In­sect bites and st­ings

Popular Science - - CONTENTS -

YOU PROB­A­BLY DON’T SA­VOR THE AGONY OF A WELL-STUBBED TOE, BUT PAIN IS a boon. St­ings teach us to avoid sim­i­lar dust-ups in the fu­ture, but en­to­mol­o­gist Justin Sch­midt re­fuses to heed the warn­ings. He’s been poked at least 1,000 times in the name of the Sch­midt Sting Pain In­dex, a scale that ob­jec­ti­fies the in­ten­sity of our boo-boos, so he’s got a som­me­lier’s palate for pain. Here’s a taste of some of his most de­lec­ta­ble en­tries.

PAIN LEVEL 1 SWEAT BEES

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

LIT­TLE WASP

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

IN­DIAN JUMP­ING ANT

“Ah, that won­der­ful wake-up feel­ing, like cof­fee but oh so bit­ter.”

PAIN LEVEL 2 WESTERN HONEY BEE

“A flam­ing match head lands on your arm and is quenched first with lye and then sul­fu­ric acid.”

YELLOWJACKET

“Hot and smoky, al­most ir­rev­er­ent. Imag­ine W.C. Fields ex­tin­guish­ing a cigar on your tongue.”

HONEY WASP

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

PAIN LEVEL 3 RED-HEADED PA­PER WASP

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

RED PA­PER WASP

“Caus­tic and burn­ing, with a dis­tinctly bit­ter af­ter­taste. Like spilling a beaker of hy­drochlo­ric acid on a pa­per cut.”

FLORIDA HARVESTER ANT

“Bold and un­re­lent­ing. Some­body is us­ing a power drill to ex­ca­vate your in­grown toe­nail.”

PAIN LEVEL 4 TARAN­TULA HAWK

“Blind­ing, fierce, shock­ingly elec­tric. A run­ning hair dryer has just been dropped into your bub­ble bath.”

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?”

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