Posted by: lensweb | October 3, 2014

Do Spiders like Conkers?

Do Spiders like Conkers?

Sitting at a friend’s house I saw a huge black and hairy house spider, walking up the wall.  I was hoping her husband would play the knight as I wanted to hear the sound the spider made when it was unceremoniously scooped up into a white handkerchief and thrust out into the dark and cold garden. I have never heard a spider squeak but I had already been told that squeaking spiders were resident.

Spiders are most noticeable in Autumn as having finished moulting they are able to venture further in the damper evenings. Males become nomadic, searching for females swollen with eggs. If they crawl into our warm houses we should be grateful as they offer a pest control service eating fleas, lice and silverfish, but somehow we don’t feel comfortable with them lurking about. Whenever you see one making itself comfortable in your own home, the compulsion is to take it out and set it free in the garden.   I don’t subscribe to the handkerchief method but cover the poor beast with a glass, slip a card underneath for safe transport to the great outdoors. There is no doubt that any person killing a spider should be despised.

I don’t see many money spiders these days which is a great shame as we know they bring luck if thrown over the shoulder. I am kept quite busy taking window spiders Amaurobius similis outside, I wonder if they mind which side of the window they live? Sleek mouse spiders Scotophaeus blackwalli are my favourites, never venturing far from a narrow crevice they are usually granted residency.

mouse spider 23 le300509 1280 copy

Mouse Spider Photo credit Marion Bryce

In recent years the daddy long legs spider Pholcus phalangioides has moved in from the south. It really is a conundrum how a brain, a heart, booklungs and other vital organs are squeezed into such a narrow body, and how can such spindly legs be of use in locomotion?

Accidental invaders are the garden cross spiders Araneus diademata which come in with the washing off the line. Best to shake it thoroughly.  In autumn, there is no doubt I will see, last thing at night, nonchalantly  walking across the ceiling, a conspicuous house spider of the Tegenaria genus. My cat Kato used to enjoy eating these. It was a bit disconcerting to see the pleasure on his face as his whiskers were extended by black dangly legs. I guess it was like sucking a sweet. I was most impressed by the lucky spider on a web in the corner of the window at my Polish Grandmothers’ but the house proud Pole had no intention of giving house room to a real arachnid.

A visiting engineer arrived with pockets bulging with shining red brown conkers.  Smiling,  I thought ‘grandchildren’ but no, these were for his wife to spread around the house to ward off spiderish invasions. The Royal Society of Chemistry  are offering a prize to anyone who can provide persuasive evidence that placing conkers on windowsills,  in the corner of rooms and behind pieces of furniture really does repel the annual spider invasion, whether there is any truth in this ‘old wives’ tale’.

The RSC, said: ‘We have been told that conkers do prevent invasion by spiders, apparently they have to be fairly fresh to have their deterrent effect.The  society is carrying out a trial of conkers in the homes of its staff, consulting biologists and insect and spider experts.

One lady contacted the RSC to say: ‘I’m terrified of spiders and have left fresh conkers round my home since early September after hearing about this old wives tale a couple of months ago. ‘For me it worked as 24 hours after placing the conkers near to doorways and windows all the spiders cleared off.’

Unprompted today, my friend regaled me with a chuckling tale regarding the inability of spiders to escape to the great outdoors across the conker barrier set by his old lady friend, so the jury is still out.

The most plausible explanation – if conkers do prove to deter spiders – is that the fruit contains a chemical that repels spiders.  Members of the public are invited to send photographic or video evidence, or supported written accounts, to the RSC at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, by the end of October

There are around 650 species of spider in the UK and if you still buy books I don’t think Dick Jones Guide to Spiders has yet been surpassed as a photographic guide illustrating the commoner British species?:

Country Life Guide to Spiders of Britain and Northern Europe: Dick Jones: Books:

There is a useful Aidgap Chart: A Guide to House and Garden Spiders: Lawrence Bee, Richard Lewington:

More spider ID :Spiders of Britain and Northern Europe Collins Field Guide: Michael J. Roberts: Books:

spiderJoin The British Arachnological Society

If you are not frightened of spiders check out this light hearted video

Marion Bryce 27 September 2014


  1. Another lovely article to chuckle over; thank you


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