The 10 Most Painful Bites and Stings in the World

Do you know what the most painful bites and stings in the world are? Keep reading to find out about 10 of the culprits.
The 10 Most Painful Bites and Stings in the World
Diego Pereira

Reviewed and approved by el médico Diego Pereira.

Last update: 07 June, 2023

Experts agree that injuries resulting from contact with animals and insects are a major public health problem. Insect and arachnid bites constitute most of these injuries, which have had a significant increase in urban areas. In the spirit of feeding your curiosity, today we’ve compiled the 10 most painful bites and stings in the world.

The first thing you should know is that there’s no universal classification that brings together the most painful bites and stings in the world. It’s true that there are popular indices, such as the Schmidt sting pain index, but these are specific and not general (in this case, it includes the most painful bites and stings of Hymenoptera).

Our list is therefore not definitive. Rather, it’s only a sampling of some animals that cause some of the most painful bites in the world.

The most painful bites and stings in the world

Of course, insects occupy a leading place on our list. However, we’ve taken other animal species into account to make the selection broader and more interesting. Below you’ll find the most painful bites and stings in the world, some interesting facts, and where the responsible critters live.

1. Japanese giant hornet

The Japanese giant hornet is the largest hornet in the entire world. Masato Ono, an entomologist at Tamagawa University, described the bite as “like a hot nail in my leg.”

Their venom contains a neurotoxin called mandaratoxin, and while a single sting can’t be fatal, multiple bites can cause death. We find this hornet in temperate and tropical parts of East Asia, South Asia, mainland Southeast Asia, and parts of eastern Russia.

2. The stonefish

Experts classify stonefishes as one of the most poisonous marine species in the world. The body of these fish is covered with spines, and in sufficient doses, their sting can kill a person.

Stonefish are distributed throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans and are masters of camouflage. It’s interesting to know that the Synanceia verrucosa specimen is used to make sushi.

3. The Arizona bark scorpion

Until a couple of decades ago, the sting of the bark scorpion was responsible for the majority of poison-associated deaths in Arizona. It’s the most venomous scorpion in North America and the effects of its sting usually last between 24 and 72 hours.

Those who’ve been victims of it describe the sensation as continuous electric shocks. Numbness, tingling, vomiting, paralysis, and seizures are common after being stung.

4. Bullet ant

The most painful bites in the world include those from bullet ants.
Those who enjoy nature should be careful about coming into contact with bullet ants, especially during their nighttime roost.

We couldn’t make a list of the most painful bites and stings in the world without mentioning that of the bullet ant. In fact, in the original Schmidt sting pain index, it was the only specimen that ranked level 4 (the highest on the scale that measures pain).

Because some of its victims described the pain like being shot, it was popularly labeled a bullet ant. It’s found in the humid forests of Central and South America.

5. Crotalus

These rattlesnakes are a subfamily of venomous snakes. Although specialists determine that their bite isn’t usually fatal, the pain associated with it is one of the most intense in the world.

Most of the species are found in America, but some of them are common in Asia. Symptoms that accompany the bite are disturbances in heart rate, shortness of breath, numbness, swollen lymph nodes, and weakness.

6. Tarantula hawk wasp

The tarantula hawk is a type of pompilid wasp that feeds exclusively on tarantulas. This specimen hunts tarantulas by means of a paralyzing sting. Then, she buries them with one of her eggs to serve as food for the developing larva.

In addition to this particular habit, as experts point out, the tarantula hawk has achieved notoriety for its painful defensive stings. We can find it in Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, and America.

7. Stingrays

The manta ray’s stinger is covered with rows of sharp spines made of vasodentin, a cartilaginous material that can easily pierce the skin. Researchers have found that freshwater specimens are more poisonous than saltwater ones.

Not all stings are deadly, but they are painful. It was a short-tail stingray that killed by famed zookeeper Steve Irwin.

8. Black widow spider

The most painful bites in the world include that of the black widow
Within the world of spiders, few arouse as much fear as the black widow. It’s a more than justified fact considering the pain that its bite produces.

As the evidence indicates, pain is the most common feature of a black widow spider bite. After the event, the person develops abdominal pain, muscle spasms, and hypertension.

The reaction isn’t immediate but manifests itself one or two hours after the bite. Its venom isn’t usually deadly, and contrary to what’s thought, it’s not an aggressive specimen with a propensity to bite.

9. Flannel moth

This moth is known by many different names, and its seemingly sweet and harmless appearance leads many to underestimate its ability to cause harm.

Although the stings can occur throughout the year, experts determine that it reaches its peak in July and in the period from October to November. The reaction to the sting is immediate and is characterized by intense pain. Its favorite habitat is North America and Central America.

10. Platypus

Although its bite can’t kill a person, its pain can be so intense that it can incapacitate you. Evidence indicates that pain can’t be relieved by normal first aid practices, even with drugs such as morphine.

This symptom is accompanied by nausea, gastric pain, cold sweats, and swollen lymph nodes. Only the spurs of the males have venom, and its production increases during the breeding season. The species is abundant in Australia.

The list of the most painful stings and bites in the world is much longer, but this selection includes 10 essential examples. Not all of them are fatal to humans, but their consequences can be very serious. If you have been stung or bitten by any of these species, don’t hesitate to seek medical assistance immediately.

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