Teaching stray dogs new tricks
The Moscow Metro is one of the busiest rapid transit systems in the world, used by nearly 10 million riders each day, including 20 stray dogs.
Of the estimated 35,000 stray dogs roaming Moscow, a few hundred live in the subway stations and about two dozen have become regular metro riders. And remarkably, these canine commuters seem to know exactly what they are doing.
The “metro dogs,” as they have become known, have learned at which stops to get on and off, and which humans are more likely to hand over a treat. They also are able to deal with the noise and activity of a busy subway system, and can even sleep in a crowded subway car.
Researchers believe this behavior is the result of a combination of factors.
First is co-evolution. After many years of coexisting with humans, dogs have learned to read our physical and emotional signals. Recognizing and responding to these social cues helps metro dogs know who to approach and who to avoid on the subway.
Another strong factor is positive reinforcement. The metro dogs associate the subway with warmth and food, and these rewards are worth the risk of potentially being shooed away or hurt.
Metro dogs also rely heavily on their senses. They may be able to distinguish between subway stations based on scent, lighting, passenger movement or even specific people. They also may learn the station names from listening to the train announcements.
Put it all together, and these wild dogs have the subway figured out better than many humans.
When Carol Howarth visited a nature preserve in Wales this spring, she unknowingly picked up a royal stowaway in her car: a queen bee.
Seeing as the queen bee is typically the mother of all the bees in her hive, word of this inadvertent bee-napping got around the colony quick.
By the time Howarth arrived in the nearby town of Haverfordwest, at least 20,000 bees were chasing after her.
Howarth, a 65-year-old grandmother, had no idea any of this was happening when she parked in the center of town and left to go shopping.
The bees soon began swarming on the back end of Howarth’s car, creating a large brown blotch that caught the attention of many passersby, including national park ranger and bee enthusiast Tom Moses.
In order to ensure the safety of both the public and the bees, Moses called in the experts: the Pembrokeshire Beekeepers Association.
While Howarth shopped, blissfully unaware of the situation, the beekeepers rushed into action.
Beekeeper No. 1 arrived with a cardboard box and started sweeping the bees into it. But he had lunch plans and had to leave, so Beekeeper No. 2 took over.
While the new beekeeper and Moses searched Google for ideas of what to do, the bees started to escape from the box. The men tried to coerce the bees back into the box and received a few stings for their efforts.
Moses then spoke on the phone with Beekeeper No. 3, who was traveling and could not make it to the scene, but he sent Beekeeper No. 4, who turned up with a full beekeeper’s suit and bee smoker to calm the angry bees who were still stinging with gusto.
A drunk guy also stopped by from a nearby pub to offer his expertise. When he found out that the queen still had not been located, he started sweeping bees off the car with his bare hand looking for her. The bees responded with—you guessed it—even more stings.
Eventually all the bees were captured in the box, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Just then a gust of wind blew the box over, and thousands escaped again.
Around this time Howarth finally returned to her car. When she saw the swarm of angry bees, she sped off for home in a panic. The beekeepers never were able to locate the queen.
Howarth thought the bee drama was behind her, but the next morning when she went out to her car, it was like a scene from a Hitchcock movie: The bees were back!
Once again, the beekeepers were summoned and by that evening, Howarth’s vehicle was finally bee-free. But the whereabouts of the queen still remain a mystery.
Some speculated that she was attracted to something in the car or had abandoned the hive in the belief that the warm car might make a pleasant, new home.
Of course, as any parent from a large family will tell you, sometimes moms just need some me time.