This article was written and researched by David M. White
For several years, an email or social media post circulates recommending that women use wasp and hornet spray as a substitute for pepper spray. This is typically based on the claim that wasp spray is cheaper and just as debilitating as pepper spray. Neither of those claims is always true, aside from the fact that using wasp spray as a self-defense tool may subject you to legal penalties.
The advice to use wasp spray instead of pepper spray has been circulating off and on for several years. While getting hit in the face with a blast of wasp spray may indeed be rather unpleasant, there is little reason to believe that most commercially available brands of wasp spray would be more debilitating than a face full of pepper spray. While certain brands may offer a larger container of product than pepper spray for a slightly cheaper cost, the cost for the pepper spray is not that significantly more that one’s safety should come down to saving a few dollars (or pounds or whatever). And while most common brands of wasp spray do offer an advantage in terms of range, this is in part due to pepper spray not needing to be a direct ‘in the eyes’ shot – which is what is recommended for the wasp spray. And all of that is aside from the fact that wasp spray is a pesticide – a substance that is highly regulated in most countries – and could expose the person using the product intentionally to inflect harm on another person to legal repercussions.
A friend who is a receptionist in a church in a high risk area was concerned about someone coming into the office on Monday to rob them when they were counting the collection. She asked the local police department about using pepper spray and they recommended to her that she get a can of wasp spray instead.
The wasp spray, they told her, can shoot up to twenty feet away and is a lot more accurate, while with the pepper spray, they have to get too close to you and could overpower you. The wasp spray temporarily blinds an attacker until they get to the hospital for an antidote. She keeps a can on her desk in the office and it doesn’t attract attention from people like a can of pepper spray would. She also keeps one nearby at home for home protection. Thought this was interesting and might be of use.
On the heels of a break in and beating that left an elderly woman in Toledo dead, self defense experts have a tip that could save your life.
Val Glinka teaches self-defense to students at Sylvania Southview High School . For decades, he’s suggested putting a can of wasp and hornet spray near your door or bed.
Glinka says, “This is better than anything I can teach them.”
Glinka considers it inexpensive, easy to find, and more effective than mace or pepper spray. The cans typically shoot 20 to 30 feet; so if someone tries to break into your home, Glinka says “spray the culprit in the eyes”. It’s a tip he’s given to students for decades.
It’s also one he wants everyone to hear. If you’re looking for protection, Glinka says look to the spray. “That’s going to give you a chance to call the police; maybe get out.” Maybe even save a life.
To preface this article, it is important to note that different countries have different laws and regulations regarding the possession or use of pepper spray. Some countries completely prohibit civilian possession, some allow it with a permit, some allow it with certain restrictions (like the distance the spray can reach), and in others – like Australia – it is illegal in some areas but permissible in others. Some countries allow other forms of personal protection sprays that are completely non-toxic. The reader is advised to educate themselves on what is and is not permissible in their locale.
What this article will address is the advisability of using a product contrary to its intended purpose.
Pepper sprays are formulated using oleoresin capsicum, a type of oil extracted from chilli peppers. It produces a significant burning sensation in human and animal tissues immediately upon contact. Pepper spray causes severe irritation of the eyes and lungs, immediate closing of the eyes, difficulty breathing, runny nose, and coughing. The duration of its effects depends on the strength of the spray but the average full effect lasts around thirty to forty-five minutes, with diminished effects lasting for hours. While repeated exposure can cause more lasting damage, a single exposure to pepper spray does not cause any long term damage to corneal tissues. Pepper spray is sold (where it is legal to obtain retail) as a personal defense weapon against attackers both human and animal.
Wasp sprays are an insecticide. They typically contain chemicals such as pyrethrum or propoxur. Pyrethrum is the least toxic of the two – in fact it is used in items intended for human use, such as shampoos for head lice. Propoxur has been recommended for use against bedbug infestations, but has not been approved (in the US) due to concerns regarding long term exposure on children. More importantly, different brands of wasp spray can contain different concentrations of the pesticides. Both products do include cautions that they can cause eye and lung irritation in humans, the main purpose of the product is killing insects.
So – why not use wasp spray?
Effectiveness – there is no documented testing of wasp spray’s effectiveness as a deterrent against an attacker – human or animal. At best, it is an irritant – which is a far cry from being debilitating. Having considerable experience wielding cans of wasp spray, and having made the mistake of not gauging the wind before application on at least one occasion, I can personally vouch for the fact that a blow back of wasp spray resulted in … pretty much nothing but being mad at myself and smelling like wasp spray. Certainly not debilitating enough to prevent me from walking about 40 feet to the garden hose to wash off my face.
Oleoresin capsicum has been studied since the 1940’s. Both in terms of what it does and how to treat the effects afterwards. It takes about a one second burst of pepper spray – which usually disperses in a ‘fog’, negating the necessity to be terribly accurate, to effectively stop a human. (Note: yes, there are plenty of reports of persons under the influence of certain drugs being unfazed by pepper spray – this is irrelevant to the subject at hand as wasp spray would certainly be no more effective in that circumstance).
Range – The range of wasp sprays is certainly going to exceed that of your average concealable container of pepper spray given the intended use of wasp spray. Anyone who has used this method to take out a wasp nest can attest to the advisability of having considerable distance between yourself and the little beasties. But what is more ‘carryable’? A small container of pepper spray or a big can of wasp spray? If you’re that worried about range, there are larger pepper spray canisters available that have a range of 15 to 22 feet and more – comparable to the effective range of wasp sprays. Just a matter of how big a can you want to carry around.
Legal – In the US and some other countries (again – see the opening statement to this analysis) pepper spray can be used legally in a self-defense capacity. Wasp spray is quite clearly labeled with a statement similar to this:
Not once on that product will you find instructions for use as a self-defense product. Ever. So not only would you be violating Federal law, you would be exposing yourself to the possibility of a lawsuit from your attacker. As preposterous as it might sound, yes, someone attacking you can file suit against you if you use something that can cause permanent damage. Even if it doesn’t cause permanent damage, you used something that you expected to cause permanent damage. Worst case scenario, we’re talking about intentional poisoning. There is not a single jurisdiction in the United States where poisoning can be considered self-defense.
In a threatening situation, no doubt most reasonable people would use anything and everything they had at hand to protect themselves or their loved ones. But wouldn’t it be a better idea to use something designed for the purpose instead of planning on using something potentially ineffective and completely illegal? Or better yet – consider not taking your personal safety advice from some unknown blogger?
The following video pertains to a version of this hoax that advises the use of wasp spray in place of bear spray – which is another version of pepper spray, but is usually packaged in a larger container than the usual personal protection canister. It features a man (David Nance) who is makes his living as a consultant and trainer in safety and self-defense: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDtBImRFKsw
And here is his take on the myth from a radio interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOPWD8ftEhY
This article was written and researched by David M. White