Prompted by early autumn calls from members of the public the Royal Society of Chemistry wants to investigate if there's a chemical in fresh conkers that spiders find repulsive.
To that end RSC is offering a £300 reward to anybody furnishing persuasive evidence to back recent claims that conkers left near doors and on window-ledges prevent spiders invading homes.
The 46,000-member society has been approached by people asking what material in conkers would have the power to deter unwanted eight-legged visitors from scuttling into houses.
The organisation is consulting colleagues in the biological and insect community to see if there is any simple explanation for the reported phobia suffered by spiders.
And the RSC is employing the emerging conker-spider theory to publicise a newly-acquired service called ChemSpider, a free, publicly-available, database of approximately 22 million chemical structures.
Providing access to almost 21.5 million unique chemical entities sourced from over 200 different data sources and integration to a multitude of other online services, ChemSpider is the richest single source of structure-based chemistry information.
Jon Edwards, of the RSC, said today: "We have been told by external contacts that conkers do prevent invasion by spiders. Apparently they have to be fairly fresh to have their deterrent effect. But there are claims on the web, pardon the pun, that spiders don't like them at all and steer clear, which to those suffering arachnophobia is great news."
To win the prize members of the public need to send evidence, photographic or video, or supported written accounts, to Jon Edwards either by post or email.
The deadline has now passed.
Chemspider ChemSpider is a free access service providing a structure centric community for chemists.