Your house has more bugs than you think

Your house has more bugs than you think

A group of entomologists found that there are on average about 500 different kinds of bugs in every house. The first study to evaluate the biodiversity of arthropods in U.S. homes found that humans share their houses with different kinds of arthropods.

This was exploratory work to help us get an understanding of which arthropods are found in our homes, says Matt Bertone, an entomologist at North Carolina State University and lead author of a paper describing the work.

The work was done by researchers at NC State, the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Under an initiative called the Arthropods of Our Homes, the researchers visited 50 free-standing houses within 30 miles of Raleigh, North Carolina, between May and October of 2012. Going room by room, the research team collected all of the arthropods it could find, both living and dead.

Across all 50 homes, the researchers identified no fewer than 579 different morphospecies of arthropod from 304 different families. Individual homes had, on average, about 100 morphospecies (between 32 and 211) and between 24 and 128 distinct families. The most commonly collected groups of arthropods in the homes were flies, spiders, beetles, ants and book lice. The term morphospecies is used to characterize animal types that are readily separable by morphological differences that are obvious to individuals without extensive taxonomic training.

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 says.

The vast majority of the arthropods we found in homes were not pest species, Bertone says. They were either peaceful cohabitants - like the cobweb spiders (Theridiidae) found in 65 percent of all rooms sampled - or accidental visitors, like midges and leafhoppers (Cicadellidae).

One of the findings that surprised researchers was that only five of the 554 rooms they sampled did not contain any arthropod specimens.

The research will likely open the door to new lines of scientific inquiry.

This is only a first glimpse into the species that live in our homes, and more work needs to be done to flesh this picture out, says Michelle Trautwein, the Schlinger Chair of Dipterology at CAS and co-author of the paper.

Your house has more bugs than you think