When it comes to pain, these insects’ self-defense mechanisms are downright brutal. For those who aren’t severely allergic, some stings from the likes of bees and ants barely register on the pain meter. However, others bring a whole new level of pain. Anytime a person or pet is stung by a venomous insect or other animal, be certain to contact your family doctor, health professional or veterinarian for guidance and directions for proper medical care and treatment.
Here are six we hope we never cross paths with.
6. Velvet Ant
Don’t let the name fool you. The velvet ant is far from warm and cuddly. With a series of defenses that include audible “shrieking,” foul odor secretion, and an extremely tough exoskeleton, the most formidable weapon is its stinger which is only present in females. While it lacks significant venom toxicity, it more than makes up for with the excruciating pain. It’s also known as the “cow killer ant,” and the pain has been described as “prolonged intense burning.”
5. Nocturnal Hornet
As their name describes, these hornets are more active at night hunting the likes of moths, bees and spiders. With an aggressive demeanor, they’ve been documented attacking bee hives and stealing caught prey from spider webs. Their sting is quite painful with a high venom toxicity that has been known to cause extensive skin degradation at the injection area. The venom is packed with serotonin, dopamine, and other enzymes known to cause tachycardia, an excessive heart rate, in small animals and humans.
4. Florida Harvester Ant
This ant isn’t some simple farmer, although they do primarily focus on harvesting seeds, their primary food source. The harvester ant is outfitted with a severely painful defense in the form of a barbed stinger that breaks off, similar to a honeybee when it stings. In humans, redness and swelling occur around the injection site with intense pain that’s been known to last for hours. Further allergic reactions in the form of vomiting, shortness of breath and diarrhea are also possible.
3. Warrior Wasp
With a name like “warrior wasp” it’s got to be dangerous, right? Known for aggressive behavior, this insect will flap its wings against its body when threatened producing a sound akin to marching soldiers on a battlefield. American entomologist Justin Schmidt who created a pain index scale for a multitude of stings characterized the warrior wasp sting as, “Torture. You are chained in the flow of an active volcano.” We do not want to feel this!
2. Tarantula Hawk
You may remember our former “Bug of the Month” the tarantula hawk and the fact that it’s a wasp that hunts tarantulas in the desert. Yes, the creepy eight-legged crawlers most humans are afraid of has a predator that makes it cower in fear. They produce extensive quantities of venom that they fully inject while hunting and as a self-defense mechanism. Even though their venom lacks the toxicity to be life-threatening in non-allergic individuals, the pain is so exact that entomologist Justin Schmidt described it as feeling like he’d been electrocuted. With pain this intense, he noted that people are more likely to hurt themselves writhing in agony and suggested just lying down and screaming. Ouch!
1. Bullet Ant
Lastly, taking the top spot of world’s most painful insect sting, the bullet ant. Yes, while we’ve become accustomed to equating stinging pests with flying insects like bees and wasps, the real threat is from the ground. Living in colonies that can include up to three thousand ants, Paraponera clavata has a sting that is unyielding in its ferocity. As the name describes, the feeling is the equivalent to being shot by a bullet with waves of burning pain that can last up to 24 hours! Some Central and South American tribes have even been known to use them for initiation rituals as a rite of passage.
“Velvet ants bristle with weapons and are almost invincible” BBC Earth
“European Hornet” Penn State University
“Harvester Ants” PestWorld.org
“Like being chained in the flow of an active volcano’: Scientist reveals warrior wasp attack is worst in the insect world – after being stung thousand of times by 85 insects” Daily Mail
“Why You Don’t Want to Get Stung by a Tarantula Hawk” Science Friday
“What It’s Like to Get Stung by the World’s Most Painful Insect” Esquire