If you’re a fan of movies such as Antz, A Bug’s Life, or any other animation that tries to show us just how adorable insects can be by giving them human attributes, then you must really love insects. One thing that these great movies fail to point out clearly is that insects might not find us as adorable as we find some of them to be. If you happen to invade an insect’s territory in a way that makes them feel threatened, be prepared because it will not hesitate but to treat you like the enemy.
One insect sting will not threaten the life of a human being, but we cannot say the same about a swarm of insects with the intent of eliminating the threat. Therefore, if you can make sure to wear protective clothing and carry insect repellents whenever you have to cross paths with insects, or just keep away from insect colonies altogether, you will be safe.
Insects usually don’t hesitate to sting at the slightest appearance of a threat, a survival instinct that most of them share. Stings vary from one insect to another; some are in the range of bearable to slightly painful while others will feel as if 20,000 volts of electricity are passing through your body. Thanks to Justin Schmidt, an American entomologist with extensive work and research on bees and insect stings, we have a pain index that rates the pain from different insect bites. Here are the most painful stings in the world according to Schmidt:
10. Sweat Bee – Pain Scale Rating: 1.0
Sweat bees are a large family of medium-sized bees that come in black, metallic, brassy yellow, or even brilliant green colors. These are some of the most common bees in most parts of the world, though you will not find them in Australia. They get their name from their unique attraction to the salt in human sweat, so do not get nervous and start to sweat around them, it’ll only make things worse. According to Schmidt, a sting from a sweat bee will feel light and almost fruity, almost like a little spark on your arm’s hair. This bee’s sting is a 1.0 on Schmidt’s pain index.
9. Fire Ant – Pain Scale Rating: 1.2
Fire ants are very common types of ants found in many places around the world, though it is a South American native. Many people find them to be pests in their homes. The name fire ant describes a number of ant species that belong to the genus solenopsis invicta, which appear to have copper-brown bodies and heads with darker abdomens. These ants are very small though they are very aggressive especially when protecting their nests. Schmidt describes a sting from this ant as a sharp or mildly alarming sting that is persistently irritating. On the Schmidt pain index, this ant’s sting manages to get to 1.2.
8. Bullhorn Acacia Ant – Pain Scale Rating: 1.8
These ants get their name from the bullhorn acacia tree. These ants are of the pseudomyrmex ferruginea genus, and they have a symbiotic relationship with the bullhorn acacia tree. The tree provides these ants with food and shelter while in turn they protect the tree from herbivores and other types of animals that would otherwise destroy it. These ants appear to be wasp-like, with large eyes and an orange-brown body. Schmidt describes the sting from this ant as a piercing elevated pain that can resemble someone firing a staple into your cheek. This ant has a pain index of 1.8.
7. Bald-Faced Hornet – Pain Scale Rating: 2.0
Bald-faced hornets also go by the names bald hornets, white-tailed hornets, white-faced hornets, or bull wasps. They are large insects with white or cream markings at the abdomen and the front of the head, an appearance that contributes much to their name. These insects attack aggressively whenever they sense an intruder, making it hard to get rid of them. Unlike some other bees and wasps, their smooth stingers enable them to sting a threat repeatedly. Schmidt describes their sting as a hearty, crunchy, or rich sting. The fact that this insect’s sting has venom makes the sting hurt, and an individual will most likely swell for close to 24 hours. This sting is a 2.0 on the Schmidt pain index.
6. Yellow Jacket – Pain Scale Rating: 2.0
The yellow jacket is a wasp, meaning that it will defend its nest with as much aggression as possible. The main difference between a bee and a wasp is the fact that wasps have a thin waist, a feature that is clear in the yellow jacket. This wasp folds its wings lengthwise when resting and it usually appears black and yellow in color. Despite being a nuisance to the people living close to it, this wasp is also useful because it eats other insects. Schmidt describes a sting from a yellow jacket as smoky and hot, almost like putting out a cigarette with your tongue. The pain index for the yellow jacket sting is a 2.0.
5. Honey Bee – Pain Scale Rating: 2.0
The honey bee is what most people think of when they hear about bees, owing to its ability to produce and store honey in a wax nest. People harvest the honey and the wax, making this one of the most useful bees to human beings. Furthermore, agriculture owes a great percentage of its success to this bee, thanks to the pollination facilitated by it. The good thing about honey bees is that they will not attack unless an intruder attacks, or if their hive is in danger. This is because the bee can’t remove its barbed stinger once it enters the victim. When the bee leaves its stinger behind it also leaves behind part of its digestive tract as well as various muscles and nerves. Schmidt describes this bee’s sting as a sensation likened to a match flipping off and burning the skin. Once the bee is gone the stinger is capable of working its way deeper into the skin, making it critical to remove it as quickly as possible. The pain index for the honey bee sting is 2.0.
4. Red Harvester Ant – Pain Scale Rating: 3.0
The red harvester ant is one of the best candidates to live in an ant farm, therefore proving it to be less of a pest. These ants have an almost square head with relatively long bodies, they do not have a spine, and their reddish orange color sets them apart from other species of ants. The good thing about these ants is that they are reluctant attackers, though they have a painful sting when they do attack. Schmidt describes a sting from these ants as bold and relentless, a feeling comparable to drilling out an ingrown toenail. According to the pain index, this ant is at a painful 3.0.
3. Paper Wasp – Pain Scale Rating: 3.0
The paper wasp or umbrella wasp is of the genus Polistes, consisting of not less than 200 different wasp species. These wasps have dark brown bodies, some yellow markings, and back wings. The name paper wasp comes from how they construct their nests, using their saliva to convert plant material to appear like paper. In addition, these wasps do not construct an outer cover for their water resistant, umbrella-looking nests, which is the origin of their other name. These wasps are not as aggressive as other wasps on the list, but the first sign of a threat will cause them to attack. Schmidt describes the wasp’s sting as a burning and caustic feeling, similar to how someone would feel if hydrochloric acid was poured on a paper cut. The sting’s pain index stands at 3.0.
2. Tarantula Hawk – Pain Scale Rating: 4.0
The tarantula hawk is a fierce spider wasp, and the fact that it feeds on tarantulas makes it one of those insects you do not want to mess around with. This spider wasp has a bluish-black body with brightly colored wings, though you can come across species with black wings and blue highlights. The tarantula hawk has long legs with hooked claws at the end; this design helps them to hold their victims as they deliver one of the most painful stings in the world. Schmidt refers to a sting from the tarantula hawk as a shockingly electric, fierce and blinding sting, and is enough to make anyone lie down while screaming in pain. The sting comes it at a very painful 4.0 on the pain index.
1. Bullet Ant – Pain Scale Rating: 4.0+
The bullet ant delivers the most painful sting of all insects, and some people claim that its sting is the worst pain known to man. Belonging to the parponera clavata genus, these giant ants are reddish black in color, colors that can give you a clue as to how dangerous the ant is. Although some people have equated the pain of this ant’s sting to the pain of being shot at with a bullet, Schmidt describes it as pure, intense pain that is like walking on burning charcoal while having 3-inch nails under your heel. The Schmidt pain index gives the bullet ant’s sting an incredible 4.0+, meaning that you do not want to experience the sting at all. Not convinced? Check out what happens when someone does get stung. Furthermore, the pain from the sting can last for over 24 hours.
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