The 4 Levels of Insect Bite Agony

Did you know that there is actually an index ranking the relative pain of bug bites?

To develop it, entomologist Dr. Justin Schmidt subjected himself to over 83 stings and bites from various bugs on purpose.

To each his own, we suppose.

What is the Schmidt Sting Pain Index?

The index, called the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, classifies each recorded sting by pain level. The least painful start at 1 and the most painful end at 4. Here’s a look at the type of bug bite that merits each level of pain.


fire ant

Level 1: Fire Ants

Red, tropical, and southern fire ants are all classified as bottom tier. A single fire ant only inflicts a fleeting “sharp, sudden, and mildly alarming” pain… definitely nothing to lose sleep over.

The problem is, you’re never bitten by just a single ant. Fire ants are the kind of bugs that gang up on you—hard. Walk into a fire ant ambush, and all those level-1 bites will quickly add up to a level 2 or 3 overall.

It’s best to avoid them altogether by wearing long pants on hikes and refraining from aimless digging in wet soil.


honey bee

Level 2: Honey Bees

Do you remember your first bee sting? The pain makes it pretty hard to forget… especially if you were an unsuspecting child. The toxic concoction of amines they inject when they sting restrict your blood vessels and make your heart race.

Unfortunately, the attack doesn’t end there.

While stinging, bees secrete a potent pheromone onto their target that recruits fellow bees to join the assault.

So, unless you’ve recklessly decided to join Schmidt in pursuit of being stung, don’t wait around for the bee’s backup… get the heck out of dodge.


paper wasp

Level 3: Paper Wasps

Schmidt described a paper wasp sting as having a “distinctly bitter aftertaste.” We’re not quite sure if that’s a legitimate observation or the rambling of a pain-delirious Schmidt.

Either way, it sounds awful.

Unfortunately these tiny terrors are found everywhere except Antarctica.


bullet ant

Level 4: Bullet Ants

“Level four you don’t want to know,” says Schmidt.

More specifically he claims, “the pain is so immediate and intense that it shuts down all illusions of life as normal. Imagine sticking a finger in a 240-volt electrical socket.”

Yeah… we’ll pass.

Bullet ants, a level-4 pest, are a particularly hellacious nightmare since the pain from their bites can last up to 12 hours. Supposedly, people who have been both shot and bitten by bullet ants confirm that these nasty pests live up to their name.

You may be wondering if an index like this really needed to exist. If that’s the case, Schmidt has the answer for you: “You probably can make an argument that I am crazy, but I enjoy what I do.”

We can’t say we enjoy being stung, but it sounds like Schmidt has found his calling..