About Arthropods of Our Homes

For all of human history, insects and their relatives (collectively known as arthropods) have been our constant companions. We compete with them for food, use them as resources, and – whether we like it or not – share our homes with them. Many species, both common and unfamiliar, have been evolving with us for millenia.

Each year, billions of dollars are spent to control household pests such as cockroaches, ants, spiders, fleas, ticks, flies, and termites. Many of these species can affect the structural integrity and value of our homes, but they may also directly affect our health. Cockroaches and flies can physically transmit bacteria, dust mites and cockroaches can induce allergic responses, and mosquitoes can carry and deliver disease agents. Aside from these pests, there are other benign, beneficial and often overlooked arthropod species living with us. And, aspects of our homes and lifestyle may, in turn, affect the livelihood and the identity of these arthropod roommates. Whether benign or not, the diversity of arthropods living and evolving with us have remained largely understudied.

We want to explore the arthropod diversity of our homes, and we need your help. We are interested not only in what species are present, but also how the characteristics of your home and lifestyle may affect the insects, spiders and other arthropods that come to dwell there. Specifically, we want to test the following hypotheses:

The diversity of arthropods in homes is much higher than you and scientists tend to think.

We think arthropods are running rampant in many of our homes. Even if common pest species aren’t, there are many unfamiliar and unseen arthropods that might be! We want to know how the species diversity in our homes compares to areas we consider to be more ‘wild’. You might be surprised by the answer – and we think we will be too!

Your home is a biome like any other, and its physical characteristics influence the arthropod communities inside it.

We think the physical attributes of your home might determine the arthropod species that live there. For that reason, when we visit your home we will assess your property, take photographs, and ask you a few questions about your home’s age, features, and building materials. This will give us the information needed to link the physical characteristics of your home with the arthropod diversity we find there. Ultimately, we hope this study will provide information about building features that can be manipulated or adjusted to affect the arthropods that live there.

Your everyday behaviors influence the arthropod communities inside your home.

We think that your household routines affect the arthropods that live with you. Consequently, when we visit your home, we’ll ask you questions about your cleaning routine, cleaning products, and your pest management plan. By understanding the human behaviors associated with arthropod presence, we will ultimately be able to make improved decisions regarding the day-to-day behaviors in our homes.