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Fl. Homeowner Regrets Killing Thousands of Honeybees

Animals
Max Pixel / CC

Bees are vital pollinators, and the consequences of their dying population could have far-reaching impacts to our food chain.

That's why a woman in Cape Coral in southwest Florida expressed regret after calling pest control to exterminate thousands of honeybees that swarmed her garage and SUV on Saturday.


"I just wish it could have been different," she told Fort Myers News-Press. "Bees are valuable. I wish I knew about free bee removal. I wouldn't have made the decision to kill them."

The homeowner admitted to the publication that she had "no idea what to do" and felt like she needed to act quickly when she made the call to pest control.

Sure, her action is a real tragedy, but how many of us would know what to do if in the same situation?

First of all, be assured that while a large swarm of honeybees in your home or car might be frightening, the bugs are generally docile so they likely won't harm you if not provoked.

Second, and most importantly, you should call a local beekeeper as soon as possible, not the exterminator. Beekeepers are invested in the survival of honeybees and can help remove your swarm without killing them—and they usually do it for little or no money.

You can contact a nearby beekeeping association or use this website to find a beekeeper near you. For instance, a cursory scan of beekeepers near my home in South Carolina shows dozens of free swarm removal services that will not harm the creatures and will incorporate them into their own apiaries.

Paul Shannon of Shannon Farms Honey in Buckingham told the Fort Myers News-Press that people should not be afraid of contacting beekeepers day or night.

"Beekeepers work all day every day," Shannon said. "Definitely contact them; pest control is always just going to exterminate the problem."

The Florida woman hopes her story will educate others about better options.

"I'm hoping these bees aren't going to die in vain," she said.

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The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.

"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.

"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."

The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.

"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."

Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.

Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

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