Discover the Most Painful Bee Sting in the World

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: January 9, 2023
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Of all the animals that have ever existed, insects are some of the most prevalent. These creatures have existed for thousands of years and are believed to make up at least 90% of all forms of animal life. Considering this, it has been determined that there are between 900,000 and 10 million different kinds of insects, all of which have different appearances, behaviors, habitats, features, etc. Segmented bodies, exterior skeletons, and joined legs are characteristics shared by all insects. Also, their diminutive size in comparison to most species is another distinguishing characteristic. Depending on the insect in question, insects could either be pests or have some beneficial role in the ecosystem. Some insects are also known to sting other animals and humans.

Bees are a good example of insects that sting and play an important role in the ecosystem. With anywhere between 16,000 to 20,000 existing species of bees, these insects are helpful for many reasons. The primary benefit of bees is the production of honey, but they do much more than produce honey. These insects also pollinate plants that produce food for both humans and other animals. Bees are also very protective and would attack when provoked, although not all of them can sting. Keep reading to find out the most painful bee sting in the world, what not to do to provoke bees, and what to do when you get stung.

How Is the Pain of a Bee’s Sting Measured?

honeybee on a flower

The Schmidt sting pain index is used to measure the pain of a bee sting.

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The pain of a bee’s sting is measured using the Schmidt sting pain index, a pain scale that rates the different pain levels caused by various insects classified as Hymenopteran, which include bees, wasps, ants, and sawflies. This pain scale was postulated by and named after Justin Schmidt, an entomologist who developed the scale after being bitten by several insects. The scale was initially measured from zero to four, with four being the most painful.

After revising his scale and compiling the information from his experiment, Justin Schmidt wrote a book that provided a detailed description of the pain levels of the stings of 78 species and 41 genera of Hymenoptera. The Schmidt sting pain index is now divided into four levels, with level 4 being the most excruciating.

What Is the Most Painful Bee Sting in the World?

Carpenter bees have the most painful sting among all bee species.

©Gerry Bishop/

A bee sting is the wound and pain caused by the stinger of a female bee puncturing skin. As mentioned above, not all bees sting but unless you are an expert, it is hard to tell which ones do and which ones do not at a glance. Also, because there are thousands of bee species, many of which look the same to many people, it is hard to carry out an accurate experiment to determine which species has the most painful sting. However, a short examination of some of the most well-known bee species revealed that the tropical type of carpenter bee – the giant Borneo carpenter bee – has the most excruciating sting in the entire world. Carpenter bees are a species of vital pollination bees that resemble bumblebees.

According to Justin Schmidt’s ranking of Hymenoptera stings and the pain felt afterward, the giant Borneo carpenter bee ranked at a pain level of 2.5; lower than some other insects under the Hymenoptera group but higher than other bees.

Are Carpenter Bees Aggressive?

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Carpenter bees are usually harmless.

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Like most other bee species, carpenter bees are not aggressive. Usually, these bees are harmless and prefer to focus on doing their own thing. However, they might cause considerable damage to wood and furniture. These bees enjoy making holes in wood to sometimes live in, but they tend to avoid wood that has been painted or treated. Male carpenter bees do not have stingers like the females do, but these males usually come off as more threatening as a way to scare off threats and intruders. 

The females are significantly calmer than their male counterparts, and they only use their stingers on humans or other animals when they feel threatened or if they are mishandled. So, it is advisable not to disturb these female carpenter bees for any reason.

What To Do When Stung by a Bee

One of the first things to do when stung by a bee is to remain calm no matter what because although most bees usually sting once, there are rare occasions when the same bee that attacked the first time would try to attack again. If the stinger is still in your skin, you can get rid of it by rubbing some gauze or scarping your fingernail over it. Keep in mind that tweezers or any other object that can squeeze the stinger should not be used, as squeezing it would release more venom into your skin.

Once the stinger is out, it is advisable to immediately wash the affected area with soap and water. It is also advisable to put some ice over the affected area to reduce swelling. However, if the swelling spreads to other parts of the body, it is then necessary to see a medical professional to prevent the situation from worsening. Though the majority of individuals who get stung by a bee don’t have severe reactions, it’s a good idea to monitor anyone who has been stung in case they exhibit serious symptoms. You should seek medical help right away if you experience any symptoms of an allergy or if you or someone you know has been stung several times.

Some of the things to do to avoid being stung by a bee include avoiding them completely, except if you are a beekeeper. Even then, it is still advised for beekeepers to approach these bees wearing appropriate equipment that could keep them from getting stung, such as bee suits and gloves. It is also advisable to not disturb these bees when they are feeding or during certain weather conditions, such as when it is rainy or too cold, as this further brings out their defensive nature, making them more likely to sting.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Cathy Withers-Clarke/

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