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Axel Young
Axel Young

The Sting Of The Wild: The Man Who Got Stung Fo...

Schmidt has traveled all over the world looking for bugs ... and getting stung by them. The result of his work is an alarmingly comprehensive pain index, ranking 83 insect stings on a spectrum of 1 to 4.

The Sting of the Wild: The Man Who Got Stung fo...

As for whether he wants to be stung, Schmidt says "want" isn't quite the right way to put it. "Want is kind of a dual word," he tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer. "I want the data, but I don't want the sting."Schmidt has written a book about his travels (and travails) called The Sting of the Wild: The Story of the Man Who Got Stung for Science.

They're the only insect sting venom that causes the hair on your arm where you've been stung to stand up kind of like the hair on the back of a dog's neck when it's frightened. And it causes sweating. These are all kind of neurological things which are unique to it. It's got very complex biochemistry that still, after 35 years, we have lots of mysteries left to discover with them. Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit

The Schmidt sting pain index is a pain scale rating the relative pain caused by different hymenopteran stings. It is mainly the work of Justin O. Schmidt, a former entomologist at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Arizona. Schmidt published a number of works on the subject, and claimed to have been stung by the majority of stinging Hymenoptera.

Schmidt's pain scale of Hymenopteran stings is organized into levels, ranging between 1 and 4, with 4 being the most painful. However, insect stings that feel very different can be put into the same level. Thus, later versions of the scale always include a brief description of his experience being stung by each type of insect.[6]

Aside from equipping "Ant Man" with useful knowledge, what's the purpose of such a pain index in the real world, you might ask? Well, in a cruel application, you can use the index to mock anyone making a fuss about a sting from a puny, little fire ant (minor stuff, as far as stings go), but pity the poor soul stung by a bullet ant. This, Schmidt described as "pure, intense, brilliant pain, like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch [7.6 centimeters] nail embedded in your heel." The fire ant sting is a 1; the bullet ant sting is a 4.

But Schmidt said he also sees practical uses for his index. A medical provider could use the chart to assess your response to a sting. If you were stung by a fire ant and it feels more painful than a honeybee sting, you may be having an adverse reaction to the sting. With more serious stings, medical providers could use the pain index to understand the nature and expected duration of the pain, in order to better treat you.

Bee stings are a common outdoor nuisance. In most cases, bee stings are just annoying, and home treatment is all that's necessary to ease the pain. But if you're allergic to bee stings or you get stung numerous times, you may have a more-serious reaction that requires emergency treatment.

Bee stings can produce different reactions, ranging from temporary pain and discomfort to a severe allergic reaction. Having one type of reaction doesn't mean you'll always have the same reaction every time you're stung or that the next reaction will necessarily be more severe.

A severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to bee stings is potentially life-threatening and requires emergency treatment. A small percentage of people who are stung by a bee or other insect quickly develop anaphylaxis. Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

People who have a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting have a 25% to 65% chance of anaphylaxis the next time they're stung. Talk to your doctor or an allergy specialist about prevention measures such as immunotherapy ("allergy shots") to avoid a similar reaction in case you get stung again.

This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poisoning from a sting. If you or someone you are with is stung, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Can I touch a Man o'war?If you see the creature on the beach, DO NOT TOUCH it, even if it is dead. A Portuguese man o'war can sting even days after its death. While it may be tempting to touch or poke it, you are likely to still get stung.

What to do if you get stung?Vinegar is used to stop the venom in stingers. Caution: Do not use ammonia, urine, rubbing alcohol, freshwater, or ice. They all can trigger the release of more venom. If you don't have vinegar, move on to scraping off the stingers. If you have an allergic reaction, call 911 immediately.

How do you come up with the rankings?If somebody gets stung, whether they are an entomologist or whatever, I'm known around as a guy who wants to hear about it. Whatever they get stung by, I ask them about it. And then I ask them to compare it to other stings, like that of a honeybee. It's a very collaborative process.

Do you get stung on purpose or by accident?They're almost all accidents. The times I've intentionally gotten stung are with small insects that won't sting you unless you really work at it.

I asked the question: What's unique about the chemistry of this venom? And is it rare? To answer the second question, I decided to go on a quest and compare it to the chemistry of other insect venoms. Luckily there are lot of stinging insects in the Southeast, and sooner or later I got stung by a lot of things. I wrote down in my notebook how each one felt, and in the process I accumulated about 20 or so anecdotes about sting pain. And that led to the list.

Is there a correlation between how much pain is caused by a sting and how toxic or damaging it is?There is a correlation, and it took about 30 years of collecting data, from about 60 taxa, to find that out. That's a lot of scatter, or noise, in the data. But generally if a sting is going to cause toxicity, it makes sense that there be a lot of pain, so that the animal being stung makes the connection and learns to avoid [the stinger].

Learn more facts about is an amazing book, in which one man set out to do just that, and in doing so, allowed himself to be stung by different insects! The author, Justin O. Schmidt was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for physiology and entomology in 2015 for his book "Sting Of The Wild" available from good book sellers.

"Paraponera is the insect star in stories worthy of telling to one's grandchildren.... If stung, you might not think you will live to see grandchildren, but, rest assured, no one has ever died from bullet ant stings."

Schmidt has spent his career cataloging how different insect stings feel to the person being stung, and has had to dig deep to find proper analogies for each, in addition to rating the pain on a four point scale. As you'd imagine most of the world's insects rate lower on the pain scale, but Schmidt has given three special bugs a four-star rating for pain: the tarantula hawk (Pepsis grossa), the warrior wasp (Synoeca septentrionalis) and the bullet ant (Paraponera clavata).

In those who are allergic to bee stings, the venom triggers a more severe immune system reaction. These people may not have an allergic reaction the first time they are stung but may have an allergic reaction to a second bee sting.

Because pain can have both objective and subjective attributes, ranking the pain of insect stings has proven to be a notoriously difficult task. The scale that Schmidt uses is grounded in the humble grade 2 sting of the honey bee (Apis mellifera). Once an investigator has experienced the sting of the honey bee, they then proceed to rank the stings of other insects relative to that of the honey bee. The scale ranges from 1 for mild pain to 4 for extreme pain. The investigators either let themselves get stung serendipitously by the insects in the field during collections, or else they induce the insect of interest to sting the underside of their forearm.

I was personally surprised to see that yellowjacket wasps were only rated as a 2 on the pain scale. Recently, I was stung on the hand by a yellowjacket while picking up pile of leaves in my backyard, and the pain struck me as being much more intense than my memory of a honey bee sting. However, Schmidt does emphasize that these ranks are groups and the sting pain can vary somewhat for different species within the same group. I would love to hear your impressions of the pain scale based on your insect stories, so please leave a comment if you can spare the time. Thankfully, I have never been stung by any species that ranked as 3 or higher. Have you?

The stinger on some insects (like a honeybee) is detachable, meaning that it gets pulled out, along with part of the rear end when it stings you. This causes the insect to die, but you will continue to get venom pumped into your skin if you do not remove this entire piece. One important fact to take note of is that when you get stung, you should never use tweezers to remove the stinger or press it in any way. This just releases more venom into the skin, which can in some cases cause damage to the muscle tissue. Instead, you should use a credit card or similar object to scrape the stinger out.

The first thing you should do for sting treatment after removing the stinger is to wash the area with soap and water to prevent any infection. Applying ice to the area to bring down the swelling is also effective. Make sure that you check for any signs of an allergic reaction if you have never been stung before. It is also a good idea to call someone to be with you just in case you do start to experience symptoms and need some help getting to the hospital.

If you just get stung and have no significant problems, you will want to apply some form of herbal bee sting treatment or one of many natural sting remedies to get rid of pain, reduce the swelling and cure the sting. 041b061a72


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