Wednesday, 23 May 2012 By: Jenny Vu

The Schmidt Sting Pain Index - What Sting Hurts the Most?

Today when I was reading mX, I came across an interesting article about an entomologist from the University of Arizona. This man is Justin Schmidt. His area of expertise is Hymenoptera, the family of insects which includes wasps, bees and ants, so it's no surprised he's been stung over 100 times.

Throughout his career, he conducted personal research and "unintentionally" came up with the The Schmidt Sting Pain Index, a system developed to compare the relative intensity of Hymenoptera stings. This "research" involved provoking the insects to the point of rage, when they would attack/defend themselves. Each sting is on a rank between 1 to 4. Here is a sample from Wikipedia which includes their rank number and a description of the sting by Schmidt:

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 & reaching for the light switch."

2.0 Yellowjacket: 
"Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue."

And this is what the sting looks like.
3.0 Paper wasp: 

Source: wikipedia
"Caustic & burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. 
Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut."
4.0 Tarantula Hawk: 
Schmidt holding a Tarantula Hawk - Source:
"Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. 
A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath."

Yep, they hunt tarantulas.

4.0+ Bullet ant: 

"Pure, intense, brilliant pain. 
Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel."

If you want to read more about Justin Schmidt, here are some links:
Interview: Link
Article on Justin: Link
Enjoy you're day :)


Unknown said...

Brilliant and hilarious

Anonymous said...

This guy has credentials, expertise and experience. However, I see no variables addressed here, and just as bad, I see several neglected aspect fallacies, at least insofar as his research is articulated here. For variables, consider this---any sting will vary in pain according to the site where it happens; the cheek would hurt worse than the thigh. Where did he take the stings? If it was hands or arms, someone should so state. There have been stings taken on the eyeball, that has to be the worst possible place. Wasp and ant venom is discussed; however, caterpillars are also insects! What of the puss caterpillar, whose sting is described as "overwhelming," and occasions some emergency room visits? (Neglected aspects!) All wasp/ant venom has similarity of chemical components---there is an overlap between many species. So; it could easily be that starting with the 1st sting he took, he gradually built up circulating antibodies, so that as he went down some list of species, he was literally incapable of experiencing the full impact, having been partially enabled to defend against the ongoing chemical insults. See what I mean about neglected aspects? It DOES apply! I've read the tarantula hawk sting starts rapidly dissipating after only three minutes; I've read that from multiple sources. I took a red wasp (polistes Carolina) sting to my left armpit, and I SCREAMED for SEVEN HOURS, even with treatment intervention! It's a fact that red species really cause more pain! There is the red/black velvet ant ("cow killer") and where is it described here? It's impact is called "traumatically agonizing;" there's also the 40MM long Australian bulldog ant, 30 stings are said to cause fatality to adult, the same number claimed for the polistes Carolina. Lethality and pain may not be identical; the bullet ant ritual uses stings of over a hundred ants, after several days of delirium, recovery comes. I've read an electrician claiming he knows first hand, a red wasp sting hurts WORSE than a 240 volt electric shock! The giant Japanese hornet, I see it not here! The giant cicada killer, erroneously reported to have a mild sting, because people took stings soon after its venom sac was depleted (coincidentally, this is also when the wasp is most accessible), is said by master beekeeper site to hurt as long as a week. Simon & Schuster Guide to Insects said the giant cicada killer has "one of the most severe sting of any insect," it was authored by ENTOMOLOGISTS (Schmidt isn't the only one!) An assassin bug injects digestive fluid, the puncture bite is said to hurt worse than an ordinary hornet and take months to heal. A red wasp will hurt worse than any hornet other than the Japanese hornet. Red wasps are seriously underrated as to severity, but probably the cow killer is even worse. The difference is the cow killer isn't likely to be in a swarm, like red wasps when you get too close to their base, and you'd be better off taking the cow killer sting than risking multiple reds!

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