Fire ant chemicals may find use as eco-friendly spider deterrent

Although spiders do help us by eating pests such as mosquitos, many people still aren’t wild about having the things in their homes. Such folks may be interested in new research which suggests that ant chemicals could be used to harmlessly keep spiders away.

For the study, scientists from Canada’s Simon Fraser University started by exposing pieces of filter paper to three species of ants, each one of which deposited signal-sharing semiochemicals on a separate piece of the material. One of those species, the European fire ant (Myrmica rubra), preys on spiders.

Each of the papers – along with a control paper, that hadn’t been exposed to any ants – was subsequently placed in a separate chamber of a multi-chambered enclosure. When four common species of spiders were then given the chance to build webs within any of those chambers, they all tended to avoid the chamber containing the fire ant paper.

It is now hoped that either natural or synthetic European fire ant semiochemicals could one day be incorporated into products designed to keep spiders from settling in people’s homes, without harming the creatures or the environment (unlike insecticides).

And needless to say, because European fire ants are a potentially invasive and destructive species with a painful bite, the scientists do not recommend simply keeping the ants themselves in one’s home.

A paper on the research, which was led by PhD candidate Andreas Fischer, was recently published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Source: Simon Fraser University

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