In a recent article from NBC News, Wallace Zeins, an NYPD detective and 22- year veteran hostage negotiator makes several well intended, yet very interesting recommendations to help protect your family from a home invasion. Here is a quote, “Buy a can of wasp hornet spray in the hardware store or the supermarket, keep it by your bedside or the floor….It’s more powerful than police Mace….The great part is, when you spray, it will go 20 to 25 feet….An intruder hit with the spray will be temporarily blinded.” He later goes on to recommend, “In a worst-case scenario — if you are captured by an intruder — you should cooperate and tell them where the valuables are….You tell them exactly where it is. You want to get them out of there as quickly as you can….Remember, treat them like royalty. On top of that, you don’t want to lie to them.” Here is a link to the article: http://www.today.com/news/home-invasion-jeff-rossen-shows-how-protect-your-family-1D80117494
A quick summary reveals that, according to the FBI, there were 50,000 home invasions in 2011 alone. Even celebrities are not immune. In fact, actress Sandra Bullock and NBA basketball star Ray Allen were both recent victims of home invasions. While the objective of the article is a noble one — bringing awareness to the fact break-ins have reached epidemic proportions — it also contains some bad information. No matter which way you look at it, substituting wasp spray for pepper spray is just not very smart, and could ultimately cost you your life. This is an urban legend that somehow not only gained traction over the years, but apparently is now being recommended by law enforcement officials and given credence by the mainstream media.
Back in late 2006, chain emails began surfacing exalting the many benefits of using wasp spray in dangerous self- defense situations. Though the department mysteriously remained anonymous, this unnamed law enforcement agency had allegedly recommended wasp spray over pepper spray. Accordingly, longer effective ranges, higher incapacitation rates and the fact you could legally have a can of Raid in places where pepper spray may be legally prohibited, were all listed as reasons to convert to using wasp spray. This undisclosed source also advocated keeping wasp spay near your bed, in your vehicle, at work and practically pushed carrying a can with you to church on Sundays. I really never took the emails seriously and assumed they must have originated from a chemical company looking to boost sales of bug spray. In fact, a number of self- defense experts and bloggers came out immediately afterwards, emphatically stating there was absolutely no way law enforcement officials would ever make such a ridiculous recommendation — that is, until now.
It would be a safe bet that anyone breaking into Detective Zeins home would get blasted not by bug spray, but rather his 9mm service pistol. Granted, in cities like New York, where civilian gun ownership is highly restrictive, there’s probably not much else you can recommend and keep a straight face. For the rest of us who thankfully live in states that recognize our right to self- protection — thanks, but no thanks, we’ll be reaching for a gun. Plain and simple. Guns have much further effective ranges than wasp spray. Guns don’t require direct eye contact to be effective. Most importantly, the intruder is likely to be armed, and I honestly don’t plan on bringing a can of insecticide to a gun fight.
Where a gun is not an option, wasp spray is ridiculous and here’s why. For starters, while well intentioned, the good detective suggests using wasp spray on an intruder, but then if captured, he recommends that you just cooperate and begin treating them like royalty. Even if the perpetrator never had any intention of doing harm before you used wasp spray on him, he is almost certainly going to slowly torture and kill you now. I really like the “royalty” moniker, because in the immortal words of Sting and as far as the victim is now concerned, that intruder is about to be crowned the “King of Pain“.
Some legal analysts have suggested it’s a felony to use wasp spray in self- defense situations, as the label clearly states it would be a violation of federal law to use the product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. Furthermore, they also point to the fact you are intentionally poisoning another human being. While it usually takes about 12- hours for the more serious affects to kick in (plenty of time to murder you), severe overexposure to wasp spray can cause symptoms including convulsions, unconsciousness, difficulty breathing, respiratory failure and cardiac arrest. (click here for Manufacturer’s Material Data Safety Sheet).
While the material data indicates that the degree of injury is directly related to either over or prolonged exposure, it doesn’t define how much of a dose it takes to result in either condition. Since this stuff will be sprayed in a confined area, possibly even at point blank range, you also run the risk of unwittingly poisoning yourself. Specifically, a quote from the Acute Health Affects section of the MMDSS states, “Once in the lungs, the substance is very difficult to remove and can cause severe injury to the lungs and death.” While there is always a risk in using pepper sprays, especially for asthmatics, I’m not aware of any such warning for even the most potent of pepper spays.
According to my research, no known studies have ever been conducted indicating wasp spray is effective in self- defense situations. Yet plenty of such studies have been conducted on pepper sprays (see here), not to mention 40,000+ law enforcement agencies across the country issue it to their officers, while not a single department issues wasp spray. If it was really that good of an idea, wouldn’t you expect at least one department to try it? The reason is simple — pepper sprays have been proven effective. The active ingredient in wasp spray is a derivative of the chrysanthemum plant known as pyrethrins. Anyone who has ever sprayed a nest knows this stuff has an immediate neurotoxic effect on wasps, but does not produce instant incapacitation on human beings — only minor irritation to the eyes (again, see MMDSS above). On the other hand, high strength pepper spray has an immediate and involuntary inflammatory effect that causes the eyes to close, water profusely, then the bad guy begins to gag, cough and even vomit profusely. This even applies to those who cannot feel pain, such as the insane or drug crazed lunatics.
While it’s true that wasp spray has a longer effective distance than key chain size pepper spray dispensers, OC cans of equal size have approximately the same range — 25 feet. However, pepper spray dispensers are much more accurate and effective. Wasp spray canisters are engineered to launch a tight stream, and therefore make it easier to miss an intruder’s face. Large size pepper spray canisters, on the other hand, are typically fogger style dispensers, and cover an exponentially larger area at longer distances (see video). In fact, it’s almost impossible to miss a perpetrators face at 25 feet away with an OC fogger, even if you aimed for his feet. Moreover, quality pepper sprays immediately incapacitate an attacker, where wasp spray will not. Watch this video of a news crew being sprayed with bug spray and then watch this video of 3- men being pepper sprayed.