I was going to write a column about defunding the police, and then my house was invaded by a swarm of honeybees.

I have called 911 exactly twice in my life – both times because I witnessed a bad car crash – but let me tell you, I have never felt more of a need for immediate emergency aid than when I looked out the kitchen window and saw dozens, and then hundreds, of bees swarming into the upstairs bedroom. That is the sort of incident where you really just want to call one number and have a trained professional come to your house and help you with your crisis. We need a 911 for bees. A bee 911.

I had been thinking about the slogan “defund the police,” and my first reaction was a vague jumble of thoughts that boiled down to “oh no, that’s scary, we can’t do that.” Because the first thing I think of when I think of the police is “protection.” And then I thought, well, what have the police done for me? I can think of only two occasions in my life in which I have been directly helped by police officers: once when a Scarborough cop drove me home after I had been in a crash, and once when a Buxton cop helped my mom and me restart our car when we were stuck on the side of the road. Neither of these occasions required weaponry of any sort. All my other police interactions have involved traffic violations, some of which were my fault (speeding) and some of which weren’t (taillight out, didn’t realize it). No guns or pepper spray or military hand-me-downs necessary. The best advice for home protection I’ve ever received was something I overheard a guy in Buxton say once years ago: “Motion lights and a dog that barks.” I have both.

Budget cuts are coming. In Maine, budget cuts are pretty much always on the horizon or actively approaching, but because of the economic fallout of the coronavirus, we know that the scissors usually taken to local budgets will be more like a chainsaw. Why not cut the budgets of the police department? We have limited public funds to deal with, for example, drug addiction. Wouldn’t funding addiction-recovery programs provide a better return on investment instead of having officers constantly arresting and re-arresting small-time dealers? Cut the police budget, fund domestic violence shelters. Cut the police budget, invest in public housing and after-school programs and health care. Cut the police budget, invest in a bee 911.

The idea of 911 is one of the better things we’ve done as a society, I think – a simple, easy-to-remember number that you can dial from just about anywhere in order to summon help in an emergency. And I’m very sure that the majority of police officers became cops because they wanted to help people. I just don’t think that help needs to be armed most of the time. We’ve been throwing police officers at every social problem there is for decades, and it’s clearly not working. And we have an opportunity here, in this restless moment, to rethink how we do things, and to put our money where our mouth is.

As for the bees, I posted about our dilemma on Twitter and the owner of The Honey Exchange, a delightful bee-related small business in Portland that I cannot recommend highly enough for all your bee-related needs, messaged me. He contacted a wonderful beekeeper named Thalassa, who is my family’s personal hero, as far as we are all concerned.

She came to the house a few hours after the big swarm (which is a pretty fast response, although time has a way of stretching endlessly when you are besieged by bees) and figured out pretty quickly that the bees had entered my brother’s closet through a gap in some insulation and were trying to build a new hive. She used a special bee vacuum to snarf up all the bees, plugged the hole and rode off into the sunset with the entire hive, which will be placed in a new home (not located inside anyone’s closet) where they can go about their business of pollinating and honeymaking. None of my family members was stung. (Thalassa was stung exactly once, when she accidentally leaned on a bee, but that’s a pretty good sting rate, considering there were thousands of bees with stingers flying around.)

The situation was resolved professionally, competently and nonviolently, with a happy ending for all parties involved. Imagine if every emergency situation ended up like that.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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