Masochistic entomologist analyzes and describes the pain of various stings

By Abraham Piper

Insect scientist Justin O. Schmidt is best known for his “Sting Pain Index.” Taking him at his word, he has experienced the venom of most stinging bees, wasps, and ants.

From his painful research he developed his pain index with 0 representing stings that have no effect on humans and 4 signifying the worst sting of all. He documented the sting of 78 different species in a 1990 paper.

Here is an amusing and masochistically creative selection…

  • 1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
  • 1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet and reaching for the light switch.
  • 1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
  • 2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.
  • 2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
  • 2.x Honey bee and European hornet: Like a matchhead that flips off and burns on your skin.
  • 3.0 Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.
  • 3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic and burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
  • 4.0 tarantula hawk: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.
  • 4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.

Sounds kind of like he’s taste-testing moonshine.

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