Most Painful Place for a Bee Sting? Surprisingly Not the Penis

bee sting trimmed*I sometimes marvel at ‘modern science.’ The things scientists study sometimes boggles the mind. This one though, shows a whole new level commitment, on the researcher’s part.

A graduate student at Cornell University, Michael Smith, studies the behavior and evolution of honeybees. Needless to say, getting stung is a professional hazard. This led to his curiosity centering on where the most painful place to be stung was.

Although there is a pain scale, the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, that details the level of pain a sting from a certain insect gives, there hadn’t been research detailing what parts of the body were more sensitive to stings.

What’s a researcher to do?

Sting himself!  Again, and again, and again!

For 38 days, Smith allowed bees to sting him a numerous times a day, over various places on his body.  He was actually quite methodical in his methods:

  • He grabbed a bee, by the wings, with forceps and pressed the stinger into the tested area of his body.
  • He stung himself 5 times per day, always between 9 am and 10 am.
  • He then rated the pain of the sting, on a scale between 1 and 10.
  • He always started and ended with ‘test stings’ on his forearm, to calibrate his subjective pain scale.
  • He tested each of the 25 spots, three times.

Some of the spots he tested required a bit of flexibility and his mirror — like on his buttocks.  Surprisingly, the penis wasn’t the most sensitive spot! Oh, it was in the top three… but, wasn’t number one.  Here are Smith’s pain findings.


bee sting pain map

Here are the findings, broken down by location, followed by Smith’s pain rating on a scale from 1 to 10:

  • Nostril – 9
  • Lip – 8.7
  • Penis – 7.3
  • Scrotum – 7
  • Cheek – 7
  • Palm – 7
  • Armpit – 7
  • Nipple – 6.7
  • Middle Fingertip – 6.7
  • Abdomen – 6.7
  • Top of Foot – 6
  • Behind the Ear – 5.3
  • Back of Neck – 5.3
  • Top of Hand – 5.3
  • Inner Arm – 5
  • Back of Knee – 5
  • Foot Arch – 5
  • Wrist – 4.7
  • Thigh – 4.7
  • Lower Back – 4
  • Buttock – 3.7
  • Back of Calf – 3.7
  • Top of Head – 2.3
  • Upper Arm – 2.3
  • Tip of Middle Toe – 2.3

According to Smith, although getting stung on the penis and scrotum definitely wasn’t pleasurable, the nostril was the absolute worst. It caused not only the most intense pain, but also made him sneeze and wheeze, and made his eyes water.

Kimberly Wylie

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