DEC 12, 2017 3:15 PM PST

8 Insects that Inflict the Worst Pain

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Ever wonder how scientists rate how painful a bug's bite can be? Up until 1990, there was no standardized scale for this sort of inquiry - people just went by word of mouth about which bug's bite were more painful than others.

Realizing the need for this pain classification, Justin Schmidt, an enthusiastic entomologist, decided to sacrifice himself. Schmidt voluntarily got stung by nearly 80 species of bugs that are known to inflict pain (some quite viciously).

After enduring the pain that no one else would willingly agree to, Schmidt came up with a pain scale, deservedly named the "Schmidt Pain Index." This consisted of ratings that range from 1 to 4, with 4 being the most exquisite pain that Schmidt experienced.

The pain index is also unique in that Schmidt didn't just assign a number to a bug's bite - he colorfully describes the pain in ways that let people relate exactly to how mild or painful the bite really is. Consider, for example, the bullet ant - Schmidt rates this bug's bite at the top of the pain scale at 4+. However, the true pain of a bullet ant's bite becomes visceral once you hear Schmidt's description: "Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail grinding into your heel."

The Schmidt's Pain Index represents one man's true dedication to codify pain from insect stings and bites. Schmidt was recognized for his sacrifice when he earned the Ig Nobel Prize for physiology and entomology in 2015.

Watch the video to learn the 8 insects with the worst stings, as rated by the Schmidt's Pain Index.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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