Although some spiders are globally invasive, found at high densities, and may be considered pests (particularly those that are toxic to humans), there are few pest management methods based on experimental data. 'Common wisdom' and advertisements on internet websites assert that a number of natural substances repel spiders. We tested whether the three substances cited most frequently (lemon oil, peppermint oil, and chestnut-fruits) effectively repelled female spiders or whether these were myths. We presented each of the putative repellents versus a control in a two-choice assay and tested responses of females of three invasive spider species in two different families: theridiids, Latrodectus geometricus C. L. Koch (Araneae: Theridiidae) and Steatoda grossa C. L. Koch (Araneae: Theridiidae) and the araneid, Araneus diadematus Clerck . Chestnuts (Araneae: Araneidae) and mint oil strongly repelled L. geometricus and A. diadematus. S. grossa was less sensitive to these chemicals but had a slight tendency to avoid chestnuts. However, lemon oil, the substance most likely to be cited as a repellent (over 1,000,000 hits on Google), had no effect on any of these spiders. We conclude that volatiles released by mint oil and chestnuts may be effective in deterring spider settlement in two different families of spiders, but lemon oil as a repellent is a myth.
Keywords: Latrodectus geometricus; essential oil; internet myths; pest management; spider repellent.
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