Kitchen Science: Are Spiders Repelled by Conkers?

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This sweet video depicts a series of experiments conducted by a classroom of kids at Roselyon School in Cornwall. In short, they are testing an old wives' tale that suggests that placing conkers -- horse chestnuts -- along skirting boards or at the edges of doorways might deter spiders from entering a building. But does this actually work, and if so, how? The modern scientific brain might wonder whether some chemical odor released by the fruit of the horse chestnut tree or perhaps the waxy glossiness of the kids favorite autumnal twine-suspended weapon sends the arachnids scuttling back to whence they came.

3 responses so far

  • Jac says:

    I really liked this! Are spiders sensitive to sound?

    • grrlscientist says:

      jac: i think you could set up an experiment that tests this question -- are you game to do so? one thing to keep in mind is that sound is actually waves, either traveling through the air or through a "solid" material (like the earth, or wood, or whatever). my guess, based on spider behavior, is that spiders are sensitive to sould traleing through something "solid" -- hence the rapid response to an insect trapped in the web. but this raises two questions; do spiders respond to air-borne sound waves? which frequencies of sound waves might spiders respond to?

      if you design such an experiment, i hope you let us know -- we'd be interested to learn your results.

  • Peggy says:

    I love this. It looks like the kids are having a great time.

    When I saw the title I thought it was going to be about eels (congers) and was having a hard time imagining how that would work. Actually, I don't think chestnuts makes any more sense than eels, but at least they wouldn't smell up your house.