Suffering For Science With The ‘King Of Sting’

Oct 18, 2018

Entomologist Justin Schmidt let himself be stung by scores of insects to develop his eponymous pain scale.
Credit Courtesy of Justin Schmidt

As a boy in a boring Pennsylvania town, Justin Schmidt could not help but investigate how biting ants, stinging wasps and other insects would react when he sat on their mounds or knocked down their nests. These escapades won him no love from the bugs he bothered, but Schmidt did develop an enduring adoration for them. 

When he became an entomologist his exploits only got more daring: Schmidt compared the pain caused by various bugs by letting himself be the victim of stinging insect attacks. His unorthodox research methods and the eponymous pain scale he created with the data earned him the title “The King of Sting.” 

Host Frank Stasio talks with Justin Schmidt, a research entomologist at the Southwestern Biological Institute in Arizona, about the behaviors and biology of stinging insects and why he is willing to suffer for science. Schmidt was scheduled to speak at Bugfest, which was postponed due to Hurricane Florence. The event has been rescheduled for Saturday, Oct. 20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.