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Scared of spiders? New research from B.C. university may provide a safe solution

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Simon Fraser University researchers say a spider's ability to sniff out a certain species of ants could lead to a safe spider repellent for humans.

“When the number of ants increases in a garden, the number of spiders decline,” SFU scientist Andreas Fischer told CTV News. “And we wanted to know why.”

The researchers chose the common false black widow spider to study because of its proximity to humans. The harmless species can be found in and around buildings and walls.

The spiders were tested with a number of different kinds of ants and the research found that only the European fire ants repelled all the spiders tested. Other types of ants repelled only some of the spiders.

Fischer told CTV News that while spiders are very good for the environment, people with an irrational fear of spiders will do irrational things to repel them like spraying their homes with dangerous chemicals.

“There’s currently nothing safe on the market to repel spiders,” said Fischer. “We want to come up with a solution.”

The SFU testing was conducted before the pandemic and published in the Royal Society Open Science. When the research resumes this summer, the next step will be to try to identify the chemical that prompted the spiders to avoid the ants.

“Once we know the chemical, we will then test it to see if it’s safe for humans, pets and the environment,” says Fischer.

Fischer strongly advises people with a fear of spiders, also called arachnophobes, not to try bringing European fire ants into their gardens to stave off spiders.

“The ants are highly aggressive,” said Fischer, and they have a very painful sting. He added that they replicate very quickly and each nest contains hundreds of thousands of ants.

When asked why anyone would knowingly bring fire ants on to their property, he repeated, “people with irrational fears, do irrational things.” Top Stories

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