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,


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