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Luke Elstad – CC-BY

It’s normal to instantly start paying more attention when you hear a family name, even for those people whose family names are some of the most common in the world.  That’s what happened in my house while we were watching ant man and they kept mentioning the Schmidt Pain Index. What was this thing named after Schmidt, we wondered?

The answer is, that Justin O. Schmidt, an American entomologist born 1947, developed the scale to measure the relative pain and discomfort of hymenopteran stings, himself having experienced many in the course of his research and trapping of the insects.  After his original paper in 1983 comparing venom properties, Schmidt refined his scale.

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.

from Batts, Shelley (2007) “Schmidt Pain Index (Which Sting Hurts the Worst?)”  Retrospectacle:  a Neuroscience Blog.

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