Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Aug 6, 2015 in Animals, Bugs, Costa Rica, FAQ | 12 comments

Insects of Costa Rica – What a pain

Insects of Costa Rica – What a pain

Did you know there exists an actual  pain index for stings from bugs? Yep, the entomologist Justin O. Schmidt created the index that seeks to rank the painfulness of dozens of Hymenoptera stings across a four-point spectrum. His index (last updated in 1990), while subjective, is the source most often cited when talking about pain.

Why are we talking about pain anyway? Shouldn’t we be discussing paradise? We are.

Let no one tell you that Costa Rica is not world class. Not only is Costa Rica home to the insect that holds the number one spot on the pain index it is also home to the insect with the second most painful sting as well.


So, what insect creates the most intense sting… The Bullet Ant – so named because the sting is said to be as painful as being shot. Alternatively known as the 24-hour ant – as that is how long the pain will last. Schmidt ranked the bullet ant at the top of his pain chart… actually, off the chart with a 4+ pain level. For comparison sake a fire ant scores a 1.2 on the Schmidt scale.

Paraponera clavata MHNT

Paraponera clavata MHNT – What nightmares are made of.

And the first loser in the pain contest? The Tarantula Hawk, also found here in paradise. This wasp weighs in on the pain scale at 4 minus the plus – so just 4.


In two years of living in Costa Rica I have not seen either of these guys. LOTS of other insects, but not the champs of pain.

Until next time,


Views – 11295

Share Button
Follow me:


Greg Seymour is a quitter. At 41 Greg and his wife Jen quit their jobs, sold damn near everything they owned and became Intentionally Unemployed and retired early to Costa Rica.
In addition to writing on this blog, Greg has written for other online publications and has written two popular books about living in Costa Rica:
Greg Seymour Amazon Author Page

Follow me:

Latest posts by Gregorio (see all)

A Tamarindo Visit - Like a Bat out of Hell
The 72 Colones Costa Rica Moment


  1. I was holding my breath reading your article of painful stings by the top 2 ants, and then came the sentence that you had not seen either of these 2 ants, I was so relieved!!! thanks for sharing

    • Haha – nope, just a scorpion, that is the only thing of significance that has stuck its stinger in me.

  2. Greg! You are actually not a quitter but rather a non traditional winner. You made an extraordinarily brave decision to get off the hamster wheel to pursue new dreams. You made a decision to get in tuned with nature and actually take the time to enjoy your life. You made a decision to experience a new culture and challenge yourself to learn . To me these are the ultimate qualities of a winner. We are here to design each of our lives our own customized way. I’m super proud of you bro because you did what so many others only talk about.

    • Oh believe me Vince, I am not down on myself! I am very happy about the decisions I have made. I did quit though… at the top of my game, and to some that might seem sacrilegious to some – so I say it in jest.

      Thanks for your kind words.

  3. Good lord, Greg! From now on, I’ll be on high alert for these boogers. Great post.

    • Please do. And if you happen to get stung let me know, I would love to get a firsthand report – lol.

  4. Wow, good to know an index exists and even better to know you haven’t run into the front runners. Very interesting article Greg, thanks!

  5. I have been fortunate enough to of visited Costa Rica on several occasions through work, a paradise for photographing and filming anything that moves. Whilst out walking I spotted something crawling towards us, it was the tail end of a fight between the afore mentioned Tarantula hawk wasp and a Tarantula. Unprepared but with iPhone to the rescue i filmed this: just another day in in Costa Rica.

    • What a fantastic video Norbert. Thanks so much for sharing it – fortunate timing for you.

  6. There is (used to be?) a water park called Ojos de Aqua, somewhere around Belen or Alajuela. Lots of bullet ants. I didn’t not know their name, I just called them “bastard ants” or much worse after my one sting. I’m a nurse, and we rank pain on a 1-10 scale. The bite from that little bastard probably was about an 8 (childbirth, being burned alive and being hit by a Mack truck would constitute a “10”). I remember it lasting about 12 hours.

    • I am not sure that waterpark is still there. But wow, thanks for the first-hand experience of a sting from the bastard ant!

Post a Reply

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