Are spiders really scared of conkers? Norwich scientists investigate

Dr Ian Bedford, head of entomology at the John Innes Centre, working with house spiders and conkers

Dr Ian Bedford, head of entomology at the John Innes Centre, working with house spiders and conkers and whether the old wives tale of conkers being used to get rid of spiders is true. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2014

With the autumn invasion of spiders well under way, it will be welcome news to many. Academics at Norwich's John Innes Centre have launched a study to investigate the science behind the oft-repeated claim that the creatures can be warded off by placing conkers around the home.

The team plan to undertake their own tests of the theory in laboratory conditions, but have also appealed for readers to come forward with their own experiences.

They will be examining whether different ways of treating the conker – by crushing or peeling them, for instance – has any differing impact, as well as how different species of spider react.

Dr Ian Bedford, the centre's head of entomology, said: 'We've certainly been receiving lots of enquiries from people as to whether this old wives' tale actually works or not.

'So, here at the John Innes Centre's entomology facility, we've decided to try to investigate further and would like to hear from readers who have tried using conkers and whether they've had any success or not.


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'We want to know where the conkers were set up, if they were used whole, crushed, peeled or drilled with holes, or singly or in groups.

'We also want to know what types of spiders are usually seen in people's houses, with size and colour, if possible, and where the invading spiders are usually seen, on the floor, walls or ceiling and whether they have worked.'

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In the past, members of the public have contacted the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) asking whether the old wives' tale is true. But there is not believed to be any scientific evidence supporting the theory. However, conkers are said to contain a naturally-occurring substance called saponin, which repels spiders, lice, fleas and ticks.

Conkers are the seeds of horse chestnut trees and the name conker is also applied to the tree itself.

The smell of conkers can be made more pungent by making a small hole in the conker. Conkers spray can also be bought on the internet and then used on windows and doors.

Email answers to ian.bedford@jic.ac.uk along with any digital pictures you may have taken.

What old wives' tales do you believe in? Email david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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