New study of house bugs reveals complex coexistence with humans

Scientists shed light on the complex ecology of house bugs and say the uninvited guests may even contribute to human health.
By Ian Marsh | Nov 13, 2017
Scientists who studied 50 urban homes in Raleigh, North Carolina, are shedding light on the habitats and ecology of house bugs.

Researchers from the California Academy of Sciences, North Carolina State University, and the Natural History Museum of Denmark published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

"We are just beginning to realize and study how the home we create for ourselves also builds a complex, indoor habitat for bugs and other life," says lead author Dr. Misha Leong, a postdoctoral researcher at the Academy, in a statement. "We're hoping to better understand this age-old coexistence, and how it may impact our physical and mental well-being."

Types of bug vary from floor to floor and room to room, the researchers say. More diverse communities exist in common areas, such as living rooms, compared to bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens.

"Every room within the home revealed a complex ecological structure of predator and prey with scavenger species, strays from the outdoors, and transient go-betweens all playing critical roles," the statement explained.

It will be a relief to many to learn that keeping the house tidy played little role in insect diversity. Even the presence of cats and dogs, houseplants, and dust bunnies had no significant effect.

"While the idea of uninvited insect roommates sounds unappealing, bugs in houses may contribute to health in a roundabout way," says senior author Dr. Michelle Trautwein, the Academy's Schlinger Chair of Diptera. "A growing body of evidence suggests some modern ailments are connected with our lack of exposure to wider biological diversity, particularly microorganisms and insects may play a role in hosting and spreading that microbial diversity indoors."

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