There's nothing that gives me the chills more than the thought of bugs invading my home. In fact, I'm probably going to be sleeping with one eye open tonight after reading this new study, which found that most American homes are full of bugs. An average of 100 species of the critters, at that. So gross! But even though I'm guessing a lot of you are as freaked out by bugs as I am, there's actually nothing abnormal about the existence of insects; we've actually been coexisting for basically all of history and have "evolved together," according to the authors of this National Science Foundation-funded study. Still, though — that's a lot of bugs. In my home. Shudder.
As the study noted, we don't actually know very much about our coexistence with bugs in our homes; this one was actually the first survey of arthropods living indoors. The study, which included 50 homes located in the Raleigh, N.C. area, started with a questionnaire completed by the homeowners about their homes and the behaviors of the people inhabiting them. Then, the research team throughly inspected each room of the home — but it's worth noting that they only used visible surfaces, so they weren't pulling up rugs or putting holes in walls to get their data. Once they had all their data gathered, they categorized the rooms and tallied everything up to draw their conclusions.
What they found was bugs. A lot of bugs. Their "conservative estimate" pegged the number at 579 different species, and the average home had about 61 arthropod species living in it. As you might expect, they found that the average number of species correlated to home size, with smaller homes having fewer species and larger homes having more.
Why kinds of bugs, you ask? Well, 12 species were identified in 80 percent of the homes they studied, and four were found in 100 percent of homes. These four families are spiders, beetles, flies, and ants. Book lice and fungus gnats (aka fruit flies) came in a close fifth and sixth place, having been identified in 98 percent and 96 percent of homes, respectively.
Matthew Bertone, who was a collaborator in this study, spoke to the Guardian about their findings, and the good news is that we don't have to be alarmed by these findings; they're just food for thought. “My hope is that this doesn't freak people out, but people need to know their houses aren't sterile environments," he said.
If you do, however, have a bug problem you'd like to deal with, here are four effective ways to get rid of unwanted visitors.
1. Use White Vinegar
An easy solution to keeping bugs away is to spray white vinegar onto surfaces where bugs might like to hang out, such as your cabinets or kitchen counters. Just make sure not to spray it onto carpeted areas or onto your actual food, unless you want everything in your cupboard to taste like vinegar.
2. Keep Your Food Sealed
Speaking of food, you don't want to leave food out or in half-opened boxes if you want to keep it safe from bugs. Instead, put all of your food into airtight containers that bugs can't get into, which will also keep them from wanting to come and party at your place.
3. Keep A Lid On It
Instead of leaving your trash out in the open, use a can that has a lid on it. For obvious reasons, a can that has a lid on it is going to do a lot better job at keeping unwanted pests at bay than a can that has all kinds of food hanging out of it.
4. Use Essential Oils
You can also combine water and essential oils into a spray bottle and spray vulnerable surfaces with it, in order to keep bugs out. There are different oils that work well at repelling certain species of bugs, so make sure to consult this guide on DIY bug solutions before you start spraying.
Although we may not be able to keep all of the bugs out of our homes, at least we can keep control the bug activity to some extent!