Ants: The Strongmen of Medicine – Parts & Poultices


Kayla Desroches

I have a healthy respect (read: fear) for ants.

  1. They can lift 5x their body weight
  2. You drop something edible in your yard and BOOM, they’re on it
  3. Their sting will ruin your day

Yep, ants sting you.

They also bite you, but the bite is just to get access to your delicate nervous system.

Fire ants, for example, bite and then hang on while they sting again and again in little, painful circles. That onslaught leaves behind pustules that can last for a couple of weeks.


But the most painful ant sting?

Entomologist Justin Schmidt says the bullet ant.

This little guy below enjoys nectar, team work, and strolling through the Central and South American rainforests.

“I will frickin’ ruin your perception of pain, Karen.” —this bullet ant, probably. emills1 / Flickr

Schmidt subjected himself to more than 78 different insect bites and stings for the sake of forming the Schmidt Sting Pain Index.

In this index, he rated the sting from 1 (least pain) to 4 (most pain.) In the wide, wide world of painful stings, the bullet ant earned itself a 4.

Schmidt also included how long that pain lasts in that index.

Note below that the bullet ant’s pain lasts 300 minutes. That is five hours.

A graphic of the Schmidt Insect Sting Pain Index. Compound Interest

I’m impressed. And terrified. And confused.

Schmidt described the bullet ant’s sting as “pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a three-inch nail embedded in your heel.”

Schmidty, oh Schmidty, who are you? (An Arizonian, apparently.)

Certain ants offer serious pain potential, which is not something I considered before researching for this article.

It turns out ants have also been a part of traditional medicine for thousands of years.

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