Taking A Whole Bunch For The Team
June 24, 2016 10:07 AM   Subscribe

"Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair dryer has been dropped into your bubble bath. A bolt out of the heavens. Lie down and scream." [SL Atlas Obscura] So what's it actually like to get bitten or stung by the world's nastiest bugs? Welcome to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index.

Justin Schmidt, aka "The King of Sting," has written a book on the subject, The Sting of the Wild, detailing his impressions. [TW: the AO page has animated insects crawling all over it. May be triggery for some, anyway.]
posted by Halloween Jack (37 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Good reading. The insect bite "reviews" read like what would happen if you dropped an oenophile into the Amazon.
posted by kozad at 10:16 AM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


The fire ant description is really underselling the experience. Just getting bit by one would be fine...but no, they crawl up your body undetected and then somehow (I'm guessing pheromones) all go to town at once once they've covered you from about the waist down.

I've dropped trou after exiting a helicopter into a nest, and no one had any problem with the half dressed Army man running around, screaming, and pouring water all over his crotch. This behavior was less acceptable on weekend evenings.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:24 AM on June 24, 2016 [30 favorites]


Previously.
posted by zamboni at 10:25 AM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I could have lived my whole life without knowing how damned big the tarantula hawk (the "lie down and scream" insect in the OP) is. holy christ dude I need to go lie down
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 10:27 AM on June 24, 2016 [12 favorites]


The little moving critters on the web page gave me the heebie jeebies.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:29 AM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


Insect bites affect people differently. I was working on an insect project in Costa Rica (also in Guanacaste, actually!) and the grad student I worked for was really sensitive to bites. If an acacia ant (pictured) stung him, his forearms swelled up for a whole day. If an acacia and stung me, the pain was shocking and intense, but it was gone in a few minutes. (This seemed to be true of all the bites we were getting, that they were milder for me.) The prof we were working for, who studied acacia ants intensely for his PhD, claimed he got to a point where he didn't notice them while he was doing his fieldwork.
posted by little onion at 10:29 AM on June 24, 2016


As a beekeeper, while I don't like getting stung, I don't find it to be outrageously painful. Interestingly, the last time I got stung, right on the top of my head, it felt like warm oil being poured v e r y s l o w l y over my head at first, followed by the stinging (burning match) sensation. It was super weird. And kinda cool.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:30 AM on June 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


I hate ants. All of them, but especially bullet and army ones. Here's a video I took of a group of army ants moving their nest through my field site; at the end I got too close and got bitten :-(
posted by ChuraChura at 10:44 AM on June 24, 2016 [14 favorites]


I haven't been bitten/stung by a lot of insects, but for me nothing has hurt worse than the horsefly. Where bee stings are like a brief sharpness followed by a dull ache, horseflies feel like they're down there with one of those olde timey hand drills, turning it reeeally slow. It's excruciating.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:44 AM on June 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


As a beekeeper...the last time I got stung, right on the top of my head, it felt like warm oil being poured v e r y s l o w l y over my head at first, followed by the stinging (burning match) sensation. It was super weird. And kinda cool.

You need to market this as an Artisinal Local Bee Massage.
posted by asockpuppet at 10:45 AM on June 24, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm going to nope the heck out of them with some serious waffle stompin' boots and a big can of Bug Off!
posted by BlueHorse at 10:46 AM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


mods plz add category to flag ("NOPE")
posted by disconnect at 10:48 AM on June 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


A dumber story is that once I was out with one of the local parataxonomists and we came across this large, ridged wasp nest on a tree. He showed me some childhood trick where you could run a stick against the ridges and it agitated the wasps and they all came out. Well obviously the next step is that you run away, but I had to stand there and film the wasps coming out. One stung me on the ring finger and, I assume because the venom got more concentrated in that little area, it was the worst sting of my life. A cold knife into my finger, finger was swollen and aching for hours and I had to lie and pretend it was okay because I felt so stupid.

Anyways, here's the video. (The punchline is that most of the action I stayed to film is out of frame.)
posted by little onion at 10:56 AM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


what would happen if you dropped an oenophile into the Amazon.

"Good start."
posted by Etrigan at 10:58 AM on June 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


One stung me on the ring finger

This would have been worse if you hadn't gone digital.
posted by biffa at 10:58 AM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Ok, but what about the hawaiian centipede?
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 11:00 AM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ok, but what about the hawaiian centipede?

No thanks, I'm fine. Really.
posted by aubilenon at 11:13 AM on June 24, 2016


Ok, but what about the hawaiian centipede?

The second-worst pizza variety, after Little Caesar's Et Tu Blueberry.
posted by Etrigan at 11:14 AM on June 24, 2016 [21 favorites]


FYI: A piece of cut raw onion dabbed lightly over an ant bite will provide immediate pain relief. (Can't vouch for its effectiveness with other bug bites, however.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:26 AM on June 24, 2016


I know the sting of the bullet ant is supposed to be Hell and Death: "Pure, intense, brilliant pain" (from the article), "There were huge waves and crescendos of burning pain..." - What It's Like to Get Stung by the World's Most Painful Insect, so why isn't Ant-Man feared and respected more? What really annoyed me about the movie is that it was stated that he was using bullet ants so he'd be able to cripple pretty much anyone with exposed skin with one bite of one ant. Yes, these truly are the major issues of our day.
posted by Zack_Replica at 11:27 AM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


The scene: Seven year old Roland helps his pawpaw move a bushhog that had been sitting in a grown up (think knee high brush/grass) field that hadn't been moved in years. Blazing hot sun.

The bushog is connected to the tractor via the three point hitch and Roland is motioned away to a safe distance (20 feet?) and gives the international all clear thumbs up while his grandfather cranks the tractor and moves the lever that lifts the bushog from the ground for transport.

Cue our third actor and star, a yellowjacket that was somehow disturbed, or perhaps even propelled, by the initial movement/engagement of the bushhog to enter center stage and come screaming at ludicrous speed to simultaneously impact and sting the tip of Roland's nose like a bolt from the Gods.

Roland collapses to the ground with both eyes instantly filled with water and seeing only bright white. Grandfather rushes over to see if he's somehow been hit by a thrown rock.

Curtain falls to the sound of the tractor chugging to a stall and quitting as the actors sit on the ground laughing.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:54 AM on June 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'll see your flying stingers and raise you a toe biter.

Their bite is considered one of the most painful that can be inflicted by any insect; however, though excruciatingly painful, it is of no medical significance. Adults cannot breathe under water, so must surface periodically for air.[2] Occasionally, when encountered by a larger predator, such as a human, they have been known to "play dead" and emit a fluid from their anus.[2] Due to this, they are assumed dead by humans only to later "come alive" with painful results.[2]

By the way, you can click on the tiny flies on the web site and kill them.
posted by Splunge at 12:01 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


The shapes for that scale make no sense. It should be something like more sides = more pain (so the circle would be worst, for really off-the-charts, though I'd accept having the circle be, counterintuitively, least, also). Instead we have two quadrilaterals with a triangle, pentagon, and circle between them, and a hexagon as the most painful. Good luck looking at a particular sigil in isolation and having any clue what it means. The allotment of colors is similarly asystematic.
posted by kenko at 12:19 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can certify that the Red Paper Wasp goes from "huh?" to "fucking hell! something's gnawing a chunk out of my foot!" in about 10 seconds.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:25 PM on June 24, 2016


Schmidt was recently on 538's What's the Point podcast.
posted by that's candlepin at 12:38 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I remember once vacationing with my aunt and uncle in their cabin way up in the mountains of New Mexico. We were lounging around when all of a sudden my uncle said, "Everyone, stand on a chair." My aunt and I obeyed, and my uncle did the same after retrieving a large and heavy book. As he stood on his chair, he raised the book above his head and dropped it... onto the ten-inch deadly poisonous centipede that had decided to wander in.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:07 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


I could have lived my whole life without knowing how damned big the tarantula hawk (the "lie down and scream" insect in the OP) is. holy christ dude I need to go lie down

yeah bro you don't want to fuck with cazadores until you have an smg and lots of points on your guns stat
posted by indubitable at 2:51 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Interesting about the toe biters. I've been bitten by those lots and while it hurt it didn't hurt much. Ditto on scorpions. I've been bitten or stung by lots of things and bee stings bother me the most. They throb for hours, it's ridiculous
posted by fshgrl at 3:41 PM on June 24, 2016


_I haven't been bitten/stung by a lot of insects, but for me nothing has hurt worse than the horsefly. Where bee stings are like a brief sharpness followed by a dull ache, horseflies feel like they're down there with one of those olde timey hand drills, turning it reeeally slow. It's excruciating._

I used to have to deal with these things back home. They're made of freaking armor.

On the dock one summer, I hit one full force with the blade of my hand just before it bit me. I heard and felt it crunch and felt great satisfaction.

It fell to the ground, took a moment, then buzzed away.
posted by Sauce Trough at 5:53 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


The fire ant description is really underselling the experience.

Seconded. Spent part of a field season excavating a pit house that turned out to host a fire ant nest, which gave the little bastards countless opportunities to sneak up past your wrist or ankle cuffs to raid more delicate territory. Most of us had at least one episode of rapid public disrobing as a result. My (least) favorite was the day several fire ants crawled into my bra.
posted by karayel at 8:01 PM on June 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


In the last few days, /r/wtf included a photo documenting one poor woman's experience. While eating wild blackberries she inadvertently swallowed an ant, which then used its pincers to latch onto her uvula. She reported that she was able to remove it by hand, with much difficulty; her motivation enabled her to overcome her gag reflex. Shudder.

I am prone to terrible insect experiences. In Bali I encountered several Tomcat or Rove beetles (paederus fuscipes), which look like small red and black ants. They don't bite but have venom on their skin (often compared to Cobra venom) that leaves a blistering, supporating wound. I had to go to a hospital and get it abraded. Not fun.
posted by carmicha at 9:04 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also on the fivethirtyeight what's the point? podcast...
posted by ph00dz at 10:02 PM on June 24, 2016


You need to market this as an Artisinal Local Bee Massage.

Uh... google venom therapy
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:32 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I had a bad season with Valley Black Midges, which are tiny and short-lived and short-travelling. Its hard to get bitten unless you're literally studying the drying mud they breed in. I thought they were just sipping sweat and didn't brush them off.

Two days later my pinnae were so swollen they everted, and four months later I was still itching uncontrollably and shedding bits of skin. Slightly necrotizing, I think.
posted by clew at 11:54 PM on June 24, 2016


I wish that I could read more Metafilter comments starting with the words "As a beekeeper...".
posted by howfar at 5:11 AM on June 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I wish I could write more comments starting with the words "As a beekeeper...".

Just gimme a few more years, I'll get there.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:20 AM on June 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Ok, but what about the hawaiian centipede?

I've said before that there is only one worthwhile thing to remember about giant centipedes, and it is this: after skinny dipping, shake out your shorts.
posted by flabdablet at 7:31 AM on June 25, 2016


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