Food Webs of Our Homes

We’ve learned that hundreds of arthropods live in your home. Sure, some are just passing through, but quite a few are permanent residents, found especially in houses. This makes the house, as much as we clean to prevent it, its own ecosystem. Each of these species is connected to one another in a web of interactions as they compete with each other for your dog’s last kibble that rolled under the table, scavenge the body of the fly that never found a way back outside, or hunt in its territory that you call a windowsill. But these interactions that happen right under your nose, largely go unnoticed.

In any other habitat, we would study the top predators that shape the rest of the community — like the wolves in Yellowstone. Do the top predators of your house shape your arthropod community? *Note, you are not the top of the food web in your own home. It’s probably a spider. Are spiders in your house a good thing?

Join the Project!

Help us find out by collecting cellar spiders! Drop off samples at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences.

Cellar spiders, like the name suggests, are frequently found in homes. They originated from caves in Europe, and in North America, can mostly be found in caves and homes. They are thought of as beneficial spiders because they are harmless to humans and eat cockroaches, flies, moths, and even other spiders.

With YOUR help (and spiders!) we will use stable isotope techniques to chemically analyze the spiders and determine if they really are the TOP PREDATORS of your homes.

Project Resources

Data Collection Card
How do I identify a cellar spider?

Project Protocol

  • Get a jar, plastic container, or re-sealable sandwich bag.

  • Locate cellar spiders. Check room corners, windows, bathrooms, and of course, cellars.

  • Observe the spider. Is there prey in the web? Below the web? Does it have egg sacs? Spiderlings?

  • Using the container in one hand and a piece of paper in the other, scoop up the spider, web, and any prey and egg sacs.

  • Fill out the data collection card and put into the container. Convert your collection address into GPS coordinates here. Only include 2 decimal points (i.e. XX.XX – XX.XX)

  • Add a wet cotton ball to the container for the spider to drink.

  • Repeat for every cellar spider you find!

  • Drop off at the front desk of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences.

Cellar Spiders Gallery