RALEIGH — What lives in your house? Well you, your family, your cat and dog. That’s three species of animals. But did you know there are likely more than 100 others?
Most of them are bugs: insects, spiders, millipedes and the like. Some, such as termites, we notice because they cause problems. But most share our abodes unnoticed.
Michelle Trautwein wants to know more about them. Trautwein, assistant director of biodiversity at the Nature Research Center in the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, is spearheading the first-ever study to count and describe the bugs in our homes.
And she needs your help.
Trautwein is looking for people willing to open their houses to researchers doing field work for a project called Arthropods of Our Homes.
“There’s been a lot of research done on pests, so people think we know something about what lives in our homes,” says Trautwein. But those are only a few species, and it turns out, we really don’t know exactly what else is living with us. “Some of them even depend on us to live,” says Trautwein.
Trautwein, an art major who was drawn into entomology by the beauty and diversity of insects, is joined on the project by Rob Dunn, a biology professor at N.C. State University, and two post-doctoral researchers.
If you rent or own a free-standing home in the Triangle, the team would love to have a look at your house.
Two researchers would spend a few hours there, looking for bugs and collecting some for analysis. If bugs give you the heebie-jeebies, don’t worry, you wouldn’t be asked to help.
The researchers would also want to know about your lifestyle and would take some notes on the physical features of your house. Participation is anonymous, and while the researchers would be inspecting your entire home, they wouldn’t disturb anything or invade your privacy.
They wouldn’t judge either. They need all kinds of houses, and all kinds of people, including those who are/aren’t clean, have/don’t have pets, and do/don’t use pesticides.
If you like, they can give you a menu of what they found. The phobic may opt out of this.
Either way, if you’ve ever thought about being a citizen scientist, now might be your chance.
“This project would be impossible without people’s participation,” said Trautwein.