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Study Finds Up To 14,000 Bed Bugs in Infested Apartments

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Few studies about bed bugs are going to make you feel good about tucking yourself in at night, but this one may have you sleeping with one eye open.

In new research published in the journal PLOS ONE, a group of entomologists monitored bed bugs in three different bug-infested New Jersey apartment buildings over the course of several weeks. They collected bugs from six apartments, marked them, and then re-released them to see where they went. For 32 days, they checked on the 24 neighboring apartments (above, below, on either side, and across the hallway from the main apartments in the study) to see how easily the pests traveled around the building. 

And oh, the places bed bugs will go. The bugs moved “extensively” throughout the apartments they were initially released in—and into other apartments. The researchers write that “bed bugs from any room within an apartment, even those located at host sleeping sites, have the potential to disperse to neighboring apartments.” In vacant apartments, they found surviving bed bugs up to five months later (meaning the bugs can survive without feeding for that long). The estimated number of bed bugs in each of those six apartments ranged from 2,433 to a staggering 14,291. 

Weirdly, the fact that bed bugs travel between apartments—which anyone in a pest-infested building knows all too well—wasn’t confirmed by the scientific literature before this. “The active dispersal of bed bugs from an infested apartment to neighboring apartments has long been suspected, but never proven,” the study asserts.

Why they do so, however, is still up for debate. Why strike out for unknown territory when there’s a ready supply of fresh blood just lying there for eight hours a night? We're still awaiting scientific confirmation that pests enjoy torturing as many humans as possible. 

[h/t: Discover]

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Pigeons Are Secretly Brilliant Birds That Understand Space and Time, Study Finds
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Of all the birds in the world, the pigeon draws the most ire. Despite their reputation as brainless “rats with wings,” though, they’re actually pretty brilliant (and beautiful) animals. A new study adds more evidence that the family of birds known as pigeons are some of the smartest birds around, as Quartz alerts us.

In addition to being able to distinguish English vocabulary from nonsense words, spot cancer, and tell a Monet from a Picasso, pigeons can understand abstract concepts like space and time, according to the new study published in Current Biology. Their brains just do it in a slightly different way than humans’ do.

Researchers at the University of Iowa set up an experiment where they showed pigeons a computer screen featuring a static horizontal line. The birds were supposed to evaluate the length of the line (either 6 centimeters or 24 centimeters) or the amount of time they saw it (either 2 or 8 seconds). The birds perceived "the longer lines to have longer duration, and lines longer in duration to also be longer in length," according to a press release. This suggests that the concepts are processed in the same region of the brain—as they are in the brains of humans and other primates.

But that abstract thinking doesn’t occur in the same way in bird brains as it does in ours. In humans, perceiving space and time is linked to a region of the brain called the parietal cortex, which the pigeon brains lack entirely. So their brains have to have some other way of processing the concepts.

The study didn’t determine how, exactly, pigeons achieve this cognitive feat, but it’s clear that some other aspect of the central nervous system must be controlling it. That also opens up the possibility that other non-mammal animals can perceive space and time, too, expanding how we think of other animals’ cognitive capabilities.

[h/t Quartz]

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The Queen's Racing Pigeons Are in Danger, Due to an Increase in Peregrine Falcons
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Queen Elizabeth is famous for her love of corgis and horses, but her pet pigeons don't get as much press. The monarch owns nearly 200 racing pigeons, which she houses in a luxury loft at her country estate, Sandringham House, in Norfolk, England. But thanks to a recent boom in the region’s peregrine falcon population, the Queen’s swift birds may no longer be able to safely soar around the countryside, according to The Telegraph.

Once endangered, recent conservation efforts have boosted the peregrine falcon’s numbers. In certain parts of England, like Norfolk and the city of Salisbury in Wiltshire, the creatures can even find shelter inside boxes installed at local churches and cathedrals, which are designed to protect potential eggs.

There’s just one problem: Peregrine falcons are birds of prey, and local pigeon racers claim these nesting nooks are located along racing routes. Due to this unfortunate coincidence, some pigeons are failing to return to their owners.

Pigeon racing enthusiasts are upset, but Richard Salt of Salisbury Cathedral says it's simply a case of nature taking its course. "It's all just part of the natural process,” Salt told The Telegraph. "The peregrines came here on their own account—we didn't put a sign out saying 'room for peregrines to let.' Obviously we feel quite sorry for the pigeons, but the peregrines would be there anyway."

In the meantime, the Queen might want to keep a close eye on her birds (or hire someone who will), or consider taking advantage of Sandringham House's vast open spaces for a little indoor fly-time.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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