Wasp Spray? Pffft… Buzz Off!

Recently, some erroneous self-defense advice came across my personal Facebook newsfeed. Now, I rarely post about issues central to this blog under my personal account, but in this instance I did. I briefly and somewhat harshly commented about sharing bad advice that has been soundly debunked in the professional training world. I decided the subject might be ideal for a blog post, since this is hardly the first time I’ve heard this. (In fact, a relative shared the original post that dates from January 2013. Why it’s making the rounds again over four years later is a Facebook mystery.) Below is the verbatim text copied and pasted from Facebook. I don’t personally know the original poster, and I have withheld his name here out of respect for his privacy.

FB wasp spray


Subject: Wasp Spray

I know some of you own GUNS, but this is something to think about…—

If you don’t have a gun, here’s a more humane way to wreck someone’s evil plans for you. Did you know this? I didn’t. I never really thought of it before. I guess I can get rid of the baseball bat.

Wasp Spray – 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.

Please share this with all the people who are precious to your life

Did you also know that wasp spray will kill a snake? And a mouse! It will! Good to know, huh? It will also kill a wasp.!!!!

First, let’s address some initial confusion that muddies the water early in the above post. Guns are used to respond to threats of violence that carry the risk of death or great bodily harm. Pepper spray, however, is a layer in the onion of self-defense that represents a less than lethal option that is going to cause only temporary discomfort, temporary visual impairment, and like onions, some tears. Pepper spray is not going to cause permanent damage or death. Hell, the active ingredient in pepper spray is used in hemorrhoid cream and topical pain relief salves in the pharmacy!

Which brings us to wasp spray. Wasp spray falls squarely under the category of “able to cause great bodily harm.” It can render an attacker permanently blind, and quite frankly, the active ingredients in wasp spray are toxic to pretty much all forms of life. Wasp spray is NOT a pepper spray substitute! By using a toxic substance in a situation that does not necessarily call for a lethal force response (yet), you are opening yourself up to potential liability that would otherwise not be created in addition to using the wrong tool for the job.

While it still falls under the umbrella of ability to cause great bodily harm, I would be far more comfortable recommending people keep a fire extinguisher in their home or office and use it to spray an attacker in the face if a gun wasn’t available. Moreover, in many public and private venues, there are already going to be fire extinguishers readily available. But again, a fire extinguisher is NOT a substitute for pepper spray.

Returning to my initial point, the poster refers to wasp spray as a “more humane” way to deal with a potential threat. Bullshit! For those that may be uncomfortable with using lethal force in self-defense, realize that wasp spray, in a courtroom, or in an ER, is the same damn thing.

The poster also discussed the “superior” range of wasp spray and its “accuracy.” First, the range issue… if you look at the statistics of civilian defensive gun uses, most crime happens up close and personal. With few exceptions, it is going to be difficult to articulate the imminence of an attack from a potential threat that is still 20-30 feet away. And again, wasp spray may very well reach farther than pepper spray, but they are not the same from a legal standpoint. As far as the “accuracy” of a stream of wasp spray vs. pepper spray, I would argue that both require a modicum of practice to use effectively.  I would further posit that the pepper spray canister is going to be far more ergonomic in the hand and easier to align and aim. Consider that pepper spray is correctly “aimed” by using the thumb on the dispersal button, rather than the index finger. Try that with a can of wasp spray… it can be done, but is far from ideal.

The poster also suggested that a can of wasp spray would attract less attention than pepper spray would. Again, I call bullshit! A can of wasp spray is typically a lot larger than a canister of pepper spray. One can be surreptitiously carried around on a daily basis while the other might prompt some questions, unless you happen to work outdoors. I don’t think twice about someone with pepper spray on their key ring. Wasp spray that doesn’t fit into the overall picture? That might raise a few flags. Granted, I’m sure the intention was for people to keep the wasp spray in their desk or nightstand, but would it not be better to have it with you at all times, and especially on your walk from your office to your car?

Pepper vs wasp

I don’t know whether the bit about the high school teacher recommending wasp spray is apocryphal or not, but if it’s true, then I just wish that Val Glinka (apparently a real person if www.ratemyteachers.com is to be believed) would update his advice with something a bit more accurate. He’s got the right idea, but the wrong method!

Finally, I want to address a training issue that applies to both pepper spray as well as the ill-advised wasp spray. Relying on an intermediate intervention as your only way to successfully resolve a criminal attack is foolhardy. By all means, carry a less lethal option to employ to gain time and distance, but realize that it may not be enough. Whether you train in empty hand combative techniques or carry a gun or knife as well, you need a “plan B” if “plan A” doesn’t work the way you thought it would.

If you’re interested in more on this subject, then I can without reservation recommend that you seek out training with Chuck Haggard of Agile Training and Consulting, John Murphy of FPF Training (specifically his Street Encounter Skills class), or Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training. Moreover, I suggest you check out this post on Ellifritz’s blog, as it is very relevant to the above discussion. In fact, Ellifritz’s blog post even contains a link to a news story of a home invasion where wasp spray was woefully ineffective.

As always, thanks for reading and we welcome comments and questions, either here on the blog, or on our Facebook page. Should you encounter the same erroneous advice as I did on Facebook, please feel free to share this post and debunk this persistent myth.

8 thoughts on “Wasp Spray? Pffft… Buzz Off!

  1. First I would say that in many states (Maryland for one), where guns are not an option for CCW, that spraying someone with Pepper Spray will likely get you charged with ASSAULT. It might be the lesser 2nd Degree Assault charge which is a misdemeanor but still punishable by up to 10years (there go your gun rights if found guilty even if only given a PBJ). Quite possibly you could be charged with 1st Degree Assault which is the FELONY level charge (think assault with intend to commit grievous bodily harm). YES its a LESS Lethal tool. YES its unlikely to cause death or even long term injury; but cops in Maryland will al most always see it as a weapon.

    As for Wasp spray, I think the reasoning is or “should be” is that it doesnt scream weapon. It certainly IS toxic; think Nerve Gas Toxin but on a diluted scale–yet still toxic. Even so show a jury pepper spray and they KNOW its a police weapon, show them Wasp spray and they think “damn bees”. No doubt a prosecutor will point out the harmful chemicals; but maybe just maybe your defense attorney will be able to show you were thinking the longer spraying distance would be able to hold off the young kids from you while you hobble off.

    In the end Id suggest that civilians NOT use or even ponder anything LESS LETHAL when a gun is in option. As a civilian YOU are DEFENDING YOUR LIFE. You arent making arrests, You arent just trying to make them go away. You ARE using force to defend yourself and defense of ones self or others IS a LETHAL FORCE issue. By that same token, pointing a gun and making threats or commands to get on the ground is also a mistake. When the time comes that you need to shoot, then its time to KILL. Pointing the gun IS a Felony assault (yes maybe its in response to a threat but then its you and him trying to convince the police who’s at fault. This isn’t a kids game where somebody can call “uncle” and its over. Pepper spray, rubber buckshot, batons, even a Taser is a fools journey IF a gun is an option. Simply having pepper spray and a gun will cause a jury to ask why you didn’t try the spray first–its a question you dont want your lawyer to have to explain. IF however its your only option choose the best and choose wisely.


    1. Thanks for the comments. I had a couple of thoughts in response:

      1. Yes, Wasp spray may not scream weapon, but intention of use could come into play. If someone attacks me in my garage and I spray him with Wasp spray, then that seems reasonable, as many people have Wasp spray in their garages (i.e., it looks like an improvised weapon that got me out of a tight spot). If, on the other hand, you’ve got Wasp spray in the door pocket of your car, in your purse, etc., and you use it, then it may as well be a weapon (“Do you always carry Wasp spray in your purse, ma’am?”).

      2. Just because you have pepper spray on you does not mean you must use it. You are allowed to skip steps on the use of force ladder. If presented with a deadly/grave bodily harm threat, you can jump right to lethal force (if you have such a tool available). You do NOT have to explore less-lethal first. I’d expect a para-legal to be able to out-argue a DA on that point. It’s a non-issue, and experts like Tom Givens, Andrew Branca, Mas Ayoob, and Chuck Haggard have all weighed in on that topic many times over the years.

      3. There are many scenarios in which the use of a less-lethal or less-than-lethal tool, such as pepper spray, may be warranted (and legal) while lethal force would not. For example, I have been accosted on the street by aggressive pan-handlers and the like who would not leave me alone even as I walked away quickly. Certainly shooting them would not be appropriate! But if they continue to aggressively move toward me, a shot of pepper spray would be fine. Pepper spray can also be covertly utilized (if you have a fog/mist type, as opposed to stream or gel) if being followed in narrow confines (think alley, parking garage stairway, etc.). Simply spray a cloud behind you while beating feet, forcing the follower to walk through the cloud he has no idea exists (thanks Chuck Haggard for that one!).

      4. I do agree that the less-lethal options work better for police when they have fellow officers alongside them armed with other options should the less-lethal option not work (example, an officer with a drawn pistol next to the officer who tries a taser).

      5. As noted in John’s article, the efficacy of Wasp spray is not as good as quality pepper spray anyway.

      I suppose Wasp spray is better than absolutely nothing, but there are better options out there.

      Just some thoughts.



  2. There was a very brief period of time, maybe a year or so, that virtually everyone thought this ‘wasp spray’ story might work. Now, virtually everyone I know has seen the many youtube videos that thoroughly debunk this myth. As a last ditch, delaying tactic, the threat of using wasp spray may have some psychological effect on some unknowing hostile persons. Beyond that, I think wasp spray as a self-defense tool is beyond worthless, in that it may give some the appearance of some protection, which may in fact put them at greater risk. Here’s one of many videos on the efficacy of wasp spray:

    Regarding the legal view of someone attempting to use wasp spray or even legitimate OC spray in self-defense, that is an entirely different discussion. See your local laws, read case results and jury instructions on these matters to make an informed decision. I am absolutely a proponent of training with, carrying and using OC when and where necessary in a self-defense situation. But as far as even thinking about wasp spray, Pfft, buzz-off! LOL


  3. FIFRA: Federal Insecticide Fungicide Rodenticide Act makes it illegal to use wasp spray on humans. Human use is not a use approved on the label!


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