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Arthropods: Bugs in Our Homes

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AL has a Bachelor of Science in natural resources with studies in botany and zoology.

Arthropods are the largest class of animals on the planet, with more than 80% of all known animal species belong to this class. With over a million species, arthropods inhabit all types of land-based and aquatic ecosystems, including our homes. They are commonly known as insects, bugs, or spiders, but they are a far more diverse and distinct group of animals that includes crabs, centipedes, lobsters, and scorpions.

This is, in fact, the only group of animals that has a large number of species that can create habitats in our homes, gardens, garages, household appliances, and scary enough, even our own bodies can become their habitat.

An average home can accommodate several types and a number of different species of arthropods; this means we are basically residing in an arthropod habitat. Most of these arthropods are virtually unseen and harmless; others, however, are poisonous, parasitic, pests, or can cause diseases.

What Are Arthropods?

An arthropod is an invertebrate animal with a segmented exoskeleton body usually with six or more legs. Their distinguishing feature is a hard exterior exoskeleton, meaning they have no skeleton inside their body. They are also invertebrates with no defined spine or backbone, and their bodies are jointed and segmented. In fact, the term arthropod is derived from Greek which roughly translates to 'joint-foot'.

Species of anthropods belong to one of these subphylums;

  • Chelicerata: Spiders, Scorpions,
  • Myriapoda: Millipedes, Centipedes
  • Crustacea: Crabs, Lobsters
  • Hexapoda: Insects

Common Types of Arthropods in Our Homes

Different types of arthropods are found in different types of environments, however, some arthropods tend to establish their habitats closer to human settlements. These are the arthropods most people are familiar with and collectively refer to them as bugs.

Hexapoda: Insects

The largest group within the arthropod phylum, Hexapoda is derived from Greek meaning animal species with 'six legs'. This group comprises of many different subgroups, but they all share a common consolidated thorax with three pairs of legs, even though others have more than six legs. They are commonly referred to as bugs or insects and are a common feature in most households.

Some of these species like dragonflies, butterflies, and ladybugs are relatively harmless and a refreshing site in most flower gardens and backyards. Others, however, are a nuisance. Cockroaches, crickets, houseflies, bedbugs, ants, mosquitoes, wasps, hornets, and even bees, are capable of setting up permanent habitats inside the house. They can become a serious health hazard and a danger to the household occupants if their numbers are allowed to grow.

Chelicerata: Spiders and Scorpions

These are largely terrestrial arthropods, they are mostly found beneath stones, logs, and in and around vegetation. Common species of this subphylum belong to the class Arachnida, which includes spiders, scorpions, mites, and ticks. Most of these species have four pairs of legs and inhabit land-based ecosystems including our homes. They occupy hidden spaces and holes around the house. The term arachnophobia, which means the fear of spiders and other arachnids like scorpions, is derived from the class name Arachnida. This fear is justified; not only are Arachnids venomous, but some species of tiny spiders are also capable of crawling inside the mouth, ear, and nasal canals while we are asleep. Some arachnids are parasitic species that affect both humans and pets.

However, some people keep arachnids as household pets. Common pets include large tarantula spiders, kept in glass sandboxes.

Myriapoda: Millipedes and Centipedes

Myriapoda is derived from Greek, myriad which is 'ten thousand' and poda which translates to 'foot'. Species in this subphylum do not have ten thousand legs, but they do have a large number of feet or legs. Commonly known species are centipedes and millipedes. The two species are mistakenly considered as one but in fact, they are very different. They share a similar elongated worm-like body divided into a head and trunk with numerous segments and a large number of protruding legs.

Centipedes, contrary to the name, do not have 100 legs. The number of legs ranges from 30-300. They are carnivorous and have some modified venomous legs. They move at a greater speed and usually have a flat body. Centipedes usually occupy damp and moist environments but are also common in many homes. They are found in unused water pipes and sewer lines, and any moist or wet holes around the structure of the house. They are usually attracted by the abundance of household pests like cockroaches and their venom is also dangerous to humans.

Millipedes, however, are more gentle and friendlier compared to their centipede counterpart. They also do not have 1000 legs, as the name may suggest, but rather have between 300-750 legs. They are predominantly herbivorous and are common in most back yard gardens. However, unfavourable weather patterns can cause them to seek shelter inside the house.

Crustacea: Crabs, Lobsters, and Woodlice

Crustacea is derived from a Latin word crusta which means a shell or crust. This Arthropoda subphylum consists of invertebrate species with a hard shell-like exoskeleton. They usually have five pairs of jointed legs, and in most species, the front pair of legs are modified to form strong pincers or claws. Common types include crabs, shrimps, lobsters, prawns, skrill, and woodlice.

Most crustacean anthropods are aquatic species and are only found in homes as pets, decorations, or at the dinner table. However, some crustaceans are terrestrial land-based anthropods and can set up habitats in and around the house. Common types of terrestrial crustaceans found in and around the house are pillbugs and sowbugs collectively referred to as woodlice. These are nocturnal anthropods, they spend most of the day hiding behind old wood structures of the house. At nightfall, they are scavengers, feeding on both dead and live plant and animal debris. They are considered a household pest and can cause serious structural damage to the house if left unchecked.

Sharing a Home with Arthropods

Most people are not aware of an arthropod ecosystem happening right under their roof. When we think of our houses, we think we know every square inch of the house. the truth is, we only know the parts of the house we use, the rest are arthropod habitats. The ceilings are occupied by arachnid spider webs and nests. The living rooms, bedrooms, couch, and kitchen shelves are all inhabited by different types of bugs. The hidden water pipes and sewer lines are occupied by centipedes and crustaceans. The backyard garden has all types of winged insects.

The whole arthropod family is virtually staying rent-free in our homes. We have lived with them for the majority of our lives, and we have shared good and bad memories. It is therefore important to at least know their names.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 AL


Medical khan on May 04, 2020:

Well work yhaaa

AL (author) on May 03, 2020:

Appreciate it, Medical Khan.

AL (author) on May 03, 2020:

Same situation here Liz,

I spent two days indoors and starting noticing I live in a jungle. At least I am very familiar with all the bugs I see in the house. Strange ones are the ones that give me nightmares.

Medical khan on May 02, 2020:

Tnx for this information.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 02, 2020:

Spending more time at home in lockdown, I am noticing a few more bugs around.