10 Most Painful Insect Stings

Insects plague our backyards and for many of us, they also plague our nightmares. The following 10 insects have definitely earned their way into our nightmares and should not be taken lightly. According to American entomologist, Dr Justin O. Schmidt, these insects are the most painful out there. He created the Schmidt Sting Pain Index which ranks the most painful stings on a 1-4 scale.

10.    Sweat Bee

 Sweat Bee

Having a mild sting, Schmidt describes the Sweat bee’s punch as “light, ephemeral, almost fruity; a tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm” and ranks it a 1.0 on his pain index. These bees are attracted to human sweat, which is where they get their common name from.

9.    Fire Ant

Red Imported Fire Ant

When people think of painful insect stings the fire ant is definitely one of the first to mind. However, Schmidt rates it at a low 1.2 and says its “sharp, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet and reaching for the light switch.” Although, one fire ant sting is quite mild, just keep in mind that fire ants rarely come alone.

8.    Bullhorn Acacia Ant

The Bullhorn Acacia ant can be found protecting the leaves of its host the Acacia tree in Mexico and Central America. Its sting helps ward off the tree’s predators and threats. Schmidt classifies the sting at a 1.8 stating it as “a rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired staple into your cheek.”

7.    Bald-faced Hornet

Bald-faced Hornet

Easily confused for the European hornet, the Bald-faced Hornet can produce a painful and repeated sting. Schmidt also rates this bug’s sting at a 2.0 and describes it as “rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.”  The hornet can be identified by the stripes on its face and lower abdomen.

6.    Yellow Jacket

Yellow Jacket

Also ranking a 2.0 on the Schmidt Pain Index is the Yellow jacket. According to Schmidt, its sting is “hot and smoking, almost irreverent. Imagine W.C. fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.” Unlike its cousin, the honeybee, they’re known to be more aggressive and are capable of stinging repeatedly.

5.    Honeybee

Honey Bee

Honeybees are quite docile creatures, but we’ve all grown up knowing just how painful a common bee sting can be. Schmidt says it’s “like a match head that flips off and burns your skin.” Ouch! The little honeybee doesn’t seek you out just to sting, once this little guy stings you its dead.

4.    Red Harvester Ant

The head of an ant seen very close up.

These ants are what you may see in your backyard, but the sting of one of these ants rates 3.0 on the Schmidt Index. Its sting is described as “bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.” Harvester ants are productive workers and maintain their colony. They are also commonly sold for ant farms.

3.    Paper Wasp

Paper Wasp

The next painful insect sting comes from the paper wasp. These painful insects have a sting that rates a solid 3.0 on the Schmidt scale.  Schmidt also says, that the sting has a “distinctly bitter aftertaste; like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.”

Paper wasps are not as aggressive as yellow jackets and hornets, but will attack if they feel threatened. These wasps feed on nectar but also hunt out small insects to feed their young. They are considered very beneficial insects due to the fact that they pollinate and aid in maintaining the pest insect population.

2.    Tarantula Hawk Wasp

Tarantula Hawk Wasp

The Tarantula Hawk Wasp also scores an intense 4.0 on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. Schmidt describes it as “blinding, shockingly electric; a running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.” While this pain may be as intense as that of the Bullet Ant, it does not last very long; only an estimated 3 minutes.

The Tarantula Hawk Wasp gets its name from the arch rivalry it has with tarantulas. For the most part, the Hawk Wasp is quite docile and feeds on nectar, but when its time to reproduce the wasp will search out for a tarantula to lay its egg on. In the end, the tarantula really doesn’t stand a chance against the Hawk Wasp. Its venom will paralyze a tarantula and after the wasp has dragged the tarantula to its burrow, it will lay its egg on the spider. When the egg hatches, it feeds on the still live tarantula, and soon emerges as a fully developed wasp.

1.    Bullet Ant

Bullet Ant (Paraponera clavata) female, Ecuado...

 Ranking a whopping 4.0+ on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index the bullet ant’s sting is described as follows: “like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail grinding into your heel.” Many who have also been shot describe it as equally painful, thus the ant’s name. The pain from this sting will not dilute after a few minutes, but has been known to last up to 24 hours.

The Bullet Ant can be found throughout most of South America from Nicaragua to the Amazon to Paraguay.  Many tribes, especially those in Brazil, use the ant to initiate the young boys into men. They must wear a sleeve made of leaves and bullet ants while getting stung for 10 minutes. This must be repeated 20 times before they can be considered men amongst the tribe.


Anthony Ball is a Content Marketing Manager with Bulwark Exterminating, an industry leader in providing high quality pest control service. Bulwark is fully operational in nine states, including thirteen major cities. While Bulwark provides pest extermination for common pests like ants, roaches, crickets and spiders; the company's differentiating aspect is great personalized service. Bulwark uses the finest and most effective products in the world to solve common pest problems.

View all posts by

One thought on “10 Most Painful Insect Stings

  1. The Cow ant or Red Velvet Ant also ranks way up there on the scale. It is also a member of the wasp family and not the ant family.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *