Spider Season in Cornwall

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.

A Spider–Not One of Ours. Photo by Stefan-Xp

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?

14 thoughts on “Spider Season in Cornwall

  1. Your lack of experience in the U.S. with spiders must be due to living in the city! When I lived in the suburbs, we had tons of them when the weather started to cool. I don’t see them as much in Virginia, but I did in Illinois, Iowa & Nebraska (I’m not talking rural areas – all suburbs).

    In Nebraska, we had big spiders invade the house regularly. I did find that putting bleach down the drains helped a lot to deter them.

    There is nothing worse than going out to the cars in the morning and walking into a spider web. Ick!



  2. There are spiders in Germany too! They live in my sister-in-law’s guest bathroom. I have to put my specs on, check out the situation, remove my glasses and shower quickly before I think one might be back! She lives in a town but with a rather wild garden. We have very few here but we’re on the second floor (third for you) and so I just find the odd cobweb.


  3. It’s officially fall in Minnesota now and yes, we have spiders, centipedes, and slugbugs scurrying indoors. According to the outdoorsman I married, spiders thrive in a moist environment. So hereabouts, they’re particularly plentiful on any properties near water. Apparently the pest removal folks make a bundle from repeat customers. No one has yet offered a solution to the slugbug problem, though. Fortunately, my individual bugs are not nearly as large as those you reported on in an earlier post. The bold critters that wander past my line of vision end up squished in a tissue or tossed into the fireplace when it’s in use.


    • Well, dampness explains it, then. This green and pleasant land (as Billy Blake put it) comes at the cost of lots of rain.
      And thanks, Terri, for your email, which is too good to keep to myself: “Even though he’s in the neighbourhood of six feet tall . . .”

      “Oh, oh–looks like you’re picking up some British customs in spite of yourself. (That would be the “u” following the “o” in “neighbourhood.)”


  4. Eastern Washington boondocks – and YES, we have spiders! Every now and then I whack away at the cobwebs, but mostly I let them be at least until they are thickly festooned with flies. And if that sounds disgusting to you, I would like to point out that it’s no more disgusting than flypapers hanging from the ceiling, which is still considered quite respectable as far as I know, and considerably less disgusting than flies having sex in your lunch.


  5. I get spiders that lurk in the edges of window frames. They are repulsive looking things, but never wander away from their webs. It took me years to work out why my arachnophobic friend would never sit in the comfy chair near the window, choosing instead the more uncomfortable wooden one. I just thought she was being polite, or looking after her back. Then I realised that she didn’t like being that close to the spiders, even though they were on the outside of the window!


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