The World’s Most Painful Insect Bites

The World’s Most Painful Insect Bites

For such minuscule creatures, insects sure can cause a lot of pain. Consequently, most of us (quite sanely) avoid bites and stings as much as possible.

But not entomologist Dr. Justin Schmidt. He’s purposely let over 83 types of bugs sting him.

All in the name of science, of course.

The Schmidt Sting Pain Index

In the 1980s, Schmidt compiled the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. The index classifies bites on a pain scale from one to four, with one being the least painful and four the most painful.

Thankfully, only a couple of insects are dangerous enough to have earned a level-4 designation, a label given to bugs with the most painful bite.

Whether you think Schmidt’s dedication is noble or insane, his findings certainly are interesting. Here’s a look at some of the most painful bug bites in the world.

honey bee

5. Honey Bee

A lot of people who aren’t allergic to bees are still terrified of them—for good reason. Bee stings hurt!

During a sting, bees release a chemical called melittin into the bloodstream that almost immediately constricts blood vessels and causes an intense pain reaction. Just one sting is enough to trigger a lifelong aversion to these striped pollinators.

And they only clock in at a pain level of 2 on Schmidt’s scale.

red harvester ant

4. Red Harvester Ant

These little red devils are commonly found in the southern United States, especially in Texas. Although unassuming, red harvester ants are extremely aggressive. If you don’t step aside, you will get hurt. Specifically, a level-3 hurt.

For those of you who’ve luckily never had the agonizing experience of a harvester ant bite, Schmidt describes it as “bold and unrelenting, like somebody using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.”

Ouch. No thank you.

paper wasp

3. Paper Wasp

From afar, paper wasps are really interesting creatures. Close up? They’re the enemy—an enemy who lives everywhere.

Schmidt describes a sting from this level-3 insect as “caustic and burning with a distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.”

We’re not sure if Schmidt’s colorful descriptions are impressive or disturbing… perhaps both.

tarantula hawk wasp

2. Tarantula Hawk Wasp

Tarantulas are the giant, hairy pests of nightmares… literally. By extension, an insect that actively hunts and eats tarantulas would be the nightmare of nightmares. With a level-4 pain classification, tarantula hawk wasps are indisputably just that.

These wasp stings, while torturous, are luckily quite fleeting. Having said that, you should still avoid them at all costs. The pain may not linger, but the memory will haunt you.


bullet ant

1. Bullet Ant

This insect’s name foreshadows the sensation of its bite. People who have been both shot and bitten by a bullet ant reported a similar pain experience. As if this level-4 pain wasn’t bad enough, the effects of the bite can last up to 12 hours.

12 hours.

Schmidt calls the bullet ant’s bite as “pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a three-inch rusty nail in your heel.”

Short of a real bullet, it doesn’t get much worse than that.

There’s definitely merit in knowing the level of damage these bugs cause. That said, it’s still hard to believe that someone would voluntarily subject themselves to the wrath of these tiny terrors—we certainly wouldn’t. So when it comes to the pain, we’ll just take Schmidt’s word for it.





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