Arthropods, which are invertebrates that include insects, spiders, mites, centipedes and others, are fascinating creatures, and they might as well be your new roommate.
A new study in the United States revealed that you have about more than 100 tiny, ancient creepy-crawling companions inside your house. Your place is also the home to friendly-neigborhood spiders, house centipedes, harmless book lice and others.
Guests Inside The Standard American Home
Under a program called "Arthropods of Our Homes," a team of scientists combed through 50 houses in Raleigh, North Carolina between May and October.
The group's study is thought to be the first ever investigation to count and evaluate the biodiversity of arthropods in American homes.
The team - comprising of experts from North Carolina State University, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) - went room by room, collecting all the arthropods they could retrieve, whether alive or dead.
Scientists discovered that the dwellings they examined were inhabited by 579 various types of arthropods. They also found that the standard American home is host to an average of about 100 arthropod species.
Here are some of the anthropods that the team collected.
1. Ground Beetles: These insects often prefer to roam outside, but they often wander into houses to look for prey. Below is a false bombadier beetle that the team photographed.
2. Little Black Ants: The team found a search party of little black ants on a couch. The little black ants were huddled on top of the food they discovered.
3. Dust Mites: These arthropods feed on organic debris such as shed skin cells. They often live in carpets, beds and even on people.
4. Cobweb Spiders: The most common arthropod they collected were the cob-web spiders. These creatures were found in 65 percent of the homes.
5. Tiny wasp: One fascinating find that the team photographed was an extremely tiny wasp. This wasp was only about 1 millimeter long, or about 0.039 inches. We really can't help but think of two particular superheroes who are associated with shrinking powers and insects.
6. House centipede: A house centipede typically has 15 pairs of legs. They are one of the most common arthropods in existence.
7. Carpet Beetles: These arthropods feed on clothing, carpet fibers and dead insects.
Peaceful Cohabitants And Accidental Visitors
Entomologist Matt Bertone, lead author of the paper featured in the journal Peerj, said that even though they gathered a remarkable number of arthropods, they do not want people to think that all of these species are actually living in everybody's homes.
"Many of the arthropods we found had clearly wandered in from outdoors, been brought in on cut flowers or were otherwise accidentally introduced," said Bertone.
Because most of the arthropods are not equipped to dwell in our homes, they typically die pretty fast, Bertone said. For instance, gall midges were found in all 50 homes, but these millimeter-long flies eat outdoor plants and cannot live indoors.
Bertone said the majority of arthropods they found were not pest species but were either peaceful cohabitants or accidental visitors. Cobweb spiders are more likely to be the former, while midges and leafhoppers belong to the latter.
Our Homes Are Not Sterile Environments
Meanwhile, one surprising finding that the team acquired was that only five in 554 rooms they checked did not contain any arthropods.
"I never thought I'd see such biology in homes that were clean, not filled with junk, just normal homes," said Bertone.
"My hope is that this doesn't freak people out but people need to know their houses aren't sterile environments."
Bertone said we share our space with many different species, but most of them are harmless. "The fact that you don't know they're there only highlights how little we interact with them," he said.
Study co-author Michelle Trautwein of CAS said their findings are only a glimpse into the arthropod species in our homes and that further research needs to be done to understand the matter.
"These insights give us the opportunity delve down into some exciting scientific questions," said Trautwein. "Now that we have a better idea of which species are most common in homes, we can focus on studying them."
Bertone and his colleagues' next step is to assess how the structure of a home, its outdoor surroundings and the behavior of the human residents affect the biodiversity of arthropods in the home.