As It Happens

Study uncovers all the 'creepy crawlies' in your home

Scientists discover there are dozens of species of bugs living in the average American home.
Twelve most common species found in at least 80% of homes: (A) cobweb spiders, 100% (B) carpet beetles, 100%, (C) gall midges, 100% (D) ants, 100% (E) book lice, 98% (F) dark-winged fungus gnats, 96% (G) cellar spiders, 84% (H) weevils, 82% (I) mosquitoes, 82% (J) scuttle flies, 82% (K) leafhoppers, 82% (L) non-biting midges, 80% (Chironomidae). (https://peerj.com/articles/1582/)

At any given time, your single family house probably has about 100 different kinds of spiders, bugs and other creepy crawlers in it. That's what researchers are saying after a recent study conducted in North Carolina.

One person not creeped out by that number is Michelle Trautwein, an entomologist that worked on the study."I love it! I'm super excited about it!" Trautwein tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

Some [houses] were clean, some were dirty but all had bugs.- Michelle Trautwein

The study tracked arthropods, insects such as spiders, centipedes and other "creepy crawly things that have exoskeletons and a lot of legs."

"The first thing we found was just a tonne of diversity. On average, a house has about 100 arthropod species but that ranged up to well over 200 species." Trautwein points out that most of the arthropods are too small to be found by the average person.

Trautwein also says cleanliness has little to do with how many species might be in your home. "Some were clean, some were dirty but all had bugs." She is quick to point out that we shouldn't be rushing out to buy a can of bug spray.

"We found very few pest species comparatively. The vast majority of things living in our houses are completely benign."

Trautwein compares most of the bugs in houses to ill fated tourists, who enter the home accidentally and end up dying because they can't find anything to eat. "A lot of them don't live and eat and thrive and breed in the house."

Michelle Trautwein is the Assistant Curator, Schlinger Chair of Dipterology at the California Academy of Sciences (calacademy.org)

Even though the study was carried out in North Carolina, which is generally warmer compared to most places in Canada, we can still expect to have them in houses north of the 48th parallel. She hopes to prove that hypothesis as her study broadens.

"We're trying to go to each of the seven continents to get a glimpse of how this diversity varies with different living conditions and different geographic areas all over the world."

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