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Insects and Creepy Crawlies Share Your Home – Nearly 100 Species Found In Average Home

Jan 20, 2016 04:55 PM EST
Black ants swarming to food left on the couch.
(Photo : Matt Bertone)

Right now any of more than 500 different kinds of creepy crawlers may be sharing your home with you. A recent survey of 50 houses in the Raleigh, NC, area revealed U.S. homes are likely teeming with a surprisingly high diversity of small invertebrates called arthropods – flies, lice, ants, gnats, carpet beetles, termites, and cellar or cobweb spiders, for example – that sneak in from the outdoors and make themselves comfortable in our furniture and carpets. 

For their study, researchers from North Carolina State University, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) collected samples – dead or alive – of the anrthropods they could find in each room of the 50 average homes they visited between May and October of 2012. 

"This was exploratory work to help us get an understanding of which arthropods are found in our homes," Matt Bertone, lead author of the study and an entomologist at North Carolina State University, said in a news release. "Nobody had done an exhaustive inventory like this one, and we found that our homes host far more biodiversity than most people would expect."

Of the 579 different species discovered in their test inspection, researcher say each house (whether or not pesiticides were used) averaged about 100 species. (Scroll to read more...)

(Photo : Bertone, et al. )
Diversity of arthropod species found in homes surveyed.

"While we collected a remarkable diversity of these creatures, we don't want people to get the impression that all of these species are actually living in everyone's homes," Bertone added. "Many of the arthropods we found had clearly wandered in from outdoors, been brought in on cut flowers or were otherwise accidentally introduced. Because they're not equipped to live in our homes, they usually die pretty quickly."

Of the 554 rooms examined and exterminated, researchers were surprised that only five did not contain any arthropods.

"We think our homes are sterile environments, but they're not," Bertone said. "We share our space with many different species, most of which are benign. The fact that you don't know they're there only highlights how little we interact with them."

Since researchers did not check behind walls, in drawers or under heavy furniture, they believe their grand total is likely an undercount. Nonetheless, this first-of-its-kind study paves the way for future work.

"But these insights give us the opportunity to delve down into some exciting scientific questions. Now that we have a better idea of which species are most common in homes, we can focus on studying them," co-author Michelle Trautwein, the Schlinger Chair of Dipterology at CAS, said in NC State's release. "Do they provide important services that we don't know about in the ecosystems of our homes? Do any host microbial organisms that affect our health, for good or bad? And we can also begin to explore their traits to see if they share evolutionary characteristics that have made them better suited to live with humans."

The findings were recently published in the journal PeerJ

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