The Fascinating Reason Why Wasp Spray Works

“Quick! There’s a giant wasp’s nest outside; someone grab the wasp spray!” he yelled in a hurry – “Go ahead, spray them and don’t miss!”. In just one sweeping motion and the press of a button, all of the wasps dropped to the ground. How exactly can a spray in a bottle be that powerful?

Wasp spray is an insecticide that combines several main wasp neutralizing chemicals called pyrethroids and pyrethrins into a compact, aerosol bottle. Wasp spray releases these chemicals in a powerful blast that knocks down wasps from out of the air.

While that is the short answer, wasp spray actually does quite the damage to wasps and other flying insects in a very unique way. Having to use it quite often during the summer months, learning more about the mechanics behind how wasp spray actually works has helped me not to get stung (quite as much).

How Exactly Does Wasp Spray Work?

The mechanics behind how wasp spray works are quite impressive, to say the least. Wasp insecticide spray works in a few different ways. First, substances called pyrethroids and pyrethrins are packed into a tight, aerosol bottle and are released upon spraying.

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These pyrethroids are a class of chemicals that wreak havoc on the nervous system of flying insects. When these substances are released upon flying insects, they overwhelm their nervous system and cause the insects to drop out of their air almost instantly.

When the spray comes into contact with flying insects, the nerves and muscles of wasps all contract at once – causing an overwhelming exertion of energy.

Essentially, the substances inside of wasp spray cause paralysis to the wasps and other flying insects, which forces the insects to drop to the ground

For quick reference, here are some of the industry leaders in wasp and hornet spray and what their main ingredients are.

Wasp Spray Active
Product TypeActive Ingredients
Raid Wasp & 
Hornet Spray
Cypermethrin &
Spectracide Wasp
& Hornet Spray
Prallethin & Lambda –
CRC Wasp 
& Hornet Spray
Tetramethrin & Phenothrin

You’ll notice that none of the ingredients actually say “pyrethroid” or “pyrethrin” – this is because pyrethroid and pyrethrin are a class of substances, while the active ingredients listed above are within those classes of substance.

Simply put, if you’re looking for an effective wasp and hornet spray, the ones that generally are regarded as the best contain at least one of the above ingredients.

IMPORTANT: Please consult with a local bee keeping or animal expert before acting on any advice given in this article. Be safe!

So the first essential thing about wasp and hornet spray is the substances that comprise of it. The second is the after effect and how quickly these types of sprays work.

For instance, the substance inside wasp and hornet spray are extremely effective once they come into contact with the insects.

The spray usually causes a very fast knockdown of the insects, which refers to how they go from flying and buzzing around – to the ground.

Some wasps get coated much more than others once they get sprayed. The wasps that don’t get covered as much still feel the effects, but they’re able to fly and make it back into the hive.

When the wasps return to their hive coated in the wasp spray, they spread the substance to all of the other wasps inside of the colony – causing them to get covered in them as well.

Additionally, when you spray the wasps, you’ll often spray the nest along with any bees flying around the outside of it. The substances are soaked up by the wasp nest as well, causing the spray to be extremely effective.

You can read more about how pyrethroids and pyrethrins work by clicking here (link to epa.gov)

Now that you understand a little bit about how these wasp and hornet sprays work, it’s essential to know how to safely and effectively use them.

Seriously, it’s way better to practice proper safety and wasp spraying etiquette than to have no idea what you’re doing and go wing it. That’s how you get stung and honestly, it really, really stinks.

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When Should You Use Wasp Spray?

You should use wasp spray when there’s a wasp nest close to your home or a place on your property where you interact daily.

That being said, the great thing about wasp spray is that you don’t have to get all that close to spray wasps with it (more on that below).

How Should You Use Wasp Spray for Instant Results?

Here’s are the steps you should take when using wasp spray:

1. Determine Where the Wasp Nest Is
2. Buy a Wasp & Hornet Insecticide Spray
3. Put on Long Sleeved Clothing and Thick Pants
4. Wear a Hat and Sunglasses if Possible
5. Go Outside at Dawn to Spray the Wasp Nest
6. Stand 15 – 20 ft Away From the Wasp Nest (Depending on Your Spray) and Spray
7. Go Inside and Return after 24 hours to Knockdown the Nest

First, you’ll want to determine just where the wasp nest is on your property.

If you’re seeing wasps buzz around, a likely spot to check is in the corner of your house. Look for their brown, paper bag like texture and color.

The corner of a house is one of the most common places for wasps to build a nest because it gives their thin nest protection from the wind and the rain.

In some cases, you may need to use a ladder to reach the wasp nest with the flying insect/wasp spray.

Wasps nests are pretty easy to spot but can be more difficult in some situations. For instance, wasps can build nests up in trees but can be harder to spot.

I wrote an article about how to get rid of wasps that are buzzing around your car. The article discusses some images I took of a wasp nest in a tree, so if that’s more of what your situation is – you can click here to read that article.

After determining just where wasp nest is on your property, you’ll want to gear up. Go throw on a long-sleeved shirt, some thick pants like jeans, some sunglasses, and a hat.

Wearing all of that extra clothing will give you an added layer of protection against the wasps and will keep the wasp spray off of your skin.

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Next, it’s time to spray the wasp nest.

Most wasp sprays allow you to stand up to 15 – 20 ft away from a nest while spraying.

Generally, I’ve found better results when standing close to the 15ft range, as the spray goes in more of a straight line when you get closer to the nest.

The farther away you get with the spray, the more the stream of spray will loop and be harder to aim.

Here are some of the popular brands of wasp & hornet spray and their labeled spray range.

Wasp Insecticide Spray Distance
Product TypeLabeled Spray Distance
Raid Wasp & Hornet Spray22 FT
Spectracide Wasp & Hornet Spray27 FT
CRC Wasp & Hornet Spray20 FT

Again, in some cases, you may have to get a ladder to spray the wasp nest (which is where the sunglasses really come in handy).

However, most quality sprays will have a spray distance of at least 20 Feet. The ones that allow you to stand a little farther away, like the Spectracide spray, allow you to keep a slightly farther distance away from the nest.

Next, it’s time to actually spray the nest.

Very Important: Wait until dawn to spray the nest, as this is when most of the wasps will be inside the nest.

After gearing up, go outside and stand at least 15 feet away from the wasp nest. Go ahead and spray at will, coating the entire hive. You’ll probably see some active wasps come out, but this shouldn’t be a huge issue if you are far enough away and wearing long-sleeved clothing.

The wasp spray will soak onto the bees inside of the hive, causing the powerful nerve reaction that we discussed above.

Next, you’ll want to wait about 24 hours to make sure the wasp spray has had time to coat and work inside of the entire nest. After one full day of waiting, go back outside and knock down the hive with a long stick or bat.

The hive should crumble upon knocking down and will be inhabitable for wasps to take residence in for the future.

Since you’re now a mini expert on how wasp spray works, when to use it and how to use it, you now have the power to invest in a wasp/hornet spray that gives the best and most instant results possible.

What is the Best Wasp Insecticide?

There really isn’t a best overall wasp spray; however, there are a group of products that are superior to others on the market.

I’ve used several brands of wasp spray that were extremely cheap and didn’t work so well. Come to find out, these sprays didn’t include a proper dose of the pyrethroids and pyrethrins substances that are essential into knocking down bees.

The best thing you can do to make sure you purchase the correct wasp spray is to look at the main active ingredients and do an internet search for the active ingredient names, along with the words pyrethroids and pyrethrins, to see if the active ingredients are part of the pyrethroid and pyrethrin class.

Or, since that method is a little complicated, here is a shortlist of wasp sprays that are some of the most popular on the market.

  • Raid Wasp and Hornet Spray – 22ft
  • Spectracide Wasp and Hornet Spray – 27ft
  • CRC Wasp and Hornet Spray – 20ft
  • Ortho Hornet and Wasp Spray – 20ft
Example of Product 
Spectracide Wasp & Hornet Spray

The brand I currently use is Spectracide due to their long spray distance (and I find it readily available in stores usually). HOWEVER, that isn’t to say the other brands do not work just as well – I’ve heard and read great things about them.

Here’s a link to where you can grab some Spectracide if you’d like to go that route as well. The other sprays listed will do a great job if used correctly too.

Again, ask around and do your own research to see if these brands are the right type of spray for you. The important thing will all of these types of sprays is that they all contain those pyrethroids and pyrethrins type chemicals which are absolutely crucial for instantly knocking down bees.

If you want to learn more about pyrethrins, click here (link to NPIC.edu).

Remember, if any wasp nest seems too difficult or dangerous to handle, please call in a professional to take care of the job, especially if you are allergic to bee stings! Your safety is much more important than saving a little bit of money to take care of the situation yourself.

So please, safety first!

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