More often than not, the wealthier you are, the more stuff you have — more clothes, more cars, more living space and more bugs.
You read that right. More bugs. A new study has found that wealthier homes tend to have a greater diversity of bugs than homes in less affluent neighborhoods.
Whenever we think about biodiversity, we tend to think about the big picture: large flora and fauna, like tigers and elephants and redwood trees. But a team of scientists from the California Academy of Sciences, North Carolina State University and the Natural History Museum of Denmark knows that biodiversity of an ecosystem can also be measured at the microscopic level.
The researchers study arthropods, an animal classification comprised of insects and spiders. In a recent study published in the journal Biology Letters, they looked at how socioeconomics affects the diversity of these creepy-crawly creatures.
For the study, the team crawled through the homes of the rich and poor in Raleigh, North Carolina. In all, the researchers scoured about 50 economically diverse homes. They spent about 30 minutes in each room of each house, counting the number of different types of bugs present.
They concluded that the average home was host to around 61 different species of arthropods, with wealthier homes having a greater number of bug species (around 100), and less affluent homes having closer to 50 types of bugs. This was true regardless of the size of the home.
"The sheer amount of life thriving within your home — under carpet, in closets — is astonishing," entomologist Misha Leong, a post-doctoral researcher at the California Academy of Sciences and the lead author of the study, told The Christian Science Monitor.
Why would richer homes have more bugs? One theory had to do with the so-called luxury effect, a phenomenon first mentioned in a 2003 study that found wealthier neighborhoods tend to have a larger diversity of vegetation than less affluent communities. So it makes sense to take that theory a step farther: All of those plants could be attracting more bugs. Even for the homes that didn't have landscaped yards, they could be hosting bugs that have been attracted to the area by their neighbor's yards or nearby greenspaces.
Feeling the urge to wipe down your counters and vacuum your floors? Take comfort in Leong's rationale to National Geographic: "... even homes that looked completely clean still had lots of insects." (Or as much comfort as you can, anyway.)