Most of us will have felt the pain of a bee sting. Luckily most of us will have avoided the dreaded pain of a tarantula hawk or a fire ant.
Justin Schmidt felt all three of these – and 147 other horrible, burning sensations – after a dedicated life-long career devoted to insects.
On numerous fieldwork trips, The University of Arizona entomologist would find himself digging up living colonies of creatures, who in turn were not happy with this destructive human scooping them into bags – and promptly sank their fangs, stingers or pincers into him.
Still, no pain, no gain, and Schmidt turned his experiences into the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, ranking 78 species in a list which, while subjective, was put together by the man who must surely know best, ranking their pain on a scale of 1 to 4.
He also gave un-scientific-sounding but apt descriptions for each pain, for instance the sting of the yellowjacket wasp felt ‘hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.’.
According to io9, entomologist May Berenbaum described Schmidt’s char as: ‘A scale from 0 to 4, in which 0 was defined as the sensation of being stung by an insect that cannot penetrate human skin to 2, a familiar intermediate pain (honey bee), to 4, an intensely painful sting.’