Why and How Does Wasp Spray Work? [Videos+Images]

Wasp spray tricks the wasp’s brain into believing it must flex. Extensively flex. Due to all of the flexing, the wasp is unable to breathe or move. This effectively eliminates the wasp.

Different sprays accomplish different tasks, but the majority contain a chemical that prevents nerves from communicating (paralysis). This results in the wasp losing control of its entire body, including vital functions such as breathing.

According to my understanding, the majority of sprays contain a chemical that inhibits an enzyme found in the synapse (gap) between nerve cells that normally denatures neurotransmitters.

Without this enzyme, too many neurotransmitters reach the next nerve cell, implying that the message is sent too strongly, and thus muscles being told to contract contract with enough force to paralyze them.

Here is a visual representation of what happens to wasps you spray:

How Does Wasp Spray Work

Because insects breathe by expanding and contracting their abdomens to force air through holes, when they are paralyzed, they suffer a heart attack, suffocate, and have muscle seizures simultaneously.

I’ve slain hundreds of wasps in lengthy, arduous battles. I’ve grown to respect them as an adversary, and it’s difficult to find humane ways to eliminate them.

You can either crush an unsuspecting nest in one fell swoop or swat/stomp an individual who is resting. Apart from that, the deaths are horrifying: neurotoxic sprays, hive drownings with hoses, flame torches, and smoke suffocation, to name a few.

I’ve learned a lot about my adversary, and while I understand why reddit despises wasps, they’re not all that bad.

Many are not particularly aggressive (although some will chase you for twenty meters for no reason, so be cautious), to the point where several can fly directly in front of my face without me having to duck.

ALSO SEE: How Long is Wasp Spray Toxic to Humans & Pets

Naturally, this varies by wasp species. However, I am no longer doing everything possible to eliminate every wasp I encounter. As with spiders, if they are behaving normally and are not a particularly dangerous variety, I generally shoo them away and leave them alone.

How Does Wasp Spray Work

How Does Wasp Spray Work?

It is contingent upon its composition.

In general, a wasp spray contains the following:

  • Insecticides
  • Additive agents
  • Foaming agents
  • A base to make a homogenous emulsion


The insecticide chemical used in the spray is the primary active ingredient.

The way your particular spray works is determined by the insecticide used.

Closeup of workers spraying pesticide onto a green bush outside.

The insecticide may be one of the following:

Contact insecticide or systemic insecticide

  • Is it repellent or is it non-repellant?
  • It may or may not be toxic to other species.
  • Any product purchased in a store or prepared at home may contain one or more of the following agents.

Each group’s method of killing is explained below:

  • Organophosphates

Historically, both natural and synthetic compounds were widely used in wasp sprays and pesticides. They continue to account for up to 50% of the killing agents in pesticides today.

They are strong nerve agents that lethally increase the insect’s nervous and muscular activity.

They accomplish this by irreversibly inhibiting an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase, which is responsible for the controlled transmission of messages between neurons at their junction.

Humans and other animals also contain this enzyme. As a result, these drugs are toxic to humans as well.

A pest control technician lies on the floor and sprays pesticides into a bedroom.
Organophosphates include the following:

  • Chlorpyrifos \sMalathion \sParathion \sCarbamates

These insecticides work by inhibiting the same enzymes as organophosphates, but unlike them, they bind reversibly.

Carbamates include the following:

Carbofuran \sCarbaryl \sFenobucarb

  • Pyrethroids

Pyrethroids are the most frequently used insecticides in modern wasp sprays.

To comprehend how they work, it’s necessary to have a basic understanding of nerve physiology.

See also  Do Wasps Scare Away Bees? [Learn More]

Voltage-gated sodium channels exist in the membranes of neurons and are responsible for the movement of sodium into the neuron (influx) in order to conduct the nerve impulse (the message from the brain to the muscles and other parts of the body).

Pyrethroids are extremely potent excitotoxic agents that work by maintaining the open state of voltage-gated sodium channels.

This maintains an excitable state in all neurons, and the insect’s entire body becomes paralyzed, resulting in death.

Pyrethroids are insecticides that are effective against all insects.

However, there is an issue:

Pyrethroids can be degraded by an enzyme found in certain insects, reducing their efficacy.

To counteract this, another agent known as piperonyl butoxide is added to wasp sprays containing pyrethroids, which inhibit this enzyme.

Fortunately, humans are not toxic to pyrethroids. However, they are toxic to aquatic animals such as fish.

Pyrithroids include the following:

Allethrins: The first pyrethroid insecticides synthesized synthetically.

Cypermethrin is a herbicide that is widely used in agriculture fields and on livestock to eradicate ectoparasites.

Permethrin is widely used but is also toxic to bees.

Phenothrin: Phenothrin is the active ingredient in the Raid wasp spray.

Prallethrin: The primary insecticide in a number of wasp sprays, including Wasp Freeze.

Tetramethrin is a crystalline white powder.

Tralomethrin is a bromine-based pyrethroid derivative.

Additives Agents

Piperonyl butoxide: The most frequently used additive in wasp sprays, along with pyrethroids, is piperonyl butoxide, which disrupts the insect’s built-in detoxification mechanism. It increases the duration and intensity of action of wasp sprays.

Plant oils as insect repellents: Peppermint oil, clove oil, sesame oil, and wintergreen oil can all be added to wasp spray or homemade insect repellents.

Agents de mousse (Foaming Agents): Certain foaming agents are added to certain wasp sprays, particularly nest terminators, to prolong the insecticide’s contact time with the nest and prevent the insects from fleeing. To create foam, you can add soap or dishwashing liquid.

Wasp Spray Active Ingredients:

Product Type

Active Ingredients

Raid Wasp &

Hornet Spray

Cypermethrin &
Spectracide Wasp

& Hornet Spray

Prallethin & Lambda –
CRC Wasp

& Hornet Spray

Tetramethrin & Phenothrin

Wasp Insecticide Spray Distance

Product TypeLabeled Spray Distance
Raid Wasp &

Hornet Spray

22 FT
Spectracide Wasp

& Hornet Spray

27 FT
CRC Wasp

& Hornet Spray

20 FT

It is not just the chemical formula that kills wasps. The manner in which the product leaves the can and disperses through the air is critical to its effectiveness.

The majority of wasp sprays come in densely packed aerosol cans. When you squeeze the trigger, the liquid inside quickly transforms into a fine mist. Every detail is critical in this case!

Individual droplets must be precisely sized. If they are too large, the likelihood of the product landing on the wasp in mid-flight is extremely slim. To be effective, the droplets must be extremely fine.

The spray distance is another critical factor. Let’s face it, the majority of us are not brave enough to approach a wasp nest up close and personal. To do so is to invite stings!

Fortunately, wasp sprays keep you a safe distance away from those stingers. The majority of products have a maximum spray range of 15 to 20 feet. That is a significant amount of space to keep safe.

Certain sprays accomplish even more! Several well-known brands offer spray distances of up to 20 feet, 22 feet, and even 27 feet! This information is prominently displayed on the can, so you should have no difficulty selecting a spray that you feel comfortable using.

Quick Tip: Typically, the “sweet spot” for tackling nests is 15 feet. The liquid solution exits the can in a relatively straight line at that distance. The dispersal pattern aids in concentrating the spray on the nest. As the distance increases, more coverage is provided to eliminate wasps as they fly.

Why does Wasp Insecticide Instantly Kill Wasps?

What you’re describing is referred to as a knockdown. The effectiveness of an insecticide can be determined by the rate at which it causes knockdown.

Numerous variables contribute to this, ranging from the size of the spray droplets to the material with which it is mixed. Speed is critical when using wasp spray, as you’ll want to eliminate the wasps before they can sting you!

Neurotoxins are knockdown insecticides. Pyrethroids and pyrethrins, the active ingredients in the majority of wasp sprats, cause rapid knockdown by blocking the sodium channels in insect nerves.

Because the nerves cannot be reset, the insect is instantly paralyzed and falls. Carbamate and organophpsphate insecticides work by blocking the enzyme acetylcholinesterase.  Without this enzyme, nerve transmissions cease, resulting in the insect experiencing a full-body seizure and collapsing to the ground.

Pyrethroids are non-toxic to humans but highly toxic to fish. While carbamates do have an effect on humans, they eventually wear off and some have medicinal properties.

While some organophosphates are safe for humans (such as Malathion), others are extremely toxic and require antidotes in the event of poisoning. Always read and adhere to the directions on your spray can!

I’ll add another point. There are wasp sprays on the market that are completely nontoxic to everything you care about but still provide a reasonable level of knockdown.

These are typically made with peppermint or cedar oil. Once the wasp is knocked down, you may wish to swat it “just to be certain,” but I use these sprays because I have parrots and am quite pleased with the results.

Additionally, in a pinch, almost any household spray cleaner will knock down and kill a wasp, as the substance is sucked into their breathing apparatus and chokes them before poisoning them.

I used window cleaner, countertop cleaner, bathroom cleaner, and a bottle of water and vinegar mixed together. These methods will take longer to kill the wasp, and you may wish to swat it “just to be sure,” but they do work.

What’s the Difference Between Wasp Spray vs. Pepper Spray?

What is Wasp Spray and How Does it Work?

Wasp spray contains pyrethroids and pyrethrins, which act as neutralizers.

The same chemicals that are used to stun and kill insects can cause an increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, headache, and nausea in humans, as well as impair coordination and nerve signaling.

Whereas pepper spray or oc spray produces comparable effects such as chest pain, gagging, painful skin burning, involuntary eye closure, shortness of breath, and coughing.

Wasp spray is an insecticide that is used to kill and devastate flying insects’ nervous systems.

When sprayed, it paralyzes the insects, causing them to drop almost immediately.

Certain wasps may be more heavily coated with spray than others.

If those wasps are still able to fly and return to the nest, they will spread the substance to all of the other wasps.

Having said that, when using wasp spray, be sure to spray the wasp nest as well.

Spraying wasp nests is most effective in the morning or at dusk, when wasps are less active and in the nest.

Wear heavy clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Additionally, you should wear gloves and sunglasses or eye protection such as goggles if possible.

When deploying, you’ll want to maintain a distance of 15-20 feet from the nest, depending on the strength of your spray.

After spraying and soaking the wasp nest, return 24 hours later to knock down the nest.

Can wasp Spray be used as a Self-Defense Spray?

Wasp sprays may shoot further and more accurately, but this is pure speculation.

Certain wasp sprays feature a tight spray pattern with a small diameter, requiring the user to be more precise with their aim.

However, different pepper spray dispersal patterns exhibit the same range and accuracy.

When wasp spray is used as a self-defense spray and sprayed directly into a human’s eyes or inhaled through the nose or mouth, the attacker is temporarily blinded.

There are, of course, additional toxic side effects not mentioned above, but wasp spray requires the attacker to seek medical treatment for an antidote.

This may create legal complications for you, as the use of wasp spray on humans is prohibited. This could result in a lawsuit between you and your attacker, despite the fact that you were acting in self-defense.

Eventually, thousands of law enforcement agencies throughout the United States will carry pepper sprays such as DPS Pepper Spray X-Stream Range to use against aggressors, not wasp sprays.

It’s critical to remember that wasp and hornet sprays are intended to kill small insects, not to deter human attackers.

Even though wasp spray is said to be more accurate and capable of shooting from a greater distance, there has been little research to support those claims in conjunction with the ability to stop an attacker.

Wasp sprays are not to be confused with self-defense sprays and should not be used in place of pepper sprays or OC sprays.

The Major Differences between Wasp Spray and Pepper Spray

Numerous jurisdictions have enacted legislation prohibiting the use of wasp spray as a self-defense spray.

According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), because wasp and hornet sprays are not specifically authorized for self-defense use, significant liabilities, including a violation of federal law, could result.

If you examine wasp spray labels closely, you’ll likely notice the following: “It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.”

In comparison to other product labels, pesticide labels are legally enforceable, which means that the label is the law.

While wasp spray should not be used for self-defense, pepper spray is legal to purchase and carry in all 50 states as a means of self-defense.

It’s critical to note that some states regulate the maximum allowed strength of pepper spray, the age restriction, the content, and the use of pepper spray.

Finally, wasp spray is inconvenient to carry.

Pepper spray is available in a variety of forms, including keychains, disguised units (such as pens and guns), bracelets, and more, all of which are easily portable and accessible.

The Most Effective Wasp Spray Brands

There are numerous wasp sprays available for testing. Take a stroll through your neighborhood home improvement or big-box store, and you’re likely to come across a few familiar brand names.

The following brands of wasp spray have a solid reputation for delivering the best results possible.

  • Raid Wasp Killer

Raid is one of the most well-known brand names in pest control. Wasp spray is an incredible product that instantly kills wasps upon contact. It even kills larvae and pupae that are concealed within the nest.

Saturating a nest should not be a problem with the 22-foot spray distance. Additionally, it has a respectable spread. The nozzle creates an excellent mist. A well-aimed spray can coat the body and leave a fine residue on the wings.

Even if the insects return to the nest, the spray will spread.

Cypermethrin and Prallethrin are the active ingredients in Raid. These chemicals effectively kill wasps, mud daubers, yellow jackets, and other stinging insects.

  • Ortho Home Defense

Ortho wasp spray contains the active ingredients Tetramethrin and Sumithrin. Pyrethroids are highly effective against wasps and other flying insects.

This wasp spray works in a unique way compared to others. It is not entirely liquid, as the formula expands upon exiting the can. The solution reacts with the air, forming a thick substance that immobilizes even the most agile wasp.

The Ortho spray is unique in that it can be used to trap wasps in their nest. The 20-foot spray range enables you to attack the job from a distance. Aim for the nest’s opening if it is accessible.

The foam will expand, obstructing wasp escape. You are then free to completely saturate the nest and eliminate every insect in the colony!

  • Spectracide Wasp Spray

The Spectracide wasp spray has the longest spray range of any of the sprays. Thanks to the powerful jet spray nozzle, you can be as far away as 27 feet.

The active ingredients of choice are prallethrin and lambda-cyhalothrin. This wasp spray is effective and will instantly kill the insects you’re after due to the pyrethroids and pyrethrins.

Along with wasps and hornets, the spray is effective against scorpions, ants, tent caterpillars, and a variety of other insects.

Because the spray is non-staining, it is safe to use on the exterior of your home. Additionally, it has a residual effect. Bugs that survive the chemicals will spread them to other insects.

Additionally, Spectracide claims that the residue will kill any wasps that return to the nest several days after application.

Spectracide Wasp and Hornet Spray


Understanding how wasp spray works will enable you to use it more effectively. When you understand how the ingredients interact with wasps, you’ll be able to eliminate these insects safely.

If you have any additional questions about wasp spray (or how to apply it), send us a message!

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