Ouch! The Most Painful Bites & Stings on Earth

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Ever heard of the Schmidt Sting Pain Index? The guy who wrote it went around deliberately being stung by most of the world’s most painful insects, which frankly sounds a bit odd to us. The trouble is, pain is a very subjective thing – the fact that Schmidt describes the sting of a baldfaced hornet as “rich, hearty, slightly crunchy”, then goes on to say it’s “similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door” should tell you something about his tolerance to pain. Personally, we’re fairly keen to avoid painful interactions of any kind, but if we had to pick the ones we’d least like to experience, it would be these…

Bullet Ants

Rated a 4+ on the pain index (which only goes up to 4), bullet ants live up to their namesake. Described by Schmidt as “like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch nail embedded in your heel”, these ants are used for a rather curious purpose by one group of Amazonian people. The Sateré-Mawé people engage in a coming-of-age ritual which involves young men sticking their hands in gloves filled with the angry ants and performing a dance while they’re stung mercilessly. The pain reportedly lasts for hours after the sting, which doesn’t sound at all pleasant. However, apparently once the pain (eventually) wears off, the adrenaline high lasts for a good week. It’s also very unlikely that you’ll die from the sting of a bullet ant – estimates are set at around 2,250 stings to kill a fully-grown human – but that might not be any consolation while you’re sweating in pain. We think we’ll stick to getting too drunk on cider as our coming-of-age tradition…

Warrior Wasp

Sticking in the realm of insects, we’ll move on to the warrior wasp’s sting which, at pain scale rating 4, was described by Schmidt as torture. Sounds delightful. Apparently, it feels like being “chained in the flow of an active volcano” and prompted Schmidt to ask “why did I start this list?” in desperation. It looks like a tank of a wasp, too, and certainly not one we’d like to come across in a dark jungle, especially considering the pain lasts up to two hours. Schmidt’s advice in the case of being stung by a warrior wasp? Lie down and scream. Ouch.

Tarantula Hawks

In contrast to a warrior wasp, the sting of a tarantula hawk, while blindingly painful, lasts only a few minutes. To be honest though, the fact that this is a wasp that deliberately hunts tarantulas is more than enough info for us, no matter how pretty it is. We will be avoiding this hardcore bug at all costs.

Armed Spider

The thing about stings from wasps and ants is that, while they can be excruciatingly painful, they’re very rarely fatal. Spider bites, on the other hand, can be deadly. Armed spiders – also called Brazilian wandering spiders or banana spiders – belong to the genus Phoneutria, which means murderess. What a good omen. The Guinness Book of World Records has named it the world’s most venomous spider on multiple occasions, though there are now antivenoms that can treat the toxin. It’s not just death that awaits you after a bite from one of these creepy crawlies, though: think severe burning at the bite position, abdominal cramping, and nausea. This particular spider bite also causes long, painful erections in male victims, which sounds especially uncomfortable (and awkward).

Gila Monster

All snuggled up

One-time bites are one thing, but what about an animal that clamps down on the bite site and chews, slowly pumping more venom into the wound? That sounds pretty agonising to us, though the bite of the Gila Monster is very rarely fatal. In all fairness, we think this little lizard has a bad rap: they’re actually very passive creatures, and most recorded incidents have involved bites to hands, implying that people were antagonising the reptile. They’re also far less monstrous than spiders, if you ask us. We might start a petition to rename them ‘Gila Cuties’ instead.


No one will convince us that this isn’t adorable

If you thought of the platypus as a cute little fluffy ducky creature, you wouldn’t be alone. We were fairly (read: very) shocked to discover that not only are male platypuses* one of only three mammals that produce venom, but also that the venom affects humans. It’s never been noted to kill a human (though it has polished off a few dogs), but the toxin is enough to leave someone in extreme pain for several weeks. Not so cute now! There is an upside to this, though: scientists are studying the way in which this pain affects humans, as no known painkillers currently work on the pain – that isn’t the good part! They’re hoping that they’ll be able to synthesise a painkiller that will work with that type of pain, which could consequently be used for other sources of agony. So that’s nice.

*We Googled the plural form of platypus, and this is correct!

Irukandji Jellyfish

Who’d have thought that a creature the size of your thumbnail could cause excruciating pain to an adult human? The sting of an Irukandji jellyfish – found in the waters around northern Australia – brings about symptoms known as Irukandji syndrome. You know it’s bad when there’s an official name for the damage. The stings of these teeny jellyfish are described as mildly irritating – at first. After an hour or two, though, that all changes: victims feel agonising muscle cramps and severe pain through the back and kidneys, as well as burning skin, vomiting, nausea, and the feeling of impending doom. We reckon in this case the pessimism is justified: 25% of those stung end up in hospital, and the pain is so severe it’s controlled with morphine. Ow.

Box Jellyfish

On the other hand, the Box jellyfish, which tends to inhabit the same waters as its smaller comrade the Irukandji jellyfish, can kill you within two minutes, and is considered the most venomous marine animal. The stingers also cause eye-watering pain and tissue necrosis. We think we’ll just stay out of the water during stinger season…

Executioner Wasp

Coming squarely back around to bugs, we reach the ominously named executioner wasp. Schmidt didn’t try this one out, and we don’t blame him. YouTuber Coyote Peterson used Schmidt’s pain index as the basis for his own experiments. Having been stung by a bullet ant, he took on the executioner wasp – and declared it his final sting. He claims that the pain is worse than anything else he has ever experienced, and that it lasted for 36 hours. The venom also destroyed an area of tissue around the wound and left him with a scar.


We’re not sure why these people are all that interested in getting themselves stung, frankly. We’d rather be lying by a (jellyfish free) pool. Fancy a holiday? Check out our Holidays | Flights | Hotels