Spiders have moved into M.’s house, something he’s mentioned because he’s phobic about spiders and even with what he calls the arachnavac he still feels at a disadvantage. Even though he’s in the neighbourhood of six feet tall and none of them even come close. But being in possession of a phobia or two myself, I won’t try to make too much sense out of his. These fears don’t follow the rules of logic, they simply are.
But back to spiders: They’re moving into our house as well as his.
On an expat forum, I read a comment by an American asking, more or less, “What is it with all these spiders in the shower?” He was in some other part of the U.K., so based on that small and unscientific sample, I’m going to be reckless and say this is a nationwide issue.
A few years ago, I read that if you put a horse chestnut in every corner of a room, they’ll keep spiders out. This struck me a vaguely reasonable, since I happen to know that chestnut wood was used in the beams of at least one French chateau because it was thought to deter spiders from building webs.
Notice the weasel-word “thought” in that sentence. I didn’t notice it myself when I heard about the beams. I also didn’t—and still don’t—know how closely related the chestnut is to the horse chestnut. Still, when a catalogue slid through my door offering a horse-chestnut scented, spider-deterring spray, I bought a can. And sprayed around the windows most of that summer—or for as long as I remembered and could be bothered, whichever came first, and you can pretty well guess which that was.
I spent the rest of the summer sweeping cobwebs off the windows, just as I have every summer since I moved here. But I hadn’t been meticulous about using the spray, so I couldn’t have sworn the it didn’t work.
The next fall, Wild Thing and I were in Derbyshire (which in case you’re not British you’ll never guess is pronounced Darbysheer, but that belongs in another post), and horse chestnuts lay around for the taking. And take I did—enough for our house and a different M.’s as well, since she also has a thing about spiders. I didn’t know about the other M.’s spider phobia at the time or I’d have brought home all the horse chestnuts in Derbyshire.
Back in Cornwall, I set horse chestnuts in every corner of damn near every room, and M. did the same. It was late fall by then, and the spiders had already moved in, so it was hard to tell if the horse chestnuts worked. Winter came. A mouse came. The mouse found a horse chestnut and thought it had moved into the promised land.
The mouse got tossed back outside, without its prize horse chestnut.
The horse chestnuts waited for spring, and then for summer, and then for fall, when the spiders get serious about moving in.
I wish to report that horse chestnuts do not keep spiders away, and since they make mice very happy I’ve thrown ours out.
Every few days, I run around with a long-handled duster and dislodge as many spiders as I can from the ceiling and walls and, when I can, I carry them outside. Where for all I know they die of cold, but I’m not in charge of nature’s plan. At a certain point in this world of ours, you just have to turn off the empathy spigot. The trick is not to turn it off too soon and not to send yourself into meltdown by keeping it funning at full force every moment of every day. Sometimes I’m reduced to smashing the little bastards with my hand, which for all I know is kinder than letting them die of cold. Or quite possibly not. A certain number of them, though, hunker down in corners where I can’t get them out with a duster, and where the arachnavac won’t even get them loose. (Yes, I have arachnavacced. It strikes me as a miserable way for a creature to die, but I’ve done it.)
One particularly big spider lives down a duct that covers a heating pipe, and last winter I got serious about trying to get rid of it and thought I had, but I saw it again last week. Unless it’s another one. If I were arachnophobic, I’d be pretty well phobed out by it.
When I lived in the U.S., we never had spider season, and I don’t know if that’s because I always lived in cities (I’m way out in the country these days) or because the parts of the country I lived in didn’t have as many spiders or if the U.K. is some sort of spider capital to the world. If you’re in the mood to comment, I’d love to hear about what it’s like where you are. Do you have spiders moving in with you in the fall? Does it happen in cities or only in the countryside? Have you found a way to keep them out?