Are spiders attracted to Sephora cosmetics?

I’m suddenly reading a viral anecdote all over the place — the claim that a “body butter” (whatever that is) called “Delícia Drench” and marketed by the cosmetics company, Sephora, attracts wolf spiders.

If you’re scared of wolf spiders- watch out for these lotions lol. I wanted to love them sooo bad, but one of the ingredients is like kryptonite to wolf spiders! When I put it on instantly one will come out. Normally I’ll see one every like 3 years, used this and it was every day. I stopped using it and haven’t seen one since…. oh and one time, the spider wanted to eat whatever ingredient it is so bad that it chased me. I swear on everything. I’d run left, it ran left, I ran right, it ran right. Like it was legit following the scent. And no, the scent isn’t that good, nothing a $5 vanilla cream can’t match. So yeah, do be careful if you’re frightened of spiders, especially the big wolf ones. Also, plz don’t hurt them if you do wear this & they appear. Use a cup and put them outside. Sorry for a disappointing review.

There are a few red flags here. It’s a negative review written by someone who apparently wants to discourage purchase of the product. It’s an account that says little more than that the writer noticed lots of spiders. I hate to tell you this, but I don’t use “body butter” and I can see swarms of wolf spiders in season — they’re ubiquitous and common. Wolf spiders scamper all over the place, they’re very active animals, so telling me that one seemed to be chasing you is unimpressive.

And that’s it. One anecdote. Why would anyone think it’s particularly interesting?

OK, then someone came up with a reasonable explanation for a particularly unsupported and unrepeated observation.

Hello. I just did a little dive into chemicals that attract spiders because I really don’t like bugs. Ao according to studies? There is a two component female produced pheromone of spider. It basically signals for sexual communication. The chemical analysis reveals that “farnesyl acetate, diisobutyl phthalate and hexadecyl acetate of the spider webs exhibited higher relative abundance in sexually receptive females” also, “Two choice behavioral essays verified that the blend of farnesyl acetate and hexadecyl acetate attracted males”.

Farnesyl acetate is primarily used in skincare for fragrance and same for Hexadecyl Acetate (cetyl acetate) for fruity smell and waxy appearance. Cetyle acetate is commonly used as a thickening agent for body cream and lotion.


Vaguely interesting. Spiders do a lot of chemical signaling, so finding that two common chemical signals are also present in the ingredient list of a beauty product does add the faintest patina of plausibility to the anecdote, which, I must add, has not been validated at all. I’m also dubious that a spider would find the the exact combination of these two chemicals on a surface at all appealing, and also not be thoroughly put off by all the other goop found in a product called “Delicia Drench.” It’s like suggesting that a dab of androstadienone, a putative human hormone, would make a compost heap irresistible to passing women.

I would need to see some actual empirical testing before I’d believe any of this. It’s possible but unlikely, and there’s no verified phenomenon that needs explanation. If I had some Delicia Drench in the house, I might test it in the spring — it would be easy, put a drop of the stuff in a cup at the bottom of a pit trap, and measure the frequency of wolf spiders caught relative to traps without the stuff. I’m just not interested enough to buy some Sephora gunk to see if it does anything.

Also, there’s no point: Sephora has rushed to claim that they have removed farnesyl acetate and hexadecyl acetate from their products!

I do not know if wolf spiders are actually sensitive to Delicia Drench, but I can at least say that capitalist corporations are extremely sensitive to rumors that might compromise profitability.

Please, everyone, learn to question tenuous claims that lack any empirical support!


  1. nomdeplume says

    These days you can say anything, anything at all, and if it has the slightest whiff of the chemicals that attract media interest it will be reproduced uncritically all over the world and be believed by millions.

  2. Artor says

    Morticia Addams is not happy to read your rebuttal, Professor Myers. She thought she’d found the perfect makeup.

  3. John Morales says

    larpar, heh. The writer clearly meant something like ‘catnip’, and got it entirely wrong.

    (But then, I often see people write about ‘ancestors’ when they mean ‘descendants’, being similarly ignorant about the terms they use)

  4. hemidactylus says

    One thing that crossed my mind is that you might not be considering Delicia Drench as a lure to get more spiders in your clutches. If it worked you could become Spider King with a reality show and everything. Forget Peter Parker. All the cool spiders would literally be hanging around your house like the Timothy Leary of hippie spiders. I would make a joke about Spider Woodstock but that might be more attractive to hippie termites.

  5. says

    An anecdote, but others could check it. Last summer I washed my hair with a “Green Apple” scented shampoo. Soon after Joan and I took our lunch plates out on the patio, hoping to eat there until the yellow-jackets (Vespa) found us. They found me before I could sit down but they were not interested in the food I was carrying, but instead in my face and the skin on my arms. For those who wish to conduct trials, it was Suave “Juicy Green Apple” Shampoo. Not to be eaten, though.

  6. lanir says

    It doesn’t so much sound like they’re claiming to have removed it as much as they’re saying it wasn’t there in the first place. So basically this reads like a company and their expensive product got internet famous for having magic spider screw-me juice which it didn’t have in what was supposed to be a human screw-me/hydrating cream. Or at least a skin lotion with an inoffensive scent.

    On a completely unrelated note, I’m selling internet expert hats for free. You can pay me later. Ignore the fact that they just look like a picture of a bog standard propeller beanie. No refunds!

  7. EigenSprocketUK says

    PZ has perfected the formula for attracting, from the tiniest corners of the internet, even tangentially spider-related anecdotes — no matter how credulous.

  8. StevoR says

    Are spiders attracted to Sephora cosmetics?

    Dunno. Ask them..?

    Or y’know research this peroperly..

  9. wzrd1 says

    I’d pay real money to watch the committee review the grand proposal.
    Extra to give commentary while it’s being reviewed, which will turn the chuckles into guffaws.
    Still, just playing bug on the wall would be fine fun.

  10. John Morales says

    Why are people so very literal?

    (Or is it mere ignorance?)

    From Wikipedia:
    “Arachnida includes, among others, spiders, scorpions, ticks, mites, pseudoscorpions, harvestmen, camel spiders, whip spiders and vinegaroons.”