Wasp Spray vs. Pepper Spray

Can of Raid Wasp Spray
Can of Raid Wasp Spray

Today there are many people arming themselves with a can of wasp spray instead of the typical self-defense tool, pepper spray. This idea of using wasp spray instead of pepper spray all started with a church receptionist. One day a receptionist for a church in a high risk area was worried about her safety so she went to her local police department to seek their advice. She asked if they recommended she purchased pepper spray. They told her a can of wasp spray would be a better idea since it is cheap and can be purchased at any hardware or home improvement store. They also said the wasp spray can shoot up to twenty feet and is much more accurate than pepper spray. This sounds like a legitimate claim but I’m here to tell you switching out your pepper spray for wasp spray is not a good idea.

Another Person that believes Wasp spray is an effective Self Defense tool:

Difference In Compounds

The compounds found in pepper spray and wasp spray are very different. For example, the active ingredients in wasp spray are tetramethrin and peremethrin. Both of these are nasty substances. Tetramethrin is a suspected carcinogen and neurotoxin while peremethrin is a carcinogen, endocrine, gastrointestinal, neuro, reproductive and liver toxicant. Most labels on wasp spray tell you of these ingredients but they don’t tell you about the other 99.6% of the ingredients. That other 99.6% of unlisted ingredients is far from safe. Some of those unlisted ingredients are Chlorethane, Cresoils, Dibutylphthalate, Dimethylphthalate, Epichlohydrin, Isophorone, Napthalene, Phenol Toulene. These can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, skin, eye irritations, pancreatitis, nervous system disruption, dizziness, respiratory paralysis, comas and even death (1). I don’t know about you but these ingredients do not sound very human friendly to me. On the other hand, pepper spray is designed and has been tested for human use. The main compound found in pepper spray is Capsaicin. Capsaicin is a natural ingredient derived from the stem of hot cyan pepper plants. On top of that the propellant used in pepper spray is safe. 134A propellant is used, the most reliable and the same propellant used in pharmaceutical inhalers (2). It is clear to me that pepper spray is the safer alternative.

Legal Issues

Now some of you may not be worried about the fact that the person you shoot with wasp spray may be permanently injured or even killed due to the compounds in it considering you’re using it for self-defense against an assailant, but you must consider the legal ramifications. First of all, Federal law prohibits the use of any pesticide in a manner other than specified on the label (3). If breaking federal law is not a large enough offense to not use wasp spray, you will almost most certainly be sued. Most states prohibit the use of any other chemical than pepper spray. This means you could be sued for permanently injuring someone or even charged with wrongful death. These reasons are what make pepper spray a better self-defense choice. Pepper spray is legal in all 50 states (4). Therefore there are no legal ramifications or the possibility of being sued.

Accuracy and Range

Fox- Pepper Spray - Flip Top- 2oz.
Fox- Pepper Spray - Flip Top- 2oz.
the range and accuracy of wasp spray was said to make it a better self-defense tool. This statement is very deceiving. Yes it is true a 20 ounce can of wasp spray is able to shoot further and more accurate than a one ounce key-chain model pepper spray. But if you compare the range and accuracy of the two in size the pepper spray will shoot further. They don’t sell a 20 ounce can of pepper spray but you can purchase a 9.2 ounce home defense model that shots 16 feet. This is half the size of a can of wasp spray with nearly the same spray distant. Also, the pinpoint accuracy of wasp spray may be greater but that’s because pepper spray is designed to create a cloud of vapor for maximum coverage of an assailant’s face and eyes (3) . In addition I personally don’t agree with the statement that wasp spray is more accurate then pepper spray. I have used plenty of wasp spray over the years and it is far from easy to aim. Once you get the stream of wasp spray spraying where you intend it is very accurate but it may take a few seconds to find the area you are aiming for. Those couple of seconds could be the difference between whether the assailant reaches you before you disable him. Also wasp spray doesn’t seem to shot at a high velocity. I don’t think it would be difficult for someone to dodge the stream of wasp spray or even get there arms up to protect their face from the spray.

Professional Opinion

I asked law enforcement student Tony Roff about his views on the subject. Some people think that wasp spray would do a better job than pepper spray of disabling an assailant so I figured I would ask someone who has experienced being shot with pepper spray. During skills training Tony had to be tested while under the influence of pepper spray. Tony told me, “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. The pepper spray made it almost impossible to see, and almost impossible to breathe.” I asked him if he thought pepper spray was an effective tool for self-defense and if he thought wasp spray would do better. He replied, “I can’t say I’ve ever been sprayed with wasp killer but I know how effective pepper spray is and I would never choose wasp spray over pepper spray. It’s not even tested on humans or been tested to work for self-defense” (5) .This is coming from a soon to be cop and if he wouldn’t trust wasp spray with his life neither would I. It is clear he stands behind pepper spray because of his first-hand experience with it so why not spend the extra money and buy pepper spray over wasp spray.

Video Evidence

Male in law enforcement training being sprayed with pepper spray:

News crew sprayed with wasp spray (doesnt appear to be nearly as succesful as pepper spray):


1) Illopez. “Raid Wasp & Hornet Killer…What's In this Stuff?” Epinions.com. 26 Sept. 2005. Web. 3 march 2011.

2) SAFESHOW, INC. "Learn more about the SAFESHOW pepper spray unit." SAFESHOW, Inc. 2001. Web. 22 Feb 2011.

3) Buckley, Patrick. "Wasp Spray vs. Pepper Spray." Naplesnews.com. N.p., 5/15/2010. Web. 22
Feb 2011.

4) Peacemaker Pepper Spray. “Pepper Spray Laws.” Web. 3 March 2011.

5) Roff, Tony. Personal Interview. 11 March 2011.