Don Stephens tends bees in Anza

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Wearing protective gear, beekeeper Don Stephens opens a bee box to reveal the honeycombs and bees within. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo

When an errant bee swarm takes residence in someone’s yard, building or recreational vehicle, Don Stephens is the beekeeper Anza Valley residents turn to for help.

With decades of experience, Stephens has the equipment and knowledge to safely remove the valuable insects and place them in snug honey bee boxes.

“I was seven when my grandfather Gary Griffith took me on my first bee removal,” Stephens said. “We had 25 bee hives. Later in 1988, I started out on my own with 10 hives in California. Due to wildfires, I lost all of them, and it wasn’t until 2007 I started up again, supporting local non-GMO farmers.”

Besides removing bees, Stephens has dozens of hives and harvests and sells honey, beeswax and honeycomb. Many people would be surprised to discover he also breeds queen bees to start new hives, builds beehive boxes and teaches everything bee-related.

Bee boxes are placed where the insects can pollinate crops and fruit trees. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo

“I can teach you how to take care of your hives and help with understanding county regulations in regards to bees and beekeeping,” he said.

When helping someone set up a hive on their property, Stephens has a wealth of information to share. He has several sources for boxes, suits and setups. He can fill bee boxes with new swarms, place pollination hives on properties for a monthly fee and check for queens.

The term “queen bee” is typically used to refer to an adult, mated female bee that lives in a bee colony or hive. She is often the mother of most of the bees in the beehive. Queens are grown from larvae selected by female worker bees and fed special food so they become sexually mature. There is usually one queen in a hive, and the other bees will follow and protect her with their lives.

Bees are attracted to many kinds of flowers. Stephens said that currently he has bees in sagebrush and California buckwheat and also avocado and tangerine groves. He added that they also love wildflowers.

Being a beekeeper has its adventures, he said.

“My crew here have amusing stories, like who got stung more on a certain bee job. Or the time we had to hoist beekeeper Brian over 70 feet into a tree to reach a swarm. More than once we all had to run from an aggressive hive – one time it was a 900-yard dash to get away from them. We have had to extract bees from a car gas tank, a water pump house, rabbit holes, even a stuffed marlin fish mounted on a wall and stereo speakers. Bees are not picky,” Stephens said.

He offered an important word of bee safety advice.

“When mowing or weed-eating, bees may become aggressive because of the vibrations given off by the equipment. They do not like the noise and will attack if they feel threatened. It’s better to mow around dusk or early morning hours when honeybees are less active.”

To contact Don Stephens, call 909-289-6112, email stephens.honey@yahoo.com or visit him on the web at www.localharvest.org/stephens-honey-m25696 or on Facebook at “YummyHoneyFromStephensHoney.”

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.