Some Insect And Spider Stings Cause Bizarre Sensations
If you are an arthropod enthusiast, then you have probably read at least a few of the several recent news articles telling about researchers who allow themselves to be stung by different bugs. A biologist, Justin Schmidt, is one of the most well known researchers who regularly tolerates these painful stings for science, and he makes a pretty good living doing so. But unlike other scientists that indulge in this bizarre form of research, Schmidt is interested in developing superior pain-killing drugs.
Schmidt has been stung by thousands of different spiders and insects. You would be surprised to learn which particular spiders and insects cause the highest degree of pain. Even more surprising are the unexpected, yet painful, sensations that many sting victims experience after sustaining a sting from a particular insect or spider. According to Schmidt, the common harvester ant is responsible for causing the most painful of all insect stings. These ants are often seen when looking down at our feet when we are outdoors. They may look harmless, but sustaining a bite from the scariest looking tarantula would be preferable to being bitten by a harvester ant. These ants cause a pain that reportedly feels like having one’s tendons and muscles ripped from one’s flesh.
The sweat bee also deals out an unexpected sensation. Schmidt describes the feeling of a sweat bee sting as “light, ephemeral and fruity”. Who would have thought that a bee sting could feel “fruity”? It is probably best that I cannot imagine what a fruity sting feels like.
Schmidt is not simply attempting to categorize different spider and insect sensations, he is also trying to understand why insects are motivated to sting at all. Insects sting only for defensive purposes. Insect bites and stings are uniquely painful because these animals are so small. In order to ensure their survival, their stings must be painful enough to deter much larger sized predators from attacking. Perhaps even more important, Schmidt is studying the body’s reaction to different insect and spider venoms. Schmidt is currently focused on the human body’s reaction to tarantula hawk stings, which he describes as feeling like an electric shock. Schmidt is hoping to eventually contribute to the development of non-narcotic pain killing medication, which could save thousands of people from prescription drug overdoses.
Would you be willing to volunteer for a study where you had to sustain insect and/or spider stings if it meant helping relieve the pain suffered by cancer victims?
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