Wasp Spray for Self-Defense; A Dangerous Myth

Wasp Spray for Self-Defense; A Dangerous Myth


This Self-Defense Myth, spread by word of mouth, email or YouTube videos, claims Wasp or Hornet Spray is more effective and cheaper than O.C Spray commonly called “Pepper Spray” these claims include being more effective against violence committed by a human. This is outright FALSE. It could get you killed.

There are almost 2 million uniformed Police Officers in the United States that carry O.C. Spray. Not even one of these 2 million officers carry “Wasp Spray”. I wonder why?

It is a violation of federal law to use a pesticide in a manner that differs from the product labeling (and it is labeled for wasps, hornets, yellow jackets) if there was a reaction like blindness you could have big problems. (see product label below).

There are several O.C. Sprays that will shoot 15 to 18 feet and shoot at least 7-10 bursts. Included are: Mace Brand Pepper Spray Gun, Kimber Pepper Blaster, Mace Brand Pepper Spray Magnum 10% Pepper Gel, SABRE Red Pepper Gel – Police Strength. The should be worn on your belt or in a holster, not put in a purse. In the event of criminal attack, you may have only 1 to 3 seconds to retrieve the O.C. spray and fire.

Wasp Spray is Not a Substitute for Pepper Spray 
Gun violence this fall at schools and colleges across the nation helps keep a contemporary legend alive. One version of the legend tells of a church receptionist working in a high-risk area who kept a can of wasp spray on her desk.

Why wasp spray should not be used for defense
1. There’s no research to suggest wasp spray would stop an attacker.
2. Using a pesticide in a manner other than according to labeled directions is a violation of federal law (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act).
3. It is illegal (finable offense) for anyone to recommend a use other than the labeled use.
4. Personal liability is likely to be significant for a person who deliberately sprays another person with a pesticide. If it happens to cause, say retina damage to an eye, you have then used deadly force because permanent, serious physical injuries resulted. Since it is not approved for humans and never tested on humans you do not have the defense you would if O.C Spray cause the same result.
5. Pesticides such as wasp spray have not been tested on humans. Direct human toxicity data comes from records of accidental exposures and suicide attempts.
6. Poison control records document an amazing number of people who have accidentally sprayed themselves or innocent bystanders when using aerosol cans. An emergency may exacerbate that reaction.

Pepper sprays
Capsaicin, the active heat ingredient from cayenne peppers, is used in the temporarily debilitating pepper spray weapons for personal protection. Canisters of pepper spray (also known as OC spray or oleoresin capsicum) dispense a solution containing capsaicin, an inflammatory agent which affects the eyes, respiratory system, skin and muscle coordination.

Wasp sprays
The active ingredients in most wasp sprays contain pyrethrins or pyrethroids. They are derived from a species of the chrysanthemum plant and affect the nervous system.

What Do the Experts Say?
Janet Hurley, an Extension Specialist with the School Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program through Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, got many questions from school districts at the beginning of this school year. Hurley provided one example, “A school district in north Texas was inspecting its campuses at the beginning of the school year. The IPM coordinators kept noticing cans of wasp killer in the offices of the school secretaries. Since the school follows IPM and has a policy about only licensed applicators making pesticide applications, the coordinators began to ask questions. Apparently, the secretaries had heard from a law enforcement person who said a can of wasp killer could injure an attacker at 10 feet and therefore would be a way to keep an intruder from school.”
Pesticide experts from Extension services at land-grant universities emphasize the public should use pepper sprays and pesticides only for their intended uses, and ask the public to help debunk urban legends about using wasp spray for defense. They also advise individuals to check with local law enforcement departments for specific laws about the possession and use of pepper spray products.

Catherine Daniels, PhD, Washington State University,
Janet Hurley, MPA, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service,
ja-Kaci Buhl, MS, Oregon State University

This is typical of a warning label approved by the EPA:


  • Wasps,
  • Bees,
  • Hornets,
  • Yellowjackets, and
  • Spiders


  • Prallethrin [(RS)2-Methyl-4-oxo-3(2-propynyl)
  • cyclopent-2-enyl-(1RS)-cis,
  • trans-chrysanthemate]….0.1%

TOTAL: 100.0%

*Contains Petroleum Distillate Contains no CFCs or other ozone depleting substances. Federal regulations prohibit CFC propellants in aerosols. EPA Reg. No. 53883- PRECAUTIONARY STATEMENTS HAZARDS TO HUMANS AND DOMESTIC ANIMALS CAUTION: Causes moderate eye irritation. Avoid contact with eyes, skin or clothing. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling and before eating, drinking, chewing gum, using tobacco or using the toilet. Remove contaminated clothing and launder before reuse. ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS Do not apply directly to water or to areas where surface water is present or to intertidal areas below the mean high water mark. Do not contaminate water by cleaning of equipment or disposal of equipment wash waters. This pesticide is toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment on blooming crops or weeds. DIRECTIONS FOR USE It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. READ ALL DIRECTIONS COMPLETELY BEFORE USE. USE RESTRICTIONS Use outdoors and in attics and crawl spaces only. When using in an attic, do not contaminate stored items, HVAC systems, water heaters or other non-structural items. https://www3.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/ppls/053883-00384-20160408.pdf







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