Do Walnuts Repel Spiders? The Truth Behind this Nutty Story

Is using walnuts effective against spiders? Or is this just an old wives’ tale? Do walnuts repel spiders? Here’s what we have to say about that.

Do Walnuts Repel Spiders? The Truth Behind this Nutty Story

A lot of homeowners use walnuts to keep spiders off their houses. But do they work? CC Image courtesy of Pixabay and Judy Gallagher on Flickr

Can walnuts ward off spiders?

Unlike peppermint, lemon and lavender oils, raw walnuts have no significant scientific backing when it comes to deterring spiders. No special compounds or chemicals have even been studied by researchers to prove its repelling capabilities.

According to Snopes.com, a site specially dedicated to fact checking and debunking urban legends, the myth circulating the internet about walnuts and spiders came from a baseless 2015 meme. The meme was passed around on social media, and it claimed that putting walnut shells on windowsills or spider infested corners in your house repels the arachnids. The walnut, allegedly has “toxic chemicals” that the spiders hate. However, there’s currently no scientific evidence that proves any of this, not even just a mention of those chemicals’ names in smaller studies.  But since the meme has been picked up by a lot of blogs and pest control sites, it has gone mainstream.

Why is using walnuts so popular?

Apart from its head start as an infamous meme, the idea that walnuts can repel spiders is supported by another popular myth – the myth about spiders being able to “smell” like humans do.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a spider’s body is totally different from a human’s. However, one of the things that most homeowners mistakenly do is to mirror the human sense of smell to a spider’s alien-like senses.

According to Smithsonian Education, unlike us, spiders smell and taste through very tiny sensors on their legs, feet and pedipalps. Fundamentally, smelling and tasting is virtually the same for them since these are just by-products of chemical signals. So these arachnids “interpret” the chemicals that they touch, and that’s what you would consider as “smelling” and “tasting” for them. As they walk, the sensors help them make sense of their surroundings. This also is why essential oils work so well with these arachnids. Spraying oils on surfaces covers a lot of ground, and spiders can’t avoid smelling and tasting the oils when they walk on them.

So laying walnuts out in the windowsill and filling the house with a certain type of aroma only makes sense if you refer to a spider’s nose as something that’s the same as a human’s. But in truth, the walnut’s aroma spread in the air won’t do much to the spider. It can’t touch something that’s airborne after all.

Do other nuts repel spiders?

At this point, it all stems from the walnut myth. Just because walnuts are rumored to work on spiders doesn’t mean that other nuts do. There hasn’t been any evidence that can prove that otherwise. Horse chestnuts, for example, are a popular spider remedy in the UK. However, it’s also been found out that it contains no damning effects on spiders.

So for now, this old wives’ tale will remain a tale in our eyes. And our answer to the question Do walnuts repel spiders? is a firm NO. It’s better to look for other repellents that actually work against spiders, ones that have real scientific backing.

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