Sweet as honey: The buzzworthy tale of a beekeeping extraordinaire


Honeybee Preservationist Steve Downs shows the collection of bees from a swarm previously engulfing parking Lot B Thursday, March 23. Downs grew up hating bees but eventually built an affinity toward them. “Saving the bees is my passion. Having fun, being creative, I do it for me to keep myself happy,” Downs said. “I’ve noticed in the many years since I’ve been doing that it touches people and I’m very excited about that.”(Ethan Cohen | The Union)

Donning a white-and-yellow protection suit like a knight in shining bee armor, he arrived on the scene to remove the swarm with no harm to the bees themselves.

With bees crawling around his suit, a honeybee preservationist used a wide- and soft-bristled brush to remove small sections of the swarm and gently pushed them inside a plain, cardboard box.

Enter Steve Downs.

Swarming in El Camino College’s parking Lot B, an army of bees massed a car and a handicap sign, prompting campus police to block off the area and begin the search for the car’s owner.

“We don’t want anybody stung,” Police Chief Michael Trevis said. “We’re just waiting for the beekeeper to come and do what he has to do to take care of the bees.”

After frantically searching for the owner of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, The Union tracked down Senior Telecom Technician Chris Medina.

Medina said he was “astonished” and took the opportunity to poke fun at the irony of the situation because he was allergic to bees.

“Lucky me, huh, I may play the lotto on the way home,” Medina said. “Like my sister said, well you do have a sweet ride.”

Using nothing more than his brush and a cardboard box, Downs found the queen and the swarm followed into the box where he sealed it up for relocation to a safer habitat.

Growing up, Downs had a passionate hatred for bees stemming from a misconception that the winged insects are aggressive in nature and seek out people to attack and sting.

His hatred of bees grew so strong he wished they could all magically drop dead.

Simon Sharf, who was Downs’ mentor, helped him overcome his fears and inspired him to become a honeybee preservationist.

“I was terrified of bees and terrified of heights. The job was bees and heights, and I thought to myself ‘What am I doing here?’” Downs said. “Because of [Sharf], I wanted to do those things and show him that I could do it.”

Honeybee Preservationist Steve Downs removing bees from the handicap sign at parking Lot B. Downs came after an hourslong wait for a beekeeper to save the bees swarming throughout the lot. (Ethan Cohen | The Union)

Through Sharf, Downs said he was able to learn about the important role bees play in supporting plants in the ecosystem.

Downs and Sharf worked together to remove bees, sometimes using ladders with no protective gear, and the experience helped Downs defeat his two biggest fears. The pair would work together for seven years before Downs branched off on his own.

Today, Downs is the CEO of his own bee removal company called Beecasso located in Redondo Beach.

The inspiration for the name came from the combination of Downs’ two passions: bees and painting.

Downs credits Pablo Picasso as an inspiration for his own artwork.

No longer dominated by his fears, Downs is willing to ascend great heights to safely remove and relocate colonies of bees as he has done for the past 22 years.

In 2020, Downs wrote and illustrated a children’s book called “Beecasso And His Magical Brush,” and is working on a sequel book: “Beecasso: A Bee And His Brush,” that he is planning to finish and release this fall.

“The next book is about how Beecasso became an artist,” Downs said. “I’m still writing it, [ideas] are still coming to me.”

Honeybee Preservationist Steve Downs dawning full bee protection gear as he saves the bees engulfing Lot B Thursday, March 23. Downs grew up with a hatred for bees but now he owns a bee preservation company. (Ethan Cohen | The Union)

Recently, Downs has been doing a series of 40-foot-high live bee removals behind the famous blue screen located in the backlot at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Downs has been working on saving the bees at Universal Studios every weekday since March 27 and continued to be there through April 5.

“Saving the bees is my passion. Having fun, being creative, I do it for me to keep myself happy,” Downs said. “I’ve noticed in the many years since I’ve been doing that it touches people and I’m very excited about that.”

Downs ended another successful relocation by using the opportunity to teach the small crowd that had gathered about honey bees and his joy and passion for rescuing them.

“I feel very humbled and blessed just to see people’s excited faces,” Downs said “I love the job, and when all this fun stuff happens, it’s fun for yourself.”

Bees swarm the headlight of a Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in Lot B at El Camino College on March 23. The car belongs to Chris Medina who is allergic to bees. (Ash Hallas | The Union)

Editors Ethan CohenDelfino Camacho, Nindiya Maheswari and staff writers Eddy CermenoKim McGill, Ash HallasRaphael Richardson and Brianna Vaca contributed to this story.