Inventor of the insect sting pain scale, a record-breaker, passes away at age 75

Legendary scientist Dr Justin Schmidt has died at the age of 75, Guinness World Records is saddened to learn.

The American entomologist, often called “The King of Sting”, carried out some very brave research when he decided to create a pain scale for insect stings.

In 1983, from his base at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Arizona, USA, he published an incredibly detailed pain index of insect stings.

justin schmidt examines samples

He had tested a large number of different species, allowing them to sting him before rating his levels of pain on a four-point scale.

His sacrificial research meant we were able to give the record for most painful insect sting to the bullet ant, which measured a 4.0+ on his Schmidt Sting Pain Index.

Native to the rainforests of Central and South America, Justin described its sting as “like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.”

justin schmidt holds an insect

Others have likened the pain to being shot, hence the name bullet ant.

Born in March 1947, Justin turned his love of insects into an incredibly well-respected career.

His pain scale became recognized as the official rating scale for insect stings, and Justin’s work also proved that they can choose to inflict more pain and a higher potency of venom in their stings if their colony is in danger.

Speaking to us in 2019, Justin explained what had inspired him to create his scale.

He said: “I wanted to find out whether the most painful stings are also the ones that can do the most damage. We could already measure the damage a sting inflicts by a variety of different methods, but we had no meaningful way to measure the pain.”

He explained: “The index records how much pain an insect sting causes so that we can make scientific comparisons between different species’ stings. I chose the four-point scale because it’s hard to distinguish between levels of pain in finer detail – on a 10-point scale, say.”

Record-breaking scientist who devised insect sting pain scale dies at 75

Justin said that he would often be stung by insects while he was studying them, so he didn’t really have to go out of his way to gather his evidence.

On the rare occasions he had to provoke a sting, he found that the insects less willing to sting didn’t hurt him as much.

And despite all his work, he admitted his pain threshold for insect stings never got any higher.

Record-breaking scientist who devised insect sting pain scale dies at 75

Justin died on 18 February after a battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

Rest in peace, Justin, your work will live on forever.

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