10 Most Painful Wasp Stings

If you’ve ever experienced a wasp sting, you know it’s not something you would recommend to your friends. But did you know that various species of wasps deliver different pain intensities?

Some are so proficient that they can inflict agonizing suffering, the type of which can instill panic.

This field proved so appealing to one individual in particular that he dedicated much of his life around the concept of pain and human sensations and perceptions. This is where we need to discuss the work of doctor Justin O. Schmidt, the one expert who devise the Schmidt pain index scale.

What is the Schmidt Insect Pain Index?

The Schmidt pain index is nothing more than a simple 4-level chart designed to highlight the 4 pain thresholds that humans can experience. Schmidt even wrote a book on it.

In essence, the Schmidt pain index consists of 4 levels:

Level 1 – Manageable

This is what you would experience from most small bees and some ant species like twig ant and Southern fire ant. The pain will typically only last around 5 minutes, and it’s manageable.

Level 2 – Intense

This is where things get hot. Several insect species will deliver level 2-worthy stings, like various wasp species and ants like the termite-raiding ant. The pain may last around 5 to 10 minutes and will be more intense but vary in ‘form.’

It can come with a dull, annoying, pulsating pain or a burning sensation, like extinguishing a cigar on the skin. To say it’s unpleasant is to be moderate.

Level 3 – Gruesome

At this point, the pain has reached massive proportions, the type of which you’ve probably never experienced before. It’s intense, debilitating, and can last up to 30 minutes in some cases. Furthermore, there’s little you can do to find any relief.

Schmidt describes the pain as being similar to digging for several hours into an ingrown toenail. An infected toenail that has drilled deep into the flesh.

Level 4 – Agonizing

Level 4 is nothing more than pure agony. There are many contenders capable of reaching a level 4, but we will mention 3 of the most popular: Pepsis Grossa (a tarantula hawk wasp species), the warrior wasp, and the bullet ant.

The tarantula wasp will inflict severe pain, somewhat electrical-feeling, lasting up to 5 minutes. Short but excruciatingly intense. The warrior wasp takes things to a whole new level. The pain it inflicts is burning, reminding of scorching flesh, and may last up to 2 hours or more. The intensity doesn’t really diminish during that time.

The bullet ant is pretty much out of this world. Its venom contains a neurotoxic peptide capable of inflicting otherworldly sensations. Schmidt compared its sting with walking barefoot on incandescent charcoal with rusty nails piercing your heel. The pain can last a mind-numbingly 12 to 24 hours.

Wasps that Hurt the Most

Now that you know what the pain index is, let’s get back to wasps. There are several wasp species that should concern you, some local, while others are exotic. Here are the 10 scariest wasps that you can encounter:

1. Warrior Wasp

This is a very aggressive creature that instills fear and respect into any human. It’s around 1 inch in length, black, with huge mandibles, and a slender and ominous body. This insect also has huge and thin wings colored in a dark blue that are longer than its body.

Warrior wasps tend to clap their wings together, creating a specific drumming sound, reminding of armies marching. Hence, the name the warrior wasp.

The warrior wasp’s sting is a level 4 on the pain index. It is believed to rank as the second most painful sting in the world, immediately after the bullet ant. The pain will last around 2 hours or more and will feel like burning. The stung area will also swell and become red as the pain receptors will send relentless pain signals into your brain.

Not a fun experience.

2. Tarantula Hawk Wasp

This animal is something to behold. The tarantula hawk wasp draws its name from its size (2 inches with a large wingspan, like a genuine little hawk) and its breeding behavior. The tarantula wasp will hunt the spider with the same name, inject it with venom, and paralyze it.

The insect will then drag the spider into its nest and lay its eggs inside the victim. The wasp hatchling will spawn inside the tarantula and feed on it while still alive. It’s not a fun concept.

Do you know what else is not fun? Its sting. The tarantula wasp will deliver excruciating pain that will, fortunately, only last about 5 minutes. This makes for a short-lived nightmare since the sting is electrical-feeling and can debilitate the victim for a while.

If you see a tarantula wasp, just run.

3. Metricus Paper Wasp

The Paper wasp is a breath of fresh air since its sting only measures a measly 1.5 on the pain index. The insect draws its name from the paper-like plant fibers that they use to build their nests. The Paper wasp is rather small, around 0.5 to 1 inches, and it’s usually peaceful.

Fortunately, it will only sting when threatened. For the unfortunate part, we have several honorable mentions:

  • The wasp may deliver multiple fast stings at once
  • Its venom may cause allergic responses that could result in coma and death
  • Hitting or squeezing the wasp will cause it to release pheromones alerting other Paper wasps nearby that could join in the show
  • The sting may also transfer various bacteria into the affected area, leading to infections and even sepsis

So, yea, despite the sting not being too painful, it makes up for it in other areas.

4. Velvet Ant Wasp

The Velvet ant wasp is the same as the Velvet ant, which is technically a wasp. It looks like an ant, it almost behaves like one, but it’s a wasp. And a pretty incredible one at that. Here are a few noteworthy facts about this creature:

  • The Velvet ant has no natural predators – its colorful body warns of its poisonous and dangerous nature
  • It has a hard exoskeleton, 11 times harder than that of a honeybee
  • It has very powerful legs, capable of propelling the insect at speeds of up to 0.3 mph
  • Female Velvet ants have no wings, but they have obscenely long stingers to deliver painful stings
  • Male Velvet ants have no stingers, but they can fly
  • There are over 8,000 species of Velvet ants, each different in appearance and sting pain values

The Velvet ant’s sting ranks between 1.5 to 2 on the pain index, depending on which species we’re talking about. Then you have the Dasymutilla occidentalis, a species of Velvet ant whose pain index can reach 3. This is enough to inflict excruciating pain, similar to boiled oil spilling over your skin.

5. Asian Giant Hornet

If the Asian giant hornet doesn’t frighten you, nothing ever will. At around 2 inches in size, this hornet ranks among the largest in the world. It has a massive abdomen and thorax and powerful legs, capable of delivering impressive strength.

You can easily identify the Asian hornet by its yellow head, long, bulgy, and yellow-striped abdomen, and big, dark eyes. Amazingly enough, its sting only ranks as a 2 on the pain index. But don’t let that deceive you.

Here are some facts about its sting that you might want to consider:

  • The venom it’s a cocktail of hemotoxic and neurotoxic substances (it attacks and destroys blood cells, muscle cells, and immune cells and will affect your nervous system)
  • The stung area will swell fast and may reach worrying proportions
  • The resulting itching may last for days, occasionally bringing episodes of intense pain
  • Some people may experience level 3 or 4 pain on the pain index
  • The venom may cause kidney failure and even anaphylactic shock, leading to death
  • Around 40 to 50 people die every year due to the anaphylactic shock caused by Asian hornet stings
  • This hornet can sting multiple times, delivering 10 times more venom than a bee
  • The venom of one Asian wasp can kill 10 mice

In short, the Asian giant hornet doesn’t mess around.

6. Yellow Jacket

The yellow jacket is a staple insect on American soil. It’s no longer than 0.5 inches, causing many people to mistake it for a regular bee. And this is a mistake you don’t want to make.

This wasp’s sting pain ranks as a 2 on the pain index, which isn’t necessarily something to sweat about. The problem is that the yellow jacket’s venom can inflict different symptoms depending on the case and the severity of the reaction.

These include redness, itching, lingering pain, swelling, and warmth around the affected area. These are mild sting symptoms that most people will experience. Then you have what’s called systemic reactions, which are allergic in nature.

These come with symptoms like coughing, trouble breathing, profuse sweating, anxiety, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting, along with a tickling sensation in the throat. You may also experience severe drooling, fainting, stomach pain, and even confusion and difficulty swallowing. At this point, you most likely need to reach the emergency room.

7. Bald-Faced Hornet

This hornet is easily identifiable via its black and white pattern, especially on its face. It’s why it’s often known as the white-faced hornet. The sting of the bald-faced hornet can reach a 2 on the pain index.

Its venom will inflict serious pain up to 5 minutes, after which it will diminish gradually, leaving a sensation of heat and itching behind. Bald-faced hornets are typically carnivorous, thriving on consuming other live insects, including flies, bees, and other hornets.

The problem is that they are also highly aggressive and territorial. They will immediately rally and attack anything that trespasses their territory, humans included. As the cherry on top, they also like to attack the face. Lovely, right?

8. Executioner Wasp

The Executioner wasp is a bright yellow, can grow up to 1.2-1.5 inches, and primarily feeds off flower nectar. It’s also non-aggressive.

Now that we’ve set aside the charming aspects let’s look at the dreadful ones. This wasp’s name comes from its habit of killing and macerating caterpillars with its massive teeth-filled mandibles. This is to provide its larvae with protein-rich food, boosting their growth into new adults.

The Executioner wasp’s sting hasn’t been rated yet on the Schmidt pain index. Your best shot at grasping its effectiveness comes via Coyote Peterson, the famous wild-life Youtuber renowned for ‘sting zone’ videos. He described the pain as worse than that of the bullet ant, which would place the Executioner wasp on level 4.

The pain is atrocious due to the venom’s compounds, primarily norepinephrines, histamines, and mast-cell degranulation proteins. These cause the venom to display effects similar to hemotoxic compounds. In other words, in may cause necrosis in the sting area.

The pain may last for hours, accompanied by severe swelling, redness, and numbness in the limb. The aftereffects may linger for days, even up to a week or more. If you’re looking to test the Executioner wasp yourself, have fun with that.

9. Four-Toothed Mason Wasp

North America. This is where you need to go if you’re looking for a Four-Toothed Mason wasp. Although, I have no idea why you would try to do that. The Mason wasp has a distinct look as if it was doused in petrol. It displays an intense black, mixed with white or red areas (depending on the species) on thorax and abdomen. The head is completely black.

The insect isn’t aggressive, but it will sting if threatened. There currently isn’t a rating for its sting pain, but rest assured, it’s not pleasant. Only the females will sting since males don’t possess a stinger. They can, however, jab you with the pointy part of their abdomen, often causing enough pain to force you to let go.

This wasp’s venom is similar to that of the Bald-Faced hornet, so it’s safe to assume that the Mason wasp will also rank a 2 on the pain index.

10. Red Paper Wasp

The Red Paper wasp has an ominous look with a bright orange or red color and black wings. The insect is generally peaceful but will display aggressive behavior if you invade their territory. This is easy to do, seeing as the Red Paper wasp tends to build its nests on or near human homes and structures.

The wasp also tends to release alert pheromones, informing the rest of the colony of the intruder’s presence. The result is a swarming behavior resulting in potentially hundreds of stings.

This wasp’s sting will rank as a 2 on the pain index, although some people may experience different pain intensities.

Fun fact – If you get swarmed and jump into a body of water to escape them, you’re in deep trouble. The wasps will hover the area, waiting for you to come out for air to resume the stinging. Yes, they are that smart.

Conclusion

These are clearly 10 of the most dangerous wasps in the world, capable of delivering hard-to-imagine pain. Some of these insects’ venom is so dangerous that it can inflict anaphylactic shock, putting your life at risk.

I don’t advise messing with either of them. A better alternative would be to let professionals take the sting for you. For direct accounts of wasp stings, check Coyote Peterson.

Wasps   Updated: January 6, 2022
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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