Arachnophobes, be prepared for a tough few months.
In the last weeks of September, when the summer starts to cool off and damper weather draws in, your home will become a prime hook-up spot for the autumnal spider mating season, so you can expect a few more eight-legged friends than usual creeping around your walls.
If you are terrified of spiders, you've no doubt spent many evenings Googling “how to keep spiders out of my life” and been confronted with a bunch of old wives' tales and semi-scientific-sounding anecdotes.
But what can you really do to keep these misunderstood arachnids out of your home? Well, we regret to inform you that the jury is still out on horse chestnuts and nice-smelling oils.
A small study published in the Journal of Economic Entomology last year tested out three regularly cited all-natural spider repellents – lemon oil, peppermint oil, and horse chestnuts (aka conkers) – and their efficiency at repelling female spiders. The researchers noted that lemon oil was the most frequently cited repellent on Google, however, they found no evidence that it had any effect on the spiders. Peppermint oil did, however, show some apparent repellent effects on two out of three species of spider, deterring spiders in more than 75 percent of tests. To a lesser extent, conkers also had a mild deterrent effect on two spider species.
However, many arachnologists will argue that in reality, natural deterrents don't work.
“There is no research that shows anything like that is a deterrent to spiders,” Paul Hetherington of the charity Buglife told The Guardian in 2015.
As a total contradiction to that study, schoolkids from the UK won a prize from The Royal Society of Chemistry for their investigation into whether spiders really are repelled by conkers. According to their little classroom experiment, the conker theory was a load of nonsense as the spiders showed absolutely no signs of being deterred by them.
There’s very little in the way of hard scientific evidence to say that any pungent-smelling herb or natural ingredient is enough to totally dissuade spiders, whether it’s vinegar, tobacco, or any essential oil.
That said, there are some more straight-forward solutions.
It’s often theorized that humans first teamed up with cats in order to deter pests like rats and mice. Cats can also do a pretty good job at hunting and eating spiders. Provided the spider isn’t a deadly venomous species, it’s very rare that chowing down on a spider will make your cat sick.
Regularly cleaning your house can also help keep spiders at bay, as boring as that might sound. Simply by vacuuming or dusting your floors and the corners of rooms, you can disturb their nests and sweep up crumbs that could attract them. It will also reduce the number of small flies and mites, which spiders like to feed on.
You can also stop spiders from getting into your house by sealing up any cracks in the walls or draughty gaps in the floorboards. Most obviously of all, keep your windows and doors shut as much as possible.
Although this won’t be much help to genuine arachnophobes, it’s worth remembering that only a tiny number of the 43,000 species of spider are actually dangerous. Most are 100 percent harmless and not out to feast on your blood. Furthermore, they also play an important role in controlling a whole host of genuine pests like flies.
If all else fails and you’re still not convinced, you can always live in the world's first spider-proof shed with a “10-year anti-spider-infestation guarantee” for just $3,250.