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Which Pest Packs the Most Painful Sting?

With summer in full flight, so too are all the pests and insects ruining your time outdoors. It’s peak pest season, which means you’re likely dodging annoying insects while looking for sun.

most painful insect stings wasp sting

Evading every insect is impossible – you’re outnumbered, friend – so you’ll have to pick your battles. One criteria to follow is avoiding particularly aggressive pests that’re cold-blooded biters and stingers.

Some stinging insects pack a hefty punch. Think ‘pouring acid onto a fresh paper cut’ type of pain. Others are more along the ‘I just pulled a hair out of my arm’, or an annoyance you can brush off like a younger sibling.

Which pests possess the most painful insect stings? Everybody’s threshold for pain is different, so a scientific scale of punishment is required: enter the Schmidt Pain Index.

Justin O. Schmidt, an entomologist at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Centre, created his big list of stings through his own trials. In other words, him and his team subjected themselves to the most painful insect stings imaginable so they could record them on a pain scale from 0-4. Zero is virtually negligible bites; four indicates immediate and intense pain.

The Schmidt Sting Pain Index covers 78 stinging insects, with ratings and pain descriptions included. Here are a few you may be familiar with – ants, honey bees, paper wasps – and a couple others whose stings are synonymous with agony.


Everyone has dealt with ants before, but few have experienced the fabled ant attack. A select number of these tiny pests pack a ferocious sting, while most are limited to a milder, how-do-you-do poke. The world of pain some ants can deliver is impressive for their size.

Fire Ants

  • Schmidt Pain Index rating: 1.2
  • Pain Duration: 2-5 minutes
  • Description: “Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet and reaching for the light switch.”

Despite the name, fire ants don’t produce the searing pain other members of their species are capable of. If you’ve been stung by a fire ant, you probably dropped the boot on their home; they have a tendency to swarm anything that’s stomped on their nests.

Bullet Ants

  • Schmidt Pain Index rating: 4.0+
  • Pain Duration: 12-24 hours
  • Description: “Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3″ rusty nail in your heel.”

That awfully specific description from Schmidt isn’t something you should test for yourself – take his word for it. The bullet ants’ mantle of achievements is extensive, holding title belts for ‘World’s Worst Sting’ and ‘Worst Pain Known to Man’.

Unlike other insect stings that dull over time, the bullet ant sting is the gift that keeps on giving. Hours after the initial stab, the deep, painful throb crescendos over hours, lasting until the next day. The fire ant doesn’t live up to it’s menacing name, but the bullet ant certainly does!

Wasps, Hornets, and Bees

Besides the sweet, sweet honey they manufacture, bees are notorious for their proclivity to sting. Their supposed reckless abandon to stinging anything that moves is overblown, though humble honey bees can adequately defend themselves when called upon. Wasps and hornets are their more aggressive, trigger stinger-happy cousins.

Honey Bees

  • Schmidt Pain Index rating: 2.0
  • Pain Duration: 4-10 minutes
  • Description: “Like a match head that flips off and burns your skin.”

The worker bees are the only type that sting; while the Queen of the colony has a stinger, she won’t leave the hive to defend it. Typical royalty.

The 2.0. rating for the honey bee sting is surprising for the friendly, hard-working bugs that’re only concerned with pollination. It takes a ton of bee stings – 1,100 in fact – for honey bee punctures to become fatal.

Yellow Jacket Wasps

  • Schmidt Pain Index rating: 2.0
  • Pain Duration: 4-10 minutes
  • Description: “Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.”

These are stinging insects you may be familiar with. Yellow jackets are a common species of wasps in Canada alongside bald faced hornets and paper wasps, who have a 2.0. and 3.0. ratings on the pain index, respectively.

Tarantula Hawks

  • Schmidt Pain Index rating: 4.0
  • Pain Duration: 3 minutes
  • Description: “Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.”

We had to include the most feared sting in the wasp genome. Luckily, tarantula hawks aren’t very hostile, so only spiders need to dread their horrendous sting. The instantaneous pain to humans is described as the greatest recorded amongst any stinging insects.

The pain from this wasp sting is so paralyzing and all-encompassing that the recommendation for a tarantula hawk sting victim is to drop to the floor, and start screaming. Few people can maintain verbal or physical coordination from the blistering torment, so there’re few alternatives to the self-abasing fetal position.

You probably won’t encounter tarantula hawks or bullet ants anytime soon, but other stinging insects buzzing around your home are a pain. A wasp sting or bee sting won’t fall near the discomfort of the most painful insect stings, though it’s cumbersome to be on guard every time you leave the house.

Magical Pest can remove any pest problem – stinging or otherwise – with professional pest control treatment. Call Magical Pest Control at (800) 844-8235 and speak to a professional pest exterminator today!

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