Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's a Painful Job - So We're Glad Someone Else Did It

Justin O. Schmidt, not stung (yet)

From Wikipedia:

The Schmidt Sting Pain Index or The Justin O. Schmidt Pain Index is a pain scale rating the relative pain caused by different Hymenopteran stings. It is mainly the work of Justin O. Schmidt, an entomologist at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center. 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 were given, e.g.: "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:

Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.

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