British homes are braced for an invasion of 150 MILLION spiders this autumn, but could the arachnids be defeated by an unlikely enemy – the humble conker?
There is an old wives’ tale that spiders have a morbid fear of horse chestnuts and can prevent the eight-legged visitors coming into your home, but is this scientifically true?
Do conkers keep spiders away?
Many panicked people leave horse chestnuts on window ledges and under sofas to deter the arachnids from taking shelter in their home.
Scientists have cast doubt on the theory and are divided over whether the saponin found in conkers is an effective spider repellent.
German chemist Hartmut Foerster described the chemical as “toxic” to insects, although spiders aren’t insects, and other people say it gives a smell that repels spiders.
Dr Geoff Oxford of the British Arachnological Society said the Royal Society of Chemists debunked the conker myth in 2010.
Pupils of Roselyon Primary School in Cornwall won a prize from the RSC that year for their informal study showing that spiders were not phased by conkers.
In the study, the kids placed spiders in boxes with conkers and found the arachnids climbed over the seeds.
And they were also placed in a water tank with the choice of a wooden or conkers bridge, and many chose the conkers bridge.
Are there any other ways to stop spiders coming into your house?
- Spraying peppermint scented air freshener around your home is a tried and tested trick as spiders hate the smell of mint.
- And homeowners are advised to hoover their floors and carpets regularly so to pick up any stray crumbs that can attract tasty bugs that spiders love.
- Remove any webs that crop up and try to fill in any gaps in pipework, door and window frames, skirting boards and masonry to keep the creeps out.
- Removing any sheltering sites like compost piles and garden bags from near the outside of your home is another way to deter the insects, alongside using lighting that is less attractive to the flies which spiders feed on.
- Animals, and particularly cats, chase anything that moves and will fight off those unwanted bugs before you notice they are there.
Why do spiders come into homes in the autumn?
Spiders tend to flock to shelter in late summer and early autumn to find a mate and prepare for the winter.
Giant house spiders are said to be eyeing up breeding grounds under the nation’s sofas and beds as the spider-nesting season starts.
They seek out white walls and surfaces so they stand out to potential mates — so that’s why they often seem to appear in the bath.
Naturalist Malcolm D Welshman said the warm summer produced more flies for the spiders to feed on and with increased food the population has dramatically increased.
Terrifying photos showed giant “sex-starved spiders” in homes already and some are so big they set off burglar alarms.
The spiders, that go by the scientific name Eratigena atrica, can grow to three inches in size and are among the quickest in the world covering two feet per second.
But reassuring arachnophobes, Simon Garrett, head of Conservation Learning at Bristol Zoological Society, said: “Spiders don’t specifically want to enter your home, in fact, they’d rather stay away as there’s less food and it’s too dry and clean.
“It is the need to mate that changes their behaviour.”