on Christmas Day so we could take a break.

With me home for now and helping out, we have been able to get reorganized a bit and have added a lot more to our Honey Store as well as in the Beekeeping Showroom. We are so enjoying it! How exhilarating to see our dreams of a cool beekeepers paradise take shape finally! If you are in the area, do stop in and look around. We still maintain our Bee Ranch apiary and love to show our visitors the hives when we can.

Meanwhile, in the beekeeping arena, I thought it best for you to hear from Mark. Here’s is an update he sent out to his beekeepers mailing list last week:

“We are a long time away until our first full honey super and until our first divided colony, but we already are seeing some exciting developments early in this beekeeping season. Wildflowers are sprouting up and growing thanks to our winter rains. Agarita, one of our best early bee plants, is about to bloom heavily. And our mite counts are very low. We sampled about 900 bees from three colonies in one bee yard today and found only three mites. That is below the treatment threshold. We will sample bees in every bee yard and treat as needed with oxalic acid. We will also feed as needed. Just about every hive will receive a helping of natural pollen or a pollen supplement as most are light on pollen right now.

We do not have a workshop scheduled for this Saturday, but I am available for one-on-one consulting to help you with whatever beekeeping questions or challenges that you have. And, at about 10 AM Saturday morning I will open up one of my Bee Ranch colonies and give it a late-winter inspection. Bring your protective gear and join me as I look through a colony and assess its condition and needs at this early stage of the beekeeping year. It will be fun!

Keep an eye on you hive’s food level and mite level this time of year, and take action as needed. Our low mite counts were a surprise today, and I will not assume that they will be low tomorrow in the next bee yard. I will take samples in each bee yard and treat accordingly. I urge you to do the same.”

We do, however, have a workshop coming up this Saturday and then into February so check the right side of this entry and you’ll see the workshop listing as well as other class information. Even if you’ve had bees a while, come visit and hang out a bit. We are loving being a meeting area for local beekeepers and we love sharing news and ideas. Thanks and see you soon!

Signing off from the Bee Ranch – Mark & Thien

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October-November SA Drop dates

Hello folks. Just wanted to drop a quick line to say hi. We are heading into San Antonio this Thursday morning if you need us to bring in an order of anything. Holler at us on the company line (no texting) 830-305-7925. Also, check out what Mark and Stan bottled this year…it’s been a while for the larger sizes of local honey. This is nice to see.

2016 Guadalupe County Wildflower Honey

I love that we have jars from cute little 2-ounces to the 5-pounder. Cool and fun for us.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent email Mark sent out to his beekeeping group:

“We are in the midst of a Fall season that has been beneficial to our bees here in Guadalupe County. We see a moderate honey flow and a strong pollen flow continuing. I am spot feeding here and there, mainly the new splits to boost brood production. We are nearing the end of our re-queening project and we are very pleased with the Kona (Hawaii) and Wilbanks (Georgia) queens that we used. We are seeing strong brood rearing in all of the colonies with new queens. This will greatly help us in early spring when we start making divides and nucs. Two weeks ago we were inspected by the State Apiary Inspection Service. They tested for nosema spores and for mites. The resulting numbers looked good, although the mite numbers were slightly higher than I had predicted given that we had treated with Apivar over the previous six weeks. It underscored for me the need to perform a follow-up mite treatment this fall with Apiguard.”

Apiary inspections with the State went very well.

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February 2016 Agarita blooming

Well it appears spring is pretty much here to stay. That’s Agarita in bloom in the above picture. It’s a great early spring plant for the bees and they are all over it. Very awesome to see this. I was hoping for a little colder weather still as I do miss it even though I’ve been here 20 years and I know what to expect but I still hope for some crazy cold, long lasting winter. HEHE I know that’s not what the beekeeper might want and likely the bees wouldn’t either. Speaking of beekeeper, Mark continues to make his rounds to his bee yards, checking their statuses and feeding whenever necessary. Some hives are doing really well while others need a little help until the flowers really bust out. He’s also continuing his mite treatments as he continues to see mites in the hives. A follower on Instagram asked us if we do that preemptively or if we actually have mites and know it. I told her we have mites; we know it; most beekeepers, if not all, have them; and she’d be wise to start reading up on all the research out there on multiple treatments available. No one yet knows the best answer but it’s a raging topic and a debate at times among beekeepers and sometimes even with bee supporters who don’t know much about bees or this mite issue. I can’t tell you how often people judge beekeepers who opt to use ANYTHING UNNATURAL on the bees. We’ve now gotten to the point where we just tell folks that if we were really sick and had a palm-sized tick sucking the life juice out of us, please give us medicine and help us. We don’t want to die that way nor would we want to let our bees die that way. It’s a terrible issue and we will do what we can to help our girls. Okay, on to more positive news from the Bee Ranch and Seguin.

Overall and especially in Guadalupe County bee yards (this is the county where we reside so most of our bees are here), Mark’s been really pleased with how almost all the hives are looking at this point. Strong hives with lots of bees, brood patterns starting to thicken, more and more pollen coming in and good looking queens. This may be the strongest he’s seen the majority of his hives at the end of winter and rolling into spring. We are very excited about this!

That's a lovely queen we got there

Here are a couple of projects and developments that have us super excited.

Beeswax lotion bars. I’ve been working on this formula for some time now and I think I may have it the way we like it. I’m so excited to get a label for this soon and start offering it! I am so in love with learning how to make these new products with Mark and making it for us, our family, friends, and soon our customers.

Beeswax Lotion Bars at the Bee Ranch

Hive Kits for sale at the Bee Ranch

Our Bee Gear and Equipment retail area continues to grow and Mark is happy he can supply local folks with things they need to get started to get going. These fully equipment hive kits (three levels) have become quite popular now that spring is upon us and busy people just want to pick up the complete hive and not sorry about piecing it together, which they can do if they choose to here. It’s been a good learning experience but also a lot of work for Mark but if you know him, you know it also makes him happy to help people starting out in beekeeping. He’s a great teacher and mentor.

Okay, I am off to do some more body care product development. We both wish we had more hours in a day to do all the fun things we want to try! 🙂

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Bees at the Bee Ranch bringing in lots of pollen

Here at the Bee Ranch, we keep ten to fifteen hives on-site for learning purposes and just to enjoy having them nearby so we can watch them whenever we want. Last Saturday during shop hours, it was a pleasure to share the bees (as always) with our visitors. The girls were bringing in plenty of their own pollen which was super nice to see. As much as we like to help the bees and as much as we do to make sure they are not starving for food and water, nothing beats the real stuff they themselves bring in on their foraging expeditions. Yay girls! BUT, when in need in bee yards that haven’t as much abundance in food, we don’t hesitate to give our girls a pollen patty until the wildflowers get here. Speaking of which, Mark saw Huisache blooms and an actual Bluebonnet in the bee yard last week south of town. I guess spring is pretty much here. We are in the upper 70s and low 80s lately. Where was winter?! lol

While most of our hives are doing just fine and many actually having the best winter ever (since we started GBR some six or seven years ago), a few need some TLC. We fed sugar/water feed and or added a pollen patty supplement with our pollen and a little sugar water to make this paste. Should be enough hopefully to get the girls to the wildflowers and other blooming plants just about to come out. With about ten or eleven bee yards located across the area, we see different developments with our hives. It’s a good way to learn and practice different things Mark continues to read about.

Pollen patty supplement on hive frames

Meanwhile, I totally enjoy watching and shooting bee shots any and all the time. This was out at Elm Creek last week as Mark checked the hives and completed his mite treatments.

Bees on backlit frame

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Elm Creek bee yard winter 2015-16

Hello there and here we are, already moved into February and what looks like a spring weather pattern forecasted through next week (70s and 80s with chances of rain here and there). Mark’s been checking, feeding as needed in hives scattered among our different bee yards, and treating mites all fall and winter. Overall our hives are getting along well this winter and he is very happy with how they look, commenting this is the best winter to date for our apiary. Many hives are heavy with bees and even fall honey still left on the frames – great news for the bees and for us. We are excited about the upcoming season, as always!

We’ve been enjoying focusing our attentions on the Bee Ranch and it is paying off – more and more people are coming to visit the two mornings we are open and classes continue to fill up (as a matter of fact, March and April are booked solid and we’ve moved into May for the Introduction to Beekeeping class). Mark’s Saturday morning workshop series continues to be a fun success and we’ve met some great folks, many of whom are eager to begin their beekeeping adventures. Here’s a list of upcoming topics for planning; hope you can join us some time in the near future!

Free Spring workshops at the Bee Ranch

This was just yesterday when Mark demonstrated how to do an Apivar treatment for their mites to help their bees.

Spring 2016 activities at the Bee Ranch

While you are here, whether it’s Wednesday or Saturday, we hope you take a look around the Honey House – Mark has done a great job filling it up with bee gear and bee equipment. We have a lot of fun learning about new products and suppliers and we enjoy sharing new things with our visitors.

Spring 2016 activities at the Bee Ranch

The Honey Store is also shaping up nicely and we enjoy stocking it regularly with new things we are developing – come visit us!

GBR product prep in the Honey Store

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Bees at entrance

Well, here we are into November and there’s only 5.5 more Mondays until Christmas. Yikes! I might as well cover the next two months in case I don’t have a chance to post until 2016!

Today it is once again cloudy as our slightly rainy period began about a month ago. Prior to that we were bone dry and our ground had severe cracks all over the yard. I shot the above photo several weeks ago on a Saturday morning during our Honey Store hours. The bees were flying like crazy after a rain spell and they brought in such beautiful and bright pollen – it’s always so awesome to see them like this. Amazing and mesmerizing to me.

Beekeeping supplies

On the Honey House front, we have lots going on as we shift our focus more on all the new things we want to do and offer at the Bee Ranch. Our beekeeping supplies and equipment have really grown and we’ve even added a storage container in order to make more room inside for new things arriving weekly. We now have everything a new or an experienced beekeeper might need – from bee gear (suit, gloves, etc.) to bee equipment (extractors, smokers, bee brushes, etc.). Need a book about beekeeping? We have it. Need some frames? Got it. Can’t decide which smoker you want to buy? We have two and we can talk about which one Mark likes best and why. We are thrilled to have this opportunity to explore new products and to share what works for us and why with new beekeepers. We’ve been able to conduct more classes than in the past several years and we love that! You know we both like to help others and we both enjoy teaching. And of course, we both love to talk bees and honey so this is really becoming a dream come true for us – sharing what we love right at the Bee Ranch, which we love so much and love to share with visitors. We hope to see you sometime soon!

Happy to be home and working on new products!

On the Bee Crafts front, we have a lot going on as usual. It’s amazing what we keep learning and our biggest desire most of the time is that we have more time to explore, learn, try and try again! haha I’ve been reading up on bee crafts such as body and home care for about a year and have been experimenting with different products the past six months. Mark and I are so excited to have three new products we are rolling out: our first lip balm, a traveling tea light, and a tin of sweet tea lights for a delicate way to ease into cold temperatures and before we bring out the big pillars to warm up the house. We are working to get things listed on the website so be patient a little longer and give us about two or three weeks to get everything up and running! Meanwhile, here are some sneak peeks in case you don’t follow us on all the other social media outlets where I typically share day-to-day work. Enjoy and talk to you soon, I promise. There are some new workshops we are hosting at the Bee Ranch every Saturday starting in a couple weeks and I will definitely need to post the topics here. Free and open to all during our shop hours.

Fall 2015 GBR product rollout

Fall 2015 GBR product rollout

Fall 2015 GBR product rollout

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Honeycomb on frame VSCO app

Hello friends. Here we are in September already – so sorry that August got away from me before I could get a post going. We have had so much going on and pretty much all of it awesome. Harvest has been going very well and despite the long spells of wet spring weather, the girls finally shifted into high gear and we are at about 8500 pounds of some of the lightest, sweetest honey varieties we have ever harvested.

So awesome when every honey you taste is slightly (or completely) different from bee yard to bee yard. Wonderful for us and even more wonderful when we can do a honey tasting for our customers who visit the Bee Ranch. Being at home and having the Honey Store open to the public two days a week has been working very well for us and we continue to see increases on both days in terms of visitors and sales. We especially appreciate our loyal customers and friends from the San Antonio markets we previously attended – thanks y’all! Making the trek to Seguin isn’t as bad as many of them thought it would be and being on the edge of town gives our sweet little Bee Ranch a quiet country feel but only 30 minutes from downtown San Antonio. Cool!

Here’s a recap of our recent happenings:

Classes in July and August were SO FUN! What a blessing and a blast to FINALLY get to work a class together again. For the three years we were at farmers market, on class days, I’d head off to market while Mark handled class with a friend or with our son. I loved getting to help a bit and having time to take some pictures in between helping customers who stop by Saturday mornings. We’ve even had several neighbors stop in the Honey Store to say hello and to check us out. Here’s one of our favorite photos from a recent class. We love getting students into the hives so they can really see and learn about the bees. This also allows us to explain what they see on the frames as well as around the hive area. Many of our students are interested in keeping their own hives at some point and we are always happy to help them as best we can. (Seats are still available for September 26 and October 17 if you are interested in joining us!)

Intro to Beekeeping August 22, 2015

Here’s another class shot because I had so much fun looking at them. haha

Bees on frame

There are still so many things to do and opportunities to explore! Ugh. There just aren’t enough hours in a day for us to do everything but what a great feeling that is for us. To know we have all these fun ideas we want to pursue when we can. As we get older and the hot days seems to get longer (and the honey boxes seem to get heavier), we have to think about how our company and activities might need to shift in order to accommodate us. One of those things is to do another update to the website so we can list some new items such as the Pecan Creamed Honey and the sweet little Gift Jar we now offer. Another update will include at least three new recipes added to our Recipe Page. So excited about this one! I research a lot of recipes and then start experimenting and then let tasters try out what I made and provide feedback. Here’s one of the things I’ve wanted to learn, get the way we like it, and then share – Honey Roasted Pecans. I think I finally got it the way I like it. I’m also working on Honey Oats Granola and a friend I met via Pearl and Instagram (Slice of Rei) has a very yummy Honey Caramel Popcorn recipe I want to see if she’ll let us post to our site. Lots of fun stuff going on here at the Bee Ranch.

Honey Roasted Pecans Foods August 2015

Our Beeventures have also taken us down the road of selling beekeeping equipment and supplies. If you haven’t visited us lately in Seguin, you don’t know we carry everything you need to get started with bees and to keep going. Bee-gear (veil, suits), honey extraction equipment and tools, boxes, frames – ask us. We might have it now. So excited for Mark to do something he’s been thinking about for years. Our students kept coming back to us with requests for supplies and Mark has been working hard to find the best quality items for a good price. We sell only what we use so if we’ve got it, you can ask us what we think about it. Check us out sometime! We’d love to see you at the Bee Ranch.

Beekeeping supplies

That’s it for now as I need to run to an appointment. More Beeventures and more posting over on our other social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr).

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Friday view from my fave yellow hive - we love to see a storm brewing! #bees #beekeeping #sky #texas #gretchenbeeranch

As we continue to experience growth with our bees as well as our business, the work day keeps stretching out longer and longer and then here we are in Spring already. We are happy to report that our wet winter is rolling right into a somewhat wet spring and things are about as green as we would expect to see when we visit family along the east coast. Lush grasses and trees along with a multitude of wildflowers everywhere you turn your eyes. It truly is one of the best times to be in South Texas and certainly one of the best times to be a honeybee here. EXCEPT that if we don’t get a bit of good ole sunshine soon, it might end up not being a robust honey year. While rain is awesome, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. As Mark often says, conditions have to be just right for a great honey crop. We do need rain but the bees do need a good amount of dry, sunny days in order to fly and forage. There’s a noticeable gap recently in the wildflower blooming. We had massive ways of early Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes and of course sprinklings here and there of other flowers, however, the Indian Blankets which normally appear abundantly are appearing more lazily this spring. That makes an incredible honey so we have hopes of a robust bloom in about a week. In the picture below, I harvested some lavender from our little herb garden out back. Lavender blooms abundantly only with rainfall (versus hand watering) so this is my SECOND harvest of blooms! That should tell you how wet this spring has been. I’ve never been able to harvest enough of it to do anything with the blossoms so this year I am very excited to enjoy them for a while before drying them out. They smile divine! I’m going to infuse some oil and make our own lavender oil I’ve been reading up on lately. I think I will also try adding them to lip balm, which is next on my list of beeswax related items I’ve been developing for our personal use at this time. More on that in a bit.

Harvesting lavender

Today at lunch (one of our few quiet times we have together when we’re actually sitting down), Mark and I were discussing the move of our Cibolo Creek bee hives. We haven’t been there long but we liked it – close to home (just south of Seguin and just on the other side of the county line), made great honey, gorgeous landscape for photographs and just nature enjoyment. But recently we’d notice work getting done – fences going in, land getting cleared. We like to keep in close touch with our landowners so that we know what’s going on and how it might impact our bees. Long story short, we are very happy that two options may have presented themselves today to Mark. We’re so thankful when people meet with us to check out potential bee yard locations and it all happens to work out! Mark says the new locations are both near us so that helps with fuel cost as well as with time, which we find less and less available. Both weekend days are booked now with Pearl Farmers Market (which are both well attended and have been great for our business). Serving as president of the farmers market association has also taken up a lot more of Mark’s time than we anticipated so that’s been a real challenge. And while I can manage with the other social media platforms, it’s harder and harder to find time for an in-depth post on our beloved Bee Blog. So, forgive me. But honestly if you do have access to Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, do find us. I am on there daily as it’s just easier to post pictures as we work and add a short description. Stick with us!

Well, I want to post this before it’s delayed any longer. I told Mark I have started about four times on this and it’s taking me over two weeks. LOL I am determined to get this up on the blog!!!! Take care and hope to catch up with you soon. Much love, Thien & Mark

Spring wildflowers at the Bee Ranch

This is a shot of some of our new hives Mark made up from strong hives this spring. I don’t even know what our current count is anymore for our own hives, but it’s been really wonderful to have had this spring to focus on them.

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We got about an inch and a lizard of rain Saturday. Lol he's so cute!

Well happy October, everyone! I can’t believe it’s here already but what a welcome change in terms of weather patterns. Mark caught this little guy in the rain gauge last week when he was checking on the rain we had gotten. Over the past several weeks, we have seen maybe 1 to 3 inches of rain each week and it’s made everything around here green again. The bees are flying heavily and bringing in tons of pollen. They’re also making some good honey for their winter stores and we are so excited about the potential for another great season next spring. Yes, we are already thinking ahead. This good soaking of the ground is what the wildflowers need NOW in order to bloom beautifully LATER.

In other news, we’ve been getting honey supers cleaned (with help from the bees as well as Stan and Mr. Savior), getting the home better organized (finally unpacking books and such now that we found some shelves), and preparing for upcoming holiday events! It’s about that time, right? We are busily getting wording and pictures updated so we can get the website caught up – we are so behind in terms of all the new products we haven’t had time to get listed. Well, we are now working on it and hope to have information to our friend Troy soon. He’s our awesome web designer who also happens to now have his own hives (yay Troy and family!)!

GBR Product Shoot 2014

Last Sunday we hosted our first vendor/member for our Pearl FM family! It was a great turnout and we look forward to having more of these so that we can all get to know each other better, away from the hustle and bustle of market. We are all so busy there that it’s hard to have time to visit with each other. This event was so much fun and we appreciated folks making time to drive to the Bee Ranch to see the operation. Can’t wait to see where we go next time!

Pearl Vendor Get Together

One more thing before I go…this is Mark’s third rattler killed. Thankfully only one has been at the house and now that we have spotted the family of gray foxes, we haven’t noticed snakes. Anyway, this one was at the Carolina bee yard which is located at the Moo Jesus Dairy Farm. Mark said it was headed into the garden the family keeps and he sure did not want it surprising them so he grabbed his handing garden hoe and took care of it. Thank goodness he had his snake boots on this time! Yay, honeybee! Good job, love. People have been telling us that they notice more rattlers this year so be careful out there, friends!

The only good thing about this is that I get some pics without worry about it being alive. It does, however, still move from reflex and that's a little creepy. #texas #rattlesnake

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