*Today post-doc Matt Bertone gives us an update on some of the wild, wonderful and wacky finds the Arthropods of Our Homes team has made in sampling the the project’s first 25 homes.*

For the last couple months I have been crawling around the floors, reaching for the ceilings, and spelunking in the basements (and crawl spaces) of houses to find all the living and dead arthropods that were either just visiting, or had set up permanent, rent-free residence. I have witnessed a mass fly emergence, vast insect graveyards, and countless silk-entangled spider victims. I am ready – and excited – for more!

We have now completed sampling 25 homes for the Arthropods of Our Homes project and I thought it would be fun to share some of the interesting things I have learned and observed so far (including their scientific names):

    • Different homes have different arthropods. Some homes have an abundance of house centipedes…others are full of silverfish. Why? For now, we can’t predict what we will encounter in a home, but maybe after we crunch the data we will be able to identify factors that explain why we see certain types of arthropods in some homes and not others.
    • Carpet beetles (Dermestidae) are everywhere; almost every home we visit has them. They are small and are most active as larvae, though the adults can often be found dead on window sills. Most of the fuzzy grubs end up feeding on pet/human hairs, dead insects (maybe even their unfortunate parents – Yikes!), and other organic bits. Though their actions can be beneficial for cleaning up debris, in high densities they can begin to eat our carpets (thus the common name) and clothing. Not an acceptable activity for most people. Other arthropods common across many homes include book lice (Liposcelididae), camel crickets (Rhaphidophoridae), cob-web spiders (Theridiidae), and various ants (Formicidae), to name a few.

      Carpet beetle larvae (left, eating a kibble of dog food) and adults (right, dead on a window sill) are common in homes; larvae feed on dead insects, hair, and other organic bits (including wool carpets and clothing). Photo credit: Matt Bertone

    • Some homes have spitting spiders (Scytodidae), one of my favorite arachnids. Growing up I had only read about these secretive spiders that spit a sticky, venomous silk onto their prey.  Now I have come face-to-prosoma with one species in particular (Scytodes thoracica) on several occasions in homes. Though we have native species, this one is from Europe and has made its way around the world through human travels. Spitting spiders are often found in older homes, where they hide in holes and cracks. They come out to hunt prey, which can include small insects and other spiders.