Monday, August 4, 2008

Insects That Really Hurt

It seems entomologist Justin Schmidt devised a four-point pain scale to rate the pain caused by various stinging insects. Down at the bottom are sweat bees and fire ants, working up to tarantula hawks, and, finally, bullet ants.
Now, the tarantula hawk (a kind of wasp) and bullet ant stings are considered the two most painful of any insect, but they are of a very different character. One researcher described the tarantula hawk sting as:

"To me, the pain is like an electric wand that hits you, inducing an immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations. The pain for me lasted only about three minutes, during which time the sting area was insensitive to touch, i.e., a pencil point poked near the sting resulted only in a dull deep pressure pain."

Schmidt himself said of the tarantual hawk: "
Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath."

And the bullet ant, you see, is described as "Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel."

However, here is the most interesting distinction: While the tarantula hawk sting hurts for about three minutes, a bullet ant sting throbs for up to 24 hours. I once planned to get stung by a tarantula hawk, because I figured someone can stand anything for three minutes, but then I saw this video about bullet ants and decided it would be pointless.

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