Now that’s dedication

The Schmidt Sting Pain Index rates, well, the pain of insect strings. It’s compiled by one extremely dedicated and perhaps a tad masochistic scientist, Dr. Justin O. Schmidt. Zooillogix reported a couple months back in the index’s palette of pain:

1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet & reaching for the light switch.
1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.
2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
2.x Honey bee and European hornet: Like a matchhead that flips off and burns on your skin.
3.0 Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.
3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic & burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
4.0 Pepsis wasp: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.
4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.

These descriptions are terrifyingly vivid, like a lightning strike to the eyeball! Doesn’t it make you wonder about the man behind the stings? Wonder no more – Zooillogix nabbed an interview with Dr. Schmidt. Sample question:

Was there a point that you regretted letting a particular insect sting you?

I never directly “let myself be stung” by anything particularly painful. Those that are really painful are quite good at stinging one without help. The worst stinging I received was probably by some black wasps (Polybia simillima) in Costa Rica. It was the only time I have ever seen that species, was ill-equipped at the time to collect the large nest, did not realize how good they were at penetrating bees suits and other barriers, and I absolutely needed that nest. The result was lots of nasty burning stings and a few irate colleagues who were nearby. Incidentally, most of my nasty stinging events are similar – they were serendipitous discoveries of a wonderful species that I needed and had no choice: grasp the moment, or lose it.

Apparently grasping the moment feels like burning (perhaps like a paring knife to a lemon-juice covered fingertip).

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3 Responses to Now that’s dedication

  1. Justin says:

    While I think this is really cool and I applaud Dr. Schmidt’s dedication, I can’t quite grasp why he is doing this. I was hoping the interviewer would simply ask, “Why?”. The closest we get regards developing an assay using pain receptors to define some kind of “biting pain” scale, which in of itself sounds a tad murky to me. The best answer I can come up with is identifying bugs via descriptions of someone bitten for application of the proper anti-serum when the victim isn’t smart enough to bring the biter with them to the hospital. If this is the case, would the sacle be reliable enough to apply the anit-serum? I think its obvious that this guy is mostly doing what he loves in life for a living, and for that I say kudos to him. As for the scientific community benefit, I say…meh.

  2. Gila says:

    Now, THAT’s insanity….

    I still remember the pain on sitting on a wasp when I was 9. Do that again? On purpose? No thanks!

  3. Kirsten says:

    In response to the previous commenters, the article seemed to indicate that the stings were incidental. He wasn’t letting himself get stung on purpose in order to measure the pain; he was recalling the stings he’d suffered in the line of duty (collecting specimens, I gather). You know, in fairness to the crazy guy who makes a living by grabbing wasps.

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