Spiders vs conkers: the definitive guide – The Reaction – entertainment and engagement with chemistry
Last year the RSC launched a huge public investigation into a matter of national importance: are spiders afraid of conkers? Here’s all the evidence for and against, and the conclusion we came to
A national competition led to hundreds of letters, emails, photos and videos, and some more creepy things, being sent to the RSC, and we eventually ruled that the best evidence provided showed the old wives’ tale to be false.
This year has seen much activity in the spider/conker sphere, so I’m going to use this opportunity to lay out everything we considered, and our reasons for coming to the verdict that no, spiders are not afraid of conkers.
A short history of nearly everything (spiders- and conkers-related)
Several people in the RSC offices were passing around tips as another wet, warm British summer gave way to a wet, warm British autumn. The weather was perfect breeding conditions for house spiders, said the papers at the time, so many were complaining of the recent influx, and searching for a solution.
According to sources such as “my mum”, “my grandmother” and “the guy next door”, the most effective way of deterring autumnal arachnids was to strategically place fresh conkers (also known as horse chestnuts) around the home. The office rumour became more widespread and filtered its way through to the press office, whose first thought was, of course, “I wonder if there’s any chemistry in that?”