You might think it’s just you all alone in your home sometimes, but in reality, you’ve got a plethora of guests living there with you. There’s over 600, to be exact. Some of them you may never even see. But they’re there with you just the same.
Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Colorado Boulder have determined that creepy crawly critters from over 600 species of arthropods are living in our homes with us at this very moment. Say hello! Get acquainted. Perhaps that’s who’s been eating all of the cookie dough in the middle of the night.
Arthropod is a phylum of invertebrate animals that includes insects, spiders, crustaceans and a veritable smorgasbord of critters with multiple legs, exoskeletons, and segmented bodies. And while you may not realize it, you’re already interacting with them in significant ways every waking moment.
Biologist Anne Madden is the lead author of a report on a special census published in Molecular Ecology, an academic journal, where she and her colleagues sampled over 700 homes in 48 states to determine what, if any, arthropods were chilling out in our homes. Each contributor grabbed only a swab of dust from every sample house, but what that tiny bit of dust revealed spoke volumes.
Essentially, each speck of dust was telling because it also contained skin flakes, insect legs, and all sorts of detritus, large and small. Madden was mainly concerned with analyzing the types of creatures and varieties that could be found in homes, and the study revealed DNA from aphids, ladybugs, and even parasitic wasps that lay eggs in the aphids found in homes. Lots of guests to keep in mind, right?
There were plenty of roaches and dust mites too, of course, and roaches liked to live in warmer, southern climates where ladybugs and other mites were found more in northern homes. Things like humidity and temperature really seemed to help differentiate where the varying arthropods were found.
The study was an interesting one in its entirety, but it wasn’t without a purpose: figuring out how the critters we share our homes with change or alter our surroundings and helping physicians figure out how to better treat common ailments that could be caused by them, such as asthma.
“It’s fun to reveal the mysteries that we didn’t even know were mysteries,” said Madden. “We think of our houses as our most well known and intimate habitats, and yet we still have so much to learn about what’s going on inside of them.”
Sweet dreams, those of you who are skittish!