Bee Stings Hurt More On Some Body Parts Than Others

Honey bee on a pea flower in Australia.
Honey bee on a pea flower in Australia.

A Cornell University graduate student set out to answer a simple question: what is the most painful place to be stung by a honeybee? The response was determined using the Schmidt Sting Pain Index over a month of daily, self-inflicted pain.

To carry out his rather unusual experiment, Michael Smith stung himself five times a day for 38 days on 25 of the most sensitive body parts, assigning each sting a score of between 1 and 10 on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index.

Some of the results of his scientific inquiry, published in the scientific journal PeerJ, are quite surprising.

As it turns out, the penis shaft (with a score of 7.3) and the scrotum (7.0) are not the worst places to be stung. In fact, stings on the cheek and the palm of the hand were rated as painful as those on the testicles. Far more sensitive to stings, the nostril was rated at 9.0, slightly higher than the upper lip at 8.7. On the other hand, the skull and the upper arm were rated the lowest of the sensitive zones tested, both scoring 2.3.

Smith, whose main research is devoted to the behaviour and evolution of honeybee colonies, pointed out that the insects are typically not aggressive towards humans, and that the best way to avoid being stung is to calm down and slowly walk away.

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