Takeaway: Do hedge apples actually keep the spiders away? This question has gotten a lot of discussion here's the fact behind why they are ineffective for spider repellent.
It is common among home maintenance and gardening blogs to recommend hedge apples as a natural spider and insect repellant.
They prefer these fruits over store-bought repellents because it is cheaper, produces less waste, and organic.
However, is there truth to this? Or is this just a typical case of a myth that stuck with homeowners over the years.
Let us discuss if hedge apples really repel or keep spiders away? and what is the scientific basis on this, if there is any.
What is a hedge apple?
Hedge apple is the fruit of multiple fruit families. It is also called as Osage orange but its scientific name is "maclura pomifera". It is a small round fruit which has a green color and bumpy skin.
The tree itself is tolerant of any conditions which makes it a durable plant.It can withstand extreme heat, unhealthy soil, and generally bad weather conditions. The plant can also be easily transplanted which makes it a good natural hedge or fence in most houses.
It has a distant relationship to the orange fruit despite being called Osage orange. Rather, the hedge apple is a member of the mulberry family, Moraceae.
It is not present in most human and animal diets because the fruit secretes a latex liquid when cut and its pulp has a woody texture.
Due to being unwanted by most living creatures, the fruit is called a”ghost of evolution.” This is because unlike most plants who has a benefit to another creature in its ecosystem, the hedge apple has none.
It remains popular to many homeowners as a DIY pest and spider repellant. Does science back this up? Let us discuss in the next section.
The science behind hedge apples as spider repellent
We will say it straight: there is no scientific evidence yet that the hedge apple is an effective repellent. The only study that discusses the pest-repelling properties of the hedge apple is a 10-year old study from the University of Illinois.
Robert Frazee, a retired instructor for the Natural Sciences department of the University of Illinois, conducted a study in 2009 regarding the topic at the Iowa State University.
He discovered that, along with other toxicologists from the same university, that in close quarters, that slices of hedge apples did indeed repel German cockroaches, mosquitoes, and houseflies (these were the tested insects but it seems that spiders were not included in the test).
However, there is no evidence yet that sliced hedge apples work as a repellent in large spaces. This is usually the case for most homeowners: they put the slices in open spaces like the garage, basement, and even the foundation of the house hoping the fruit can repel insects.
do hedge apples keep spiders away?
The smell of osage orange balls will keep away your friends, but not spiders. There is also no evidence if hedge apples also called hedge ball can repel spiders, centipedes, and millipedes. The 2009 study at the Iowa State University regarding the topic shows has not tested the apples with spiders but tested it with other insects. It was found that the apples were essentially ineffective as a repellent.
Other sources indicate that the liquid from the apple should be concentrated first before being effective. This is an efficient method compared to just using repellent sprays or hiring a pest control officer regularly.
If you are deciding to use the fruit as an insect repellent. You may be just wasting time and money.
First, the latex secretion is found to be irritating to the human skin. You need gloves or any other protection when handling, especially slicing the fruit.
Second, if it does work as a repellent, you need large amounts of hedge apple extract. Also, as said earlier, it did not work on open spaces and has not been tested on spiders.
While we want to use organic products as much as possible, it seems that there is no scientific evidence about hedge apples being used to repel insects.
What is a hedge apple good for?
Hedge apples are still being used as a repellent due to many anecdotes, some of which can be doubtful, online of it working. Let us discuss how the fruit is being used in modern times.
How to Use Hedge Apples as Pest repellent
The traditional method of using this fruit as a repellent is as follows:
- Get at least two hedge apples per area. So, if you want to put it in the laundry room, basement, attic, you need at least 6 regular sized hedge apples.
- Crush the slices with a hammer or big rock. Remember to wear eye and skin protection like sunglasses, long sleeve shirts, and gloves.
- Put the crushed slices and its extracts in an open bowl.
- The open bowl should be put where there is air moving. It will be useless if it is contained in a tightly secluded place. It is said that the slices can last for two to 3 months.
In a blog online, one user complained that the hedge apples delivered opposite results. When she put it in her house to repel spiders, gnats were attracted to the fruit instead. Also, the fruit emitted a bad smell due to being rotten.
The wood of the hedge apple tree is dense and heavy making it a good choice for fence posts, shelves, archery bows, and other fixtures.
Also, the wood ages well since it starts out a bit yellowish and turns into a mature-looking brown color over time. The wood also has little shrinkage over other woods.
Some use it for decorative purposes since it has a fine and swirly grain to it which can work well in most house designs.
Meanwhile, the plant itself is used as a hedge or a windbreaker. Since it is can withstand strong winds, it is a good shield to houses who does not want to lose soil due to the winds or those taking care of livestock.
No scientific evidence yet that it actually repels spiders, and even insects.
The only way to know if hedge apples keep the spiders away is to try it yourself. You can always ask your neighbors or the owner of a fruit stand in your market for some hedge apples.
Just do the listed instructions above and see if it works.
Just make sure you are wearing the proper protective apparel when dealing with hedge apples. After all, you want to get rid of the pests and not hurt yourself.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.