Schmidt Sting Pain Index

One entomologist, Justin O. Schmidt, created a scale to rate the pain caused by the stings of different insects. The scale is based on his own observations, as he recorded the stings of 78 species, and has been stung by over 150 different species.

Schmidt did not purposely get insects to sting him just to create this scale; his work as an entomologist involved field work involved bagging live nests for study. Insects are never happy when one prods in their nest, so they tend to sting. He decided to scientifically categorize his experiences beginning in the mid-1980s.

The index is a spectrum that ranges from 0 to 4. At 0, the insect is completely ineffective at causing pain to humans. The honey bee ranks at 2 on the scale, while the most painful sting recorded is by the South American bullet ant, which ranks at 4.

schmidt index
Schmidt Pain Index

Schmidt not only recorded the observations on a number scale; he also provided a written description of the pain itself. These descriptions are very specific and often humorous, such as the one for the red harvester ant, which is “bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail,” and for the yellowjacket, which is “hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W.C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.

The scale is clearly subjective since it is the interpretation of a single man’s pain, but it provides insight by an expert to the quality and intensity of insect stings. Of course, if anyone is equipped to create a scale such as this, it is a man who has been stung hundreds of times. (Natalie Gilmore)

Graphic of Schmidt Pain Index:
Schmidt Pain Index

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