What Exoskeletons Are Hiding in Your Closet?

What critters are living in your house (other than you)?

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Dr. Holly Menninger, director of public science for the Your Wild Life program at NC State, which explores the biodiversity that lives on, in and around us. Your Wild Life is the brain child of NC State professor Rob Dunn.

Several months ago, Rob Dunn issued a challenge – inspired by his late night observations of a carabid beetle scurrying with prey-in-mandibles across the floor of his basement office. He urged us to find the missing scenes of nature in our midst, to contemplate and observe how the web of life plays out in the spaces bounded by walls, roofs and basements.

Many of you responded to this challenge, uploading images of the wild life in your homes to our Flickr group and submitting reports from the field.

And wow! Our homes are teeming with arthropods of all shapes and kinds – insects, spiders, mites, millipedes and centipedes, even crustaceans.

Entomologists on an "expedition."

Your observations got us thinking… and digging into the scientific literature. And surprise, surprise, the diversity of arthropods living and evolving in human homes has been largely understudied.

Sure, scientists have spent some time studying the ecology of certain groups of home-dwelling species like cockroaches, termites, and bed bugs. But to our knowledge, no one has done a large-scale and systematic study of the arthropod diversity within homes.

That is, until NOW. We’re psyched to announce the launch of the Arthropods of Our Homes project.

Michelle Trautwein (Assistant Director of Biodiversity at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences Nature Research Center) and a team of entomologists, including Matt Bertone and Kelly Oten, are leading the charge to unearth those exoskeletons in your closet.

We’re starting locally in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina, recruiting volunteers who rent or own free-standing homes. No insect-handling required (unless you REALLY want to) – We’ll send 2 researchers into your house on a 2-3 hour arthropod expedition to collect critters and make observations about the physical attributes of your home.  In addition to wanting to learn more about who lives in our homes, we want to test hypotheses about how the characteristics of your home as well as your household routines shape the arthropods that live there.

Check out the new Arthropods of Our Homes project page and sign-up TODAY!

One response on “What Exoskeletons Are Hiding in Your Closet?

  1. Jonny says:

    OK, will check my closet, thank you. Hope nothing from another planets 😀

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