These are the 10 most painful insect stings in the world! These bites and stings can cause extreme pain, swelling, and itching. Learn more today about the world’s worst insect stings.
10: Fire Ants
Also known as red ants or ginger ants, fire ants are notorious for their painful bites. Fire ants are comprised of several subspecies, but the most invasive & thus the most likely to bite humans is the red imported fire ant. Its population in the U.S. has continually been growing. But they are, in fact, not native to the Americas & were instead mistakenly brought from South Africa to the southern region of the U.S. in the 1930s. Fire ants have mandibles on their heads that they use to pinch with as well as a stinger on their backs. Both of these are connected to a venom sac that they use when they bite or sting. Bite victims typically suffer symptoms such as localized itching, red skin with a burning sensation, large red welts that may sometimes swell up, & in some instances instances, anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction that causes your entire body to swell up & itch while also making it difficult to breathe. If not treated properly or in a timely manner, it is very life-threatening.
9: Bald Faced Hornets
Found throughout the United States & Canada, the bald faced hornet has a reputation for aggressively stinging any predator they feel is a threat to their nest. Famous entomologist Justin Schmidt created a pain scale in the 1980s called the Schmidt pain index, which rates the relative the pain of different insect stings. According to this scale, a sting from a bald faced hornet is said to feel similar to smashing your hand in a revolving door. The hornet is equipped with a smooth stinger that allows it to sting its victim repeatedly. Such stings will cause itching, swelling, & pain for up to 24 hours; sometimes longer if the person has an allergic reaction.
8: Paper Wasps
Paper wasps get their name from their nests. They use a plant material & saliva that, when combined, give the appearance of paper. There are 22 different paper wasp species in North America, all of which provide ecological benefits such as pollination & pest control. But despite their contributions to mother nature, they have an especially aggressive demeanor & won’t hesitate to attack. They often build their nests near or in human dwellings & therefore, pose a hazard to people with their painful stings. The Schmidt sting pain index states that a paper wasp sting feels like “pouring hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.” Symptoms of such a sting include swelling of the face, lips, & throat, itching, nausea, vomiting, a drop in blood pressure, lightheadedness, and even loss of consciousness.
7: Tarantula Hawks
Growing up to 2 inches long, tarantula hawks are among the largest wasps in the world. They’re equipped with clawed hooks used to grapple their victims along with a long stinger known for delivering extremely powerful stings. The Schmidt sting pain index ranks it among the most painful stings in the world, describing it as blinding, fierce, & shockingly electric. Researchers often say the sting is so intense, one loses the ability to do anything for several minutes aside from screaming or lying down. Along with the intense pain, symptoms of a tarantula hawk sting are similar to those of other wasp stings such as itching, swelling, & dizziness. They’re often found in the southwestern region of the United States & is, in fact, the official insect of New Mexico since 1989.
6: Yellow Jackets
Yellow jackets are a type of wasp commonly found in North America. Although they play an important ecological role in nature by preying on pest insects, their painful stings & aggressive nature have earned them a fearsome reputation among humans. While their symptoms are similar to those of other insects on this list, the Schmidt pain index states that a yellow jacket sting feels as if someone is putting out a cigar on your tongue.
5: Japanese Giant Hornets
Japanese giant hornets are a type of Asian hornet, which are the largest hornets in the world, growing up to nearly 2.5 inches long. They populate rural areas of Japan, preferring to nest in trees & bushes. Japanese natives often refer to them as “giant sparrow bees.” Not only are they aggressive, but they’re also relentless as they’ve been known to chase people for up to three miles. Japanese giant hornet stings are known to be very painful due to the fact that their venom directly attacks your nervous system. Most measures, including the Schmidt pain index, rank them among the most painful stings in the world. A victim may potentially need to be hospitalized after a sting as they can go into anaphylactic shock. While not typically fatal, there have been extreme cases in which people were stung dozens of times & did not seek medical treatment, which ultimately resulted in death. It’s estimated that three to four people die each year in Japan from Japanese giant hornet stings.
4: Western Honey Bees
Also known as the European honey bee, the western honey bee refers to any one of the 40 different honey bee species that populate countries all over the world; not just the western hemisphere as its name would suggest. It’s a staple in both amateur & professional beekeeping due to their scientific significance. But nevertheless, it can deliver a highly painful sting. Western honey bees are armed with a barbed stinger that’s attached to a venom sac. This venom not only causes extreme pain, but it can also induce severe allergic reactions in people such as hives, rashes, intense headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, & swelling in areas that were not directly stung, such as the tongue, neck, or throat. While the Schmidt pain index ranks it as a 2, which is relatively low on the pain scale, it can be highly fatal due to the associated allergic reactions it can cause.
3: Amazon Giant Centipedes
The Amazon giant centipede is one of the largest centipedes in the world, typically reaching up to a foot in length. They’re often found in South American & Caribbean countries such as Colombia, Venezuela, Aruba, Jamaica, & Curacao. These creatures will often feed on an array of other small insects, reptiles, & even small mammals such as mice & bats. Additionally, they’re skilled hunters that are able to hunt down & kill most small creatures they encounter by coiling their body around their intended prey & suffocating it to death in a manner similar to that of large constrictor snakes. Amazon giant centipedes are also known for their painful sting that contains copious amounts of venom, which is fatal to their small prey & toxic towards humans. The pain from this centipede’s sting can last up to 12 hours while causing symptoms such as fever, chills, swelling, & weakness. The pain associated with it is actually estimated to be near the top of the Schmidt pain index. Although their sting is typically not fatal, it can prove especially hazardous to those who have an allergic reaction. One such instance occurred to 4-year old boy in Venezuela who was killed after experiencing an extreme allergic reaction from the Amazon giant centipede’s venom.
2: Acacia Ants
Known for their wasp-like behavior and orange & brown bodies, Acacia ants populate most parts of Central America. Their vicious appearance along with their foul odor often repels potential predators; as does their painful sting, which causes an intense burning & throbbing effect in its victims. Acacia ants also behave very aggressively, showing relentless when protecting their territory. Their name is derived from the Bullhorn Acacia trees, which they like to call home. In fact, they will go to great lengths to protect these trees from any foreign species. Acacia ant attacks are oftentimes comprised of an entire colony of these ants bombarding their perceived threat with repetitive stings. The Schmidt pain index describes their sting as “A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.” Despite measuring in at only a 1.8 on this pain index scale, experts recommend avoiding Acacia ants altogether.
1: Bullet Ants
Bullet ants are widely considered to be able to deliver the most powerful sting in the world, with the pain often being compared to being shot; hence it’s name, the “bullet ant.” These small ants are usually found in the rainforests of South & Central America, such as Nicaragua, Honduras, & Paraguay. The Schmidt pain index grades it as a category 4+ and the most painful of all insects. Schmidt himself describes the pain as “waves of burning, all-consuming pain that continues unabated for 24 hours.” Symptoms from such a sting include nausea, vomiting, fever, sweating, swelling of the lymph nodes, & irregular heartbeat. They can cause a person to go into anaphylactic shock, which—if not treated swiftly enough—can be fatal. As a result, roughly 40 – 50 people die each year from bullet ant stings. Perhaps the most notable of all bullet ant stories in human society is that of the Sateré-Mawé tribe in Brazil. The people of this tribe use bullet ants as a rite of passage for aspiring warriors by collecting them, dipping them into a sedative to temporarily paralyze them, then weaving them into gloves. Once the ants regain consciousness, the gloves are placed on the boy’s hands, who must keep the gloves on for 10 minutes while he’s repeatedly stung by the bullet ants. The boy will experience overwhelming amounts of pain, which gradually increases over the next 24 hours & temporarily paralyzes their arms during this time. After they’ve completed this challenge on 20 separate occasions, they’re deemed true warriors & are able to join the ranks of their elders.