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Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Hello there. It’s been a while, yes? I have been doing all my updating on other social media platforms just because I somehow seem to be able to put up a picture and a few lines faster than sitting down at the computer to write out my full thoughts on something. Sorry. But really, if you are on things like Facebook, Twitter, and ESPECIALLY Instagram…you can keep up with all our happenings because I post daily there.

Making hive divides

Tis the busy season now for our bees here in South Texas. Mark has begun his hive dividing in preparation for our nuc customers. We still sell a very limited number of nucs each year, primarily to our beekeeping students but also to a handful of other customers. We are still at about 200 hives and maybe 10 bee yards though we continue to seek ways to consolidate apiaries in order to work them more efficiently. A lot of that has to do with the fact that there’s so much work to keep the bees going while also maintaining and running the shop. Not to mention working all the administrative details of small business. Fun and we love it, but lots of work.

We are loving the shop and being there! So cool to help our customers with what they need.

Assisting customers in the GBR Beekeeping Showroom

The classes are going strong (filled up for spring and fall dates for Introduction to Beekeeping should be up soon on the website) and so are the workshops designed to focus on specific beekeeping topics. This morning’s topic was South Texas Honey Plants with special presenter, Bill Evans. Huge group and lots of great discussion. My favorite thing on Saturdays is peeking into the Showroom between my Honey Store customers to check on the beekeepers. Makes us so happy to see people hanging out and talking bees even after the one hour workshop is over. It’s a great way to network with other beekeepers. Even if you’re not a beekeeper yet, it’s a great way to start learning about things. We love seeing our customers showing other customers something about a product we have in the Showroom! I saw today that our dentist and her husband were in the shop – they’re starting their own beeventures, too! How cool.

If you haven’t noticed, I did just list new dates for upcoming “Drops” in San Antonio – that’s where we take orders into SA and meet up with customers at a designated spot at Pearl. I also listed the fall Introduction class dates but wait a few more days for it to get updated on the website please. If you have any questions, just comment here or you can always email or call us. info@gretchenbeeranch.com or 830-305-7925.

Goodnight, xo
Thien

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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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Kumquats

Hi there! At the beginning of August, I noted the huge ground cracks at our lovely little Bee Ranch. I was hand watering my garden and thought I’d drop some water into one of the cracks to see if it’d fill up a bit of land and after about 30 seconds, I gave up. No water filling up at all. It was sort of sad to see the land like that again – even though it’s sort of typical for August in South Texas, it’s still hard to see things drying up so badly. Anyway, here we are approaching the end of the month and we have now had about 16 inches of rain (give or take a few inches as I’ve lost track of the rainfall). We keep thinking, “what a weird August we are having!” But we are not complaining. It’s just different.

Mark and his crew continue to harvest and are just about to wrap up the year. Only a little bit left to pull from the yards and extract. It has been a bit of work to make sure everything is dry before storing but Mark is getting through it all to get the moisture levels to where they need to be so the honey doesn’t go bad. Check out this selection of comb honey the bees made this year –

Honeycomb 2016

Sales at the Bee Ranch on the two mornings we are open to the public have been awesome and make us super happy we decided to focus our energies to increasing traffic here instead of out and about. The beekeeper workshops Mark conducts on Saturdays he’s free have been awesome – what a great way for new beekeepers to meet each other and continue learning from one another. Last weekend we covered how to process Ross Rounds and of course we sampled for our guests – super fun! Join us sometime if you can. You can check all our social media for upcoming topics and other developments or you can just call us at 830-305-7925.

Ross Rounds beekeeper workshop

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Drawn comb on a frame

Often I like to go out to the Honey House after work, or any chance I have. We both really love that we work and live on the same property so we can enjoy this luxury. I was intrigued by the lovely beeswax the bees had drawn out on this frame. We have pretty much run out of honey supers for the girls to fill up. This happens when we have grown in the number of hives we have AND it is a good honey flow year AND the honey is slow to dry out so we can’t extract quickly in order to reuse the supers. If you don’t continue to provide adequate space (supers in this case), then you slow the girls’ productivity and essentially can miss out on prime honey making opportunities.

We are taking this as an opportunity to just let our bees draw out some comb on more frames which will be useful in the future. Sometimes people say or ask how we feel about forcing the bees to make honey by continuing to put supers on. Mark, who has kept bees for over 30 years, told me that people who ask that have never likely kept bees or they’d know whether we provide the supers or not, they bees WILL make honey. That’s what they do. And it is a real mess when they don’t have adequate space in their home to store the honey. I am always learning new things when we discuss things like this and he is always good about answering questions that come up that I raise to his attention. He’s so busy tending to the bees as well as managing the business that he doesn’t see/hear all the social media, email and phone activities since I try to field those for him. Back to honey-making…don’t worry, we are pulling some supers when possible but we are simply taking our time and letting nature take its course. Rushing never works great in the long run. Here’s a beautiful frame the men brought in last week.

Honey harvest June 2016

Do you like persimmons? I love them. Have you seen them in the wild? Out in a field in the middle of nowhere? On a ranch? On the side of some old dirt road you’re cruising to look for wildflowers or wildlife? Here’s another thing I learned about bees and how persimmons come into play.

Aphids on wild persimmon limb

Have you ever noticed bees going to a wild persimmon bush or tree? But you look and think, hey, there aren’t any flowers right now. That’s odd. This happened here in our area a couple weeks ago. The wild persimmons had already bloomed out earlier this year and Mark knew that but saw bees on the big bushes so he took a closer look and watched patiently to see what the bees were doing. He took that picture for me and for us to share with you. Those are aphids and I missed them at first. He told me that the aphids secrete a honeydew on the wild persimmon bushes and that the bees must be gathering it. You can’t find a lot of writing on the matter but I read a post somewhere that people say they gather the honeydew there for different reasons – some say they do it when they are desperate while others say they collect it regardless of what else is out there because it’s just what they do. Whatever the case is, our bees were seen on the wild persimmons. Good eye, honeybee!

Bee gathering honeydew from leaves of Texas wild persimmon bush

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Spring 2016 beekeeping activities

Well, I know I missed out on April but basically we have been getting April-and-now-into-May-and-a-little-into-June rainfall which means more greenery than usual for south Texas but it appears we are finally hitting our typical hot and or humid temperatures now. It’s okay. You just have to know it’s going to come and you accept it and wait for fall (if you are me haha).

Shoppers and visitors at the Bee Ranch

We have been doing well – having tons of fun fixing up the Honey House, stocking the Honey Store, creating and pouring awesome new products in the Candle Shop, seeing our family more…so much and all right here at the Bee Ranch. The bees are well, making honey and growing stronger. Not all of them but most of them. Being open to the public two days out of the week has been great – so fun to share what we love with folks on those two dedicated mornings. Saturdays have been so busy it’s truly amazed us both. We feel so blessed and so excited about the future. There are sooooo many ideas we want to pursue and we look forward to continuing to learn and do and enjoy.

Beeswax lanterns and sunflowers

Before I forget – free workshops! Most Saturdays when we can and when we don’t have a formal beekeeping class, we have a great group of beekeepers (mostly newbies) coming together to share ideas, problems, knowledge, etc. And so nice for us to see them all getting to know each other. We love this series and hope you can come join us some time, even if you are not a beekeeper. Sometimes the subject matter is interesting whether you have bees or not! Here is a look at topics coming up soon:

June 18 Interpreting the Bee Dance
June 25 Measuring Honey Moisture with a Digital Refractometer
July 2 Mite Testing Using Powdered Sugar Roll Method
July 9 How to Use a Fume Board to Clear Bees from Your Honey Supers
July 16 How to Combine Colonies
July 23 NO WORKSHOP
July 30 Reducing Mite Levels with Oxalic Acid Vaporization
Aug 6 Open Session Q&A
Aug 13 Late Summer & Fall Honey Plants of South Texas
Aug 20 Processing Round Sections of Comb Honey (Ross Rounds)
Aug 27 NO WORKSHOP

April Introduction to Beekeeping class at the Bee Ranch

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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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