We've figured out how to solve human-elephant conflict. It takes bees. Lots of bees.

What does a 14,000-pound elephant eat? Whatever the elephant wants.

ELEPHANT DEMANDS COOKIES. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.


For those of us in North America, that might sound like the setup to a joke. But for farmers in Africa, it's a real problem.

A fully grown elephant can eat up to 600 pounds of food a day. During a long, hot day of walking around the savannah, a farmer's crop might look like the perfect place for an elephant to rest and refuel.

But an elephant can easily eat everything the farmer has spent the last year growing. And fences — even electric ones — don't always work.

This leaves farmers with very few options.

Sometimes they'll try to scare the elephants away with firecrackers or guns. Sometimes they'll directly attack the elephants.

Both people and elephants have been killed in these conflicts.

But there is a new kind of fence that could dramatically change the relationship between farmers and elephants, and it's filled with bees.

Dr. Lucy King and one of her beehives. Photo by Elephants and Bees Project, used with permission.

Dr. Lucy King and her team at the Elephants and Bees Project have been working on this fence since 2006.

The idea comes from an interesting observation: Elephants really, really do not like beehives.

That's because although elephant hides can be very thick in places, bee stings can still hurt, especially around the face and trunk. Elephants won't even eat from trees that have beehives in them.

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.

Local Africans have known that for a while, but when King learned this from her adviser in the mid-2000s (while she was a graduate student), she was intrigued. She travelled to Kenya to learn more about the behavior.

First, King and her colleagues set up tests to see what it was about the bees that was scaring the elephants away. She discovered that just playing the sound of an angry beehive is enough to drive elephants away. There's even a special elephant rumble to warn each other of swarms!

Then one day, King had an "aha" moment under an acacia tree.

It was a hot day and a family of elephants was resting nearby, unaware of a beehive hidden in the acacia tree. Watching the elephants, King's assistant picked up a rock and dinged the beehive with it, sending the elephants — and the researchers — scrambling.

"The alarmed elephant family took off immediately at a run along the river bank kicking up dust until they were out of sight," King said in an email. "We watched the activity in awe until the bees turned their attention to us and I had to drive off at pace to avoid being badly stung."

Watching the beehive swing back and forth on the branch while elephants thundered away gave King the inspiration for her beehive fence design.

The fences act like giant buzzing trip wires.

Photo by Elephants and Bees Project, used with permission.

The free-swinging beehives are strung up on poles all around a farm. If an elephant touches one (or if it touches one of the long wires that runs between the poles), the beehives will start to bounce and swing. This irritates the bees, which then come out in full force and drive the elephants away from the farmer's crops.

These fences are already being used in at least 11 countries across Africa and Asia.

The idea was so successful that King now runs the Elephants and Bees Project, which has partnered with the nonprofit Save the Elephants, Oxford University, and Disney's Animal Kingdom. The Elephants and Bees Project even has its own research center in Sagalla, Kenya.

Photo by Elephants and Bees Project, used with permission.

"We regularly host visitor training days [at the research center] to help other project sites and communities learn how to build beehive fences so they can go back to their own sites and initiate the projects for themselves," King said. They have new crops of researchers and graduate students coming to them too.

They've even put out a Beehive Fence Construction Manual, which is free to download.

The beehive fences aren't perfect — King says a few sneaky and fearless elephants will still get into the crops every once in a while.

But among the communities she's worked with, human-elephant conflicts have fallen 80%. The Elephants and Bees Project is now collaborating with sites all over Africa and Asia to help them construct their own beehive fences.

King is still working with people in Kenya to improve the idea as well. They've been experimenting with mixing "dummy" beehives into the fence to reduce costs. They're also expanding a honey-processing facility.

But this is a win-win solution, as both the farmers and the elephants benefit from it.

The farmers get to keep their crops, which the bees also help pollinate. The farmers can also benefit from beekeeping products such as honey or beeswax, which they can sell to help offset the cost of the fence or use in their own households.

Photo by Elephants and Bees Project, used with permission.

The elephants, meanwhile, benefit from the happy coexistence with humans and increased safety.

"Communities typically don't want trouble," King said. "Only if they are really getting desperate will they want to kill an elephant for crop-raiding."

This is great news because it could potentially alleviate one of the many pressures on elephant populations these days.

Plus, clever ideas like this show how listening to local knowledge, combined with careful observation and study, can lead to effective solutions to real problems.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves
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It can be expensive to have a pet. It's possible to spend between $250 to $700 a year on food for a dog and around $120-$500 on food for a cat. But of course, most of us don't think twice about the expense: having a pet is worth it because of the company animals provide.

But for some, this expense is hard to keep up, no matter how much you adore your fur baby. And that's why Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves decided to help.

Kenneth had seen a man scraping together change in a store to buy pet food, so he offered to buy the man some extra pet food. Still, later that night he couldn't stop thinking about the experience — he worried the man wasn't just struggling to pay for pet food, but food for himself, too.

So he went home and told his wife — and immediately, they both knew they needed to do something. So, in December 2020, they converted a farm stand into a take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can Pet Food pantry.

"A lot of people would have watched that man count out change to buy pet food. Some may have helped him out like my husband did," Jill says. "A few may have thought about it afterward. But, only someone like Kenny would turn that experience into what we have today."

"If it weren't for his generous spirit and his penchant for a plan, the pantry would never have been born," she adds.

A man with sunglasses hands a box of cat food to a woman smiling Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

At first, the couple started the pet food pantry with a couple hundred dollars of pet food they bought themselves. And to make sure people knew about the pantry, they set up a Facebook page for the pantry, then went to other Facebook groups, such as a "Buy Nothing group," and shared what they were doing.

"When we started, we weren't even sure people would use us," Jill says. "At best, we were hoping to be able to provide enough to help people get through the holidays."

But, thanks to their page and word of mouth, news spread about what they were doing, and the donations of more pet food started flooding in, too. Before long, they were coming home to stacks of food — and within a couple of months, the pantry was full.

Yellow post-it note with handwritten note that reads: "Hi, I read your story on Facebook. Here is a small donation to help. I have a 3-year-old yellow lab who I adore. I hope this helps someone in need. Merry Christmas. Meredith" Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"The pounds of food we have gone through is well, well, well into the thousands," Jill says. "The orders from our Amazon Wish List alone include several hundred pounds of dry food, a couple of hundred cases of canned food, and thousands of treats and toys. But, that does not even take into account the hundreds of drop-offs, online orders, and monetary donations we have received."

They also got many 'Thank you notes' from the people they helped.

"I would like to thank you for helping us feed our fur babies," one note read. "My husband and I recently lost our jobs, and my husband [will] hopefully [find] a new one. We are just waiting for a call."

Another read: "I just need to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven't worked in over a month with a two-year-old at home. Dad brings in about $300/week. From the pandemic to Christmas, it has been tough. But with the help of beautiful people like you, my fur baby can now eat a little bit longer, and my heart is happy."

Jill says that she thinks the fact that the pet pantry is a farm stand helps people feel better.

A woman holding a small black dog and looking at the camera is greeted by Jill Gonsalves Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"When we first started this, someone who visited us mentioned how it made them feel good to be able to browse without feeling like they were being watched," she says. "So, it's been important to us to maintain that integrity."

Jill and Kenneth aren't sure how many people they've helped so far, but they know that their pet food pantry is doing what they hoped it would. "The pet owners who visit us, much like donations, come in ebbs and flows," Jill says. "We have some regulars who have been with us since the beginning. We also have some people that come a few times, and we never see again."

"Our hope is that they used us while they were in a tough spot, but they don't need us anymore. In a funny way, the greatest thing would be if no one needed us anymore."


Today, the Acushnet Pet Pantry is still going strong, but its stock is running low. If you want to help out, visit their Facebook page for updates and to find ways to donate.
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Dr. David McPhee offers advice for talking to someone living in a different time in their head.

Few things are more difficult than watching a loved one's grip on reality slipping away. Dementia can be brutal for families and caregivers, and knowing how to handle the various stages can be tricky to figure out.

The Alzheimer's Association offers tips for communicating in the early, middle and late stages of the disease, as dementia manifests differently as the disease progresses. The Family Caregiver Alliance also offers advice for talking to someone with various forms and phases of dementia. Some communication tips deal with confusion, agitation and other challenging behaviors that can come along with losing one's memory, and those tips are incredibly important. But what about when the person is seemingly living in a different time, immersed in their memories of the past, unaware of what has happened since then?

Psychologist David McPhee shared some advice with a person on Quora who asked, "How do I answer my dad with dementia when he talks about his mom and dad being alive? Do I go along with it or tell him they have passed away?"

McPhee wrote:

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!