Wealthier Homes Harbor More Kinds of Bugs

August 4, 2016 | Erica Tennenhouse

bathroom spider
Photo credit: Wikimedia/public domain

Arthropod economics.

A team of scientists took a census of the bugs in 50 North Carolina homes in hopes of finding out whether poorer homes are crawling with more bugs than wealthier ones, which is generally assumed to be the case.

Surprisingly, they found the opposite was true. In the journal Biology Letters, the researchers report their “unexpected, and perhaps counterintuitive finding of higher indoor arthropod diversity in wealthier neighbourhoods…”

The arthropods cohabiting with humans included insects, spiders, and centipedes. An average home in a wealthy neighborhood was occupied by around 100 different arthropod species, whereas homes in less expensive neighborhoods had roughly half that number, according to the study.

The researchers suspected that indoor arthropod diversity was reflective of the outside world, with homes in wealthier neighborhoods simply having more lush gardens that harbored more bug varieties. But on closer look, it became clear that homes in less expensive areas often had gardens that equalled or surpassed their wealthy counterparts in terms of vegetation cover.

More likely, it is not the individual gardens that attract arthropods of different kinds, but rather the abundance of public gardens and parks that give wealthier neighborhoods higher plant diversity — this is known as the “luxury effect.”

The researchers conclude that “the management of neighbourhoods and cities can have effects on biodiversity that can extend from trees and birds all the way to the arthropod life in bedrooms and basements.”

You might also like: These Are the Hundreds of Bugs in Your Home

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