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Do conkers keep spiders away? And other conker facts and uses

Autumn is on its way and soon enough, kids everywhere will begin preparing for conker championships. While researching tips on getting our conkers ready for battle, we started to wonder what else conkers are good for. So we looked it up and debunked a few myths along the way. Check out our top six facts and uses for conkers.

If you're an arachnophobe, conkers might not be much help! (Photo: Claire Borrowdale/WTML)
If you're an arachnophobe, conkers might not be much help! (Photo: Claire Borrowdale/WTML)

 

1. Conkers might not repel spiders

Unfortunately, there’s no proof this is true. The story goes that conkers contain a noxious chemical that repels spiders but no-one’s ever been able to scientifically prove it. There’s hearsay that if a spider gets close to a conker it will curl its legs up and die within one day.

Others say spiders will happily crawl over conkers with no ill effects at all. Plenty of people swear by conkers for spider control, what do you think?

2. Conkers can help fix sprains and bruises

It is said that horse chestnut is so named because its seeds were once used to treat ailments in horses. It turns out that aescin, which can be extracted from conkers, has anti-inflammatory effects and is an effective remedy for sprains and bruises for humans.

Conkers are common but far from ordinary. (Photo: Ben Lee/WTML)
Conkers are common but far from ordinary. (Photo: Ben Lee/WTML)

3. The Victorians baked with with conker flour

The Victorians wrote recipes for making conker flour. The seeds were shelled, ground and then leached to remove bitter flavours. It’s not a common practice these days because conkers are mildly poisonous, so we can’t imagine Conker Bread Week on the Great British Bake Off. We recommend sticking to to self-raising!

4. Conkers in your wardrobe could help deter moths

If moths are munching their way through your winter wardrobe then conkers could be the answer. The horse chestnut seeds contain a chemical called triterpenoid saponin that wards off pesky pests. Place fresh conkers in among your clothes and as they dry out they emit the moth-repellent.

Pick up some conkers on your next walk for all your household needs. (Photo: Ben Lee/WTML)
Pick up some conkers on your next walk for all your household needs. (Photo: Ben Lee/WTML)

5. You can get clean with horse chestnut soap

The saponins in conkers are soap-like chemicals that are sometimes added to shampoos and shower gels. It is thought that the Vikings, who were apparently surprisingly clean, made their soap out of soaked, crushed up conkers. We might give this one a go!

6. Conkers make great arts and crafts materials

The conker holds endless arty potential, one of our favourites is a doll’s house chair. Simply collect the shiniest conkers you can find and then carefully stick 4 toothpicks underneath to make legs and an arc of toothpicks around the top to create a chair back. Weave wool in and out of the arc of toothpicks and hey presto; a beautiful doll-sized chair!

There’s so much more to conkers than meets the eye. What’ll you use yours for this autumn?

Record your conker finds on Nature’s Calendar

The Nature’s Calendar project tracks the effects of weather and climate change on wildlife across the UK – its records date all the way back to 1736! Spotting your first ripe horse chestnuts is one of 69 wildlife events recorded for the project.

Join Nature’s Calendar to record your sightings - every record is important. The data recorded helps us to better understand the effects of climate change and other patterns in the natural environment. By taking just a few minutes to share what you see, you'll be adding to hundreds of years' worth of important data for studies worldwide. We couldn't do this work without you!

Track nature with Nature's Calendar

Record your findings today