Dangerous 'trend' for getting rid of wasps sparks warning: 'Needless killing'

The trend includes using a cup of flammable liquid to kill the insects.

An insect-killing "hack" making the rounds on social media has stopped experts in their tracks because of its potential for danger.

A Perth local shared a video on Monday, which has since been taken down, of their family using the viral "Tiktok Wasp Trend" to kill wasps around a nest. The "trend" has a person use a cup, which is half-full of petrol, to enclose the wasps in — eventually killing them with toxic fumes.

Entomologist Dr Tom White from the University of Sydney was unimpressed with the act. "I hope needlessly killing insects isn’t actually a 'trend'," he remarked. ABC Pest Control's Warren Bailey was equally unamused after seeing the video. "He was very lucky that he wasn’t stung," he said to Yahoo News Australia.

Other than harming insects, petrol is known to be an "extremely volatile liquid" that, when mixed with air, can form a "flammable atmosphere". "Plastic containers that aren’t designed to hold petrol can easily build up static, which could ignite the stored petrol," Compare the Market states online, raising fears of what could happen if more people try the "trend" at home.

Screenshots from the TikTok showing a man using a cup of petrol to kill wasps.
The video of the act was shared on TikTok on Monday. Source: TikTok

Wasps important for our ecosystems

Wasps are a hyper-diverse group, with approximately 12,000 species in Australia alone, White shared. They do important things for our ecosystems including pollinating plants and crops, controlling the insect and spider populations as excellent predators, and even aerating soil.

"Most wasps pose no harm, and will just be working to keep your yard free of potential pests. Even the ‘aggressive’ species like European or paper wasps will only kick off if they’re threatened or disturbed," White told Yahoo.

Image of wasps on a nest.
Wasps play an important role in our ecosystem. Source: Getty

Act dangerous for people as well as wasps

Petrol is known to be a dangerous substance which means a wasp sting could be the least of a person's worries when trying this "trend".

It is so hazardous that each state or territory has legislation to control how people can dispose of it. Petrol cannot be emptied into a drain or into a garden, and must be disposed of responsibly through a lawfully approved and licensed venue.

It should also only be transported in tins and jerrycans that comply with Australian and New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 2906 and the Australian Dangerous Goods Code according to the WA Department of Energy, Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.

"Using an open cup of petrol, in warmer months, to handle something that might sting you in response poses some obvious safety risks that I’d say exceed the threat posed by the wasps themselves," White commented.

How to sustainably and ethically remove wasps

White urges people to leave wasps alone where possible. "They’re likely doing a valuable job and are of little to no potential harm [but] if they’re really a nuisance, try to deter rather kill them."

He explains that wasps often make nests in "little nooks and crannies in their environments", so to deter them a person can implement "simple things" like sealing up gaps around the home, keeping the area clean, tidy & free of waste, and inspecting the home regularly for the beginnings of nests. Natural deterrents also include mint, basil, and eucalyptus which you can plant in your garden.

Like with any insect that one encounters, White says that while it's better to deter instead of kill, "if you must kill them" it's important to choose a humane, sustainable way of doing so.

"Look for selective wasp-targeted traps, sprays, or powders, rather than broad-spectrum chemicals like pyrethroids and neonicotinoids, which have broader environmental impacts and do more harm than good," he said.

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