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The Schmidt Sting Pain Index or The Justin O. Schmidt Pain Index is a scale rating the relative pain caused by different Hymenopteran stings. It is mainly the work of Justin O. Schmidt, an entomologist for whom the index is named. Schmidt has published a number of papers on the subject and claims to have been stung by the majority of stinging Hymenoptera.
His original paper in 1984 was an attempt to systematise and compare the hemolytic properties of insect venoms. The index contained in the paper started from 0 for stings that are completely ineffective against humans, progressed through 2, a familiar pain such as a common bee or wasp sting, and finished at 4 for the most painful stings. In the conclusion, some descriptions of the most painful examples was given, eg: "Paraponera clavata stings induced immediate, excruciating pain and numbness to pencil-point pressure, as well as trembling in the form of a totally uncontrollable urge to shake the affected part."
Subsequently, Schmidt has refined his scale, culminating in a paper published in 1990 which classifies the stings of 78 species and 41 genera of Hymenoptera. Notably, Schmidt described some of the experiences in vivid and colorful detail:
- 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 WC Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
- 2.x Honey bee and European hornet.
- 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 (if you get stung by one you might as well lie down and scream).
- 4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch nail in your heel.
- Schmidt, J. O., Blum, M. S., and Overal, W. L. "Hemolytic activities of stinging insect venoms", Archives of Insect Biochemistry and Physiology, 1:155–160, 1984.
- Schmidt, Justin O. "Hymenoptera venoms: striving toward the ultimate defense against vertebrates" in D. L. Evans and J. O. Schmidt (Eds.), "Insect defenses: adaptive mechanisms and strategies of prey and predators" pp. 387–419, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1990.
- Berenbaum, May. "A Stinging Commentary", American Entomologist, v. 49 n. 2, pp. 68-69
- Conniff, Richard. "The King of Sting", in Outside, v. 21 n. 4 (April 1996), pp. 82-84, 147.
- Conniff, Richard. "Stung: How tiny little insects get us to do exactly as they wish", Discover, June 2003.
- Evans, David L. Insect Defenses: Adaptive Mechanisms and Strategies of Prey and Predators, Table 14.1, 1990. ISBN 0-88706-896-0
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- Starr sting pain scale "A Pain Scale for Bee, Wasp and Ant Stings" by Christopher Starr
- pain scale
- fr:Justin O. Schmidt
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