Can You Kill a Bee With Hairspray?
Bees play a vital ecological role as pollinators for flowers, trees, and agricultural crops around the world. Their services help plants reproduce and produce bountiful harvests of fruit, seeds, and vegetables. However, sometimes bees decide to build a nest or establish a hive in an area inhabited by humans, such as inside sheds, barns, or cavities in homes. This creates a predicament, as the nesting bees may fly out to sting perceived intruders and pose a safety risk, especially to those allergic to bee venom. Killing bees should always be an absolute last resort, but some people consider using common household products like hairspray to eliminate them. But is hairspray actually effective at killing bees?
How Hairspray Could Potentially Kill Bees
Hairspray contains several ingredients that allow it to spray out as a fine mist that helps hold hair in place. The main components include various polymers to provide structure, alcohol to quickly dissolve and dry, and a propellant to push the mixture out of the can. Typically, the propellant used is a hydrocarbon like butane, pentane, or propane. When the trigger is pushed, the propellant converts to a gas, forcing the hairspray mixture into a cloud-like plume.
This spray of fine droplets and particles could theoretically cause harm to bees in a few ways if aimed directly at them:
- The physical force of the spray may knock bees out of the air.
- The propellants and polymers could suffocate bees by clogging their breathing pores and respiratory spiracles.
- The alcohol could disrupt cell membranes, especially in the nerves, wings, eyes, and brain.
- The coating of sticky polymers weighing down wings could impair bees from flying properly.
So in theory, a potent blast of hairspray aimed accurately at flying or resting bees could potentially kill them. However, there are several limiting factors that likely reduce its real-world effectiveness.
Limitations of Hairspray for Killing Bees
For hairspray to have a chance at killing bees, the bees need to either be flying very close to the can nozzle or stationary on a surface in order to receive a direct coating of spray. Bees inside nesting cavities, crevices, or hives will be shielded from much of the spray. The fine mist also diffuses and dissipates through the air very quickly, which gives bees only a brief exposure. Research suggests that insects like flies and mosquitoes can recover and resume normal activity after contact with hairspray unless it is administered in very large doses. Bees may similarly be able to survive a passing exposure to hairspray mist. Their dense, waxy exoskeletons may allow them to avoid absorbing a lethal dose of toxic chemicals. Any bees away from the nest foraging for pollen and nectar would also not be affected at all.
Dangers of Attempting to Kill Bees with Hairspray
Aside from likely being ineffective, there are several reasons why hairspray should be avoided as an attempted remedy for eliminating bees:
- Spraying a bee nest will almost guarantee angry bees rushing out to sting in defense, posing a serious stinging hazard.
- Bees returning to a disturbed nest may become aggressive and attack unprovoked.
- The petroleum-based propellants in hairspray are extremely flammable. Discharging large amounts of hairspray around a bee nest creates a fire risk from ignition sources like electrical cords, lit cigarettes, grills, etc.
- Inhaling significant amounts of hairspray fumes can cause dizziness, coughing, and shortness of breath.
- Outdoors, hairspray can drift on the wind and endanger other beneficial pollinating insects like butterflies.
For all these reasons, hairspray is not recommended under any circumstances as a way to control bees. Not only is it unlikely to work well, but the risks outweigh any benefits.
More Effective Bee Removal Methods
If a bee nest simply cannot be left undisturbed, there are more effective methods that should be employed instead of attempting to kill bees with hairspray. These include:
- Calling a professional beekeeper, who will know how to safely capture and relocate the queen and worker bees from the area. This is the best option for maintaining the bee colony.
- Using pesticide sprays designed specifically to eliminate bees, such as those containing pyrethrum or carbaryl. These are more potent and appropriate formulations.
- Sealing any holes, cracks, or openings where bees are entering a building so they eventually abandon the nest. This may include using caulk, expandable foam, wood, metal screens, etc.
- Setting up traps designed to lure bees in with nectar and then contain them until they expire. Traps minimize agitating bees.
In some cases where nests are extremely close to human activity, extermination may be the only choice. But this should always be a last resort performed by qualified pest control experts. Firing hairspray at bees randomly is never advisable. Protecting public safety as well as bee conservation should be the priorities.
Hairspray is not likely to be an effective remedy for killing bees or eliminating their nests or hives. The spray is difficult to administer at doses lethal enough to exterminate bees. Attempting to do so also provokes bee attacks and poses health and fire hazards from the propellants. Emptying cans of hairspray around bee nests damages the environment and may kill beneficial pollinating insects. If bees must be removed from an area, calling a beekeeper to safely relocate them or using purpose-made pesticides are far better options than improvising with hairspray. With bees facing threats like habitat loss, diseases, and pesticides, their populations need to be preserved through sustainable practices as much as possible.