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The Schmidt sting pain index is surprisingly eloquent – here are a few cringeworthy descriptions of pain worthy of being branded “classic literature”.

bee stinging arm

The Schmidt sting pain index is a pain scale rating the relative pain of stings. It is mainly the work of Justin O. Schmidt, an entomologist at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Arizona, United States. In his book, The Sting of the Wild, Schmidt created a table that includes a column that rates the sting pain, starting from 0 for stings that are completely ineffective against humans, progressing through 2, a familiar pain such as a common bee or wasp sting and finishing at 4 for the most devastating stings. Accompanying the table are examples of insects that produce the sting and a cringeworthy description of the pain they inflict. Schmidt’s striking descriptions not only capture the essence of how much the sting hurts, they are worthy of the most terror-stricken horror movie.

Here are examples of the Schmidt Sting Pain Index with Schmidt’s profoundly eloquent (and cringeworthy) description of the pain caused by the sting.

< Level 1.0

Club-Horned Wasp

“Disappointing. A paper clip falls on your bare foot.”

Level 1.0

Sweat Bee

“Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.”

Red fire ant

“Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet and reaching for the light switch.”

Little Wasp

“Sharp meets spice. A slender cactus spine brushed a buffalo wing before it poked your arm.”

Slender Twig Ant

“A skinny bully’s punch. It’s too weak to hurt but you suspect a cheap trick might be coming.”

Level 1.5

Saturing army ant

“A cut on your elbow, stitched with a rusty needle.”

Paper wasp

“Burning, throbbing, and lonely. A single drop of superheated frying oil landed on your arm.”

Giant ant

“A pulsing sting with some flavor. You stepped into a salt bath with an open wound.”

Level 1.8

Bullhorn Acadia Ant

“A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.”

Level 2.0

Glorious velvet ant

“Instantaneous, like the surprise of being stabbed. Is this what shrapnel feels like?”

Honey wasp

“Spicy, blistering. A cotton swab dipped in habanero sauce has been pushed up your nose.

Western yellow jacket

“Hot and smokey. Almost irreverent. Imagine W.C. Fields extinguishing his cigar on your tongue.”

Western honey bee

“Burning, corrosive, but you can handle it. A flaming match head lands on your arm and is quenched with lye and then with sulfuric acid.”

Level 2.1


“Like a match head that flips off and burns on your skin.”

Level 2.5

Yellow Fire Wasp

“An odd, distressing pain. Tiny blowtorches kill your arms and legs.”

Nocturnal Hornet

“Rude, insulting. An ember from your campfire is glued to your skin.”

Fierce Black Polybia Wasp

“A ritual gone wrong. Satanic. The gas lamp in the old church explodes in your face when you light it.”

Artistic Wasp

“Pure, then messy, then corrosive. Love and marriage followed by divorce.”

Level 3.0

Read-Headed Paper Wasp

“Immediate, irrationally intense and unrelenting. This is the closest you will come to feeling the blue of a flame from within the fire.”

Red Paper Wasp

“Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.”

Level 4.0

Tarantula Hawk

“Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair dryer has been dropped into your bubble bath. Lie down and scream.”

Bullet ant

“Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch nail embedded in your heel.”

Warrior wasp

“Torture. You are chained in the flow of an active volcano. Why did I start this list?”

schmidt s sting pain index the sting of the wild