There are many creatures in the animal kingdom that are venomous, but not all venom is created equal. Some stings and bites may feel like simple irritants, inconsequential, you would barely even feel them. On the other hand, there are bites and stings that can induce mind numbing and potentially incapacitating pain that is so painful, most people lack an adequate way of describing the experience. The good news is, for the most part, the bites on this list are not normally fatal (even though though the pain may feel like it’s fatal). Nevertheless, some of these creatures can attack in masses and as such potentially kill their victim. If you are out and about and you come into contact with one of these creatures, your best bet is to leave them alone. Seriously! Run! Flee! Stay as far as you can, because these stings are what your worst nightmares are made of. Just to give you an idea, some of these bites and stings have been described as bullet wounds, hot screwdrivers being drilled into a person’s leg, and a host of other similar disturbing sensations. So familiarize yourself with these critters (and avoid them)!
These are 25 Painful Bites and Stings You Might Not Be Able To Handle.
Brazilian Wandering Spider
These species are sometimes also referred to as banana spiders because they are frequently found on banana leaves. They have an aggressive defense posture, in which they raise their front legs straight up in the air. They are extremely poisonous to humans, and they are considered to be the deadliest of the world’s spiders. Their venom is toxic to the nervous system, causing symptoms such as extreme pain, salivation, irregular heartbeat, and prolonged, painful erections (known as priapism).
These tiny creatures feed mainly on blood, can often be found inside the gills of other fish, and have been known to swim up a human’s urethra. Once they wiggle their way inside, they expand, nestle in, and send you to the emergency room in need of an invasive medical extraction. Though sometimes considered an urban legend, the candiru is a real threat to unknowing swimmers and the pain their bite causes has been described as unrealistically horrible.
Arizona Bark Scorpion
These are the most venomous scorpions in North America—a frightening fact considering that this is the most commonly encountered house scorpion in Arizona. The venom causes acute pain and can lead to frothing at the mouth, breathing difficulties, and muscle convulsions. Limbs may become immobilized. Though the venom is rarely fatal, its effects can last for as long as seventy-two excruciating hours.
There are more deadly snakebites than those delivered by a viper, but viper bites are reputed to be the most painful. Van Wallach of the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology describes his worst encounter with a viper as follows: “It felt like somebody had a blowtorch and was burning the inside of your arm. It went on for three straight days before I had any relief.” Of course, envenomation from a viper can also kill you, so it’s best to avoid these slithery serpents at all costs.
Not every creature on this list is capable of delivering a painful sting that can kill you, but the stonefish is one of the exceptions. Stonefish are the most venomous fish in the world, delivering often-fatal stings to humans as well. An ancient dance ritual performed by Australian Aborigines is a lesson in the dangers of the stonefish: the dancer displays terrible agony, writhing on the ground until finally succumbing to a death song. Needless to say, this is one fish you don’t want to accidentally step on while walking on the beach.
One of the world’s most notorious spiders, the black widow lives up to its reputation and is capable of delivering a bite that ranks among the most painful in nature. Interestingly, bites from small black widows are benign because the smaller spiders aren’t capable of delivering much venom. But if you’re unlucky enough to get bitten by a larger one, get ready for a rough ride. Envenomation from a black widow can cause a condition called latrodectism, which involves constant, strong, painful muscle contractions that seem never-ending.
The Halictidae, better known as sweat bees, are a very large and nearly cosmopolitan family of the order Hymenoptera consisting of small to midsize bees that are usually dark-colored and often metallic in appearance. Their sting is considered one of the most painful among insects and according to those who have suffered one, it feels like it burns and hurts like hell at the same time.
Bullhorn Acacia Ant
The bullhorn acacia ant is a species of ant of the genus Pseudomyrmex. These arboreal, wasp-like ants have an orange-brown body around three millimeters in length and very large eyes. The acacia ant is best known and named for living in symbiosis with the bullhorn acacia (Acacia cornigera) throughout Central America. If you have the bad luck to be bitten by it, you will feel a rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain like someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
The bald-faced hornet is a eusocial wasp of the cosmopolitan Vespidae family. Its colloquial names include the bald-faced hornet, bald hornet, white-faced hornet, white-tailed hornet, black jacket, and bull wasp. Its sting is considered to be super rich, hearty, slightly crunchy, and if you get bitten, the bite has been described as similar to getting your hand smashed in a revolving door.
Don’t dismiss the sting of the common honeybee. The toxic cocktail of melittin and other amines acts on the heart and restricts the blood vessels. The pain is hot and messy and familiar to almost everyone, which is why Schmidt placed the honeybee sting in the center of the pain index.
Amazon Giant Centipede
These carnivorous centipedes, which can grow up to a foot long, need a potent bite to kill large prey such as mice and bats (that’s right, bats). It’s estimated that the pain associated with their bite is on the upper level of the Schmidt pain index and the burning pain lasts for a long time (people are usually whining and limping around a good twelve hours later).
A single fire ant sting is not particularly painful but twenty bites from fire ants will certainly elevate the pain factor significantly. For such small creatures, they’re quite toxic. Their toxin has been used to cause pain (and eventually death) similar to that experienced by Socrates when he was forced to drink hemlock in ancient Greece.
German Yellow Jacket
The common yellow jacket packs a mighty punch, and the German variety, introduced accidentally to the United States in 1975, even more so. Its aggressive manner has usurped the native yellow jacket to such an extent that many other insects mimic the German type in an effort to be mistaken for a bully. As with many wasps, bees, and hornets, these insects mark their victims with a scent so that other yellow jackets can locate the intruders and sting them repeatedly.
The hobo spider is a member of the genus of spiders known colloquially as funnel-web spiders (not to be confused with the Australian funnel-web spider). The medical significance of its bite is still poorly understood and debated, but the only certain thing is that the pain and horrifying wound it causes its victim is considered one of the most severe in the world.
Golden Poison Dart Frog
The golden poison dart frog is considered one of the most toxic animals on Earth. A single specimen measuring two inches (five centimeters) has enough venom to kill ten grown men. The indigenous Emberá of Colombia have used its powerful venom for centuries to tip their blowgun darts when hunting, hence the species’ name. This creature’s bite won’t only kill you but will make you suffer extreme pain along the way.
Though no bovines have made the official death toll, many humans have, as yak-killer toxin can cause severe allergic reactions. In fact, the death toll in Japan from yak-killers is reputedly greater than that from all other wild animals in the country combined. According to some survivors, it feels like “a hot nail being driven into the leg.”
In spite of their tiny size, European hornets are generally far less aggressive than wasps. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from stinging when provoked. The sting from a European hornet compares to that of honeybees and feels like a match that flips out and burns on your skin.
These gelatinous sea creatures, sometimes referred to as “painful stingers” in Australia, are among the most feared animals in the ocean. You might have a better chance of escaping a shark attack unscathed than surviving a swim through a box jellyfish’s tentacles. The venom is so toxic that they are reputed to be some of the most venomous creatures in the world. Adding to their nightmarish mystique, box jellyfish are nearly invisible to unsuspecting swimmers.
The creature that killed Steve Irwin isn’t usually a threat to humans, but it won’t hesitate to strike with a painful, serrated barb if threatened. Aside from being laced with venom, the barbs are also known to break off in the wound, occasionally requiring surgery to remove. It doesn’t help that the barbs are most often delivered to the sensitive underside of a person’s foot while wading along in the ocean. This is one sting you won’t soon forget.
These inch-long wasps create magnificent curvy, detailed nests from wood fiber and saliva and, for the most part, are very placid. It pays to not get too close, though. According to the Schmidt Pain Index, their sting is “caustic and burning with a distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.”
Red Harvester Ant
Red harvester ants are adorably industrious, foraging for seeds on the forest floor and hoarding them in underground larders. However, they can be downright aggressive when defending their stash. Their sting ranks alongside paper wasps in intensity and is “bold and unrelenting, like somebody using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail,” says the Schmidt Pain Index.
Gila monsters are colorful lizards native to the American Southwest that can deliver quite the wallop—and their neurotoxic venom is only the half of it. Since they lack the musculature to forcibly inject the venom, they rely on hard chewing with their sharp teeth to ensure the poison gets implanted. Gila monsters can be so aggressive that they have been known to flip over while biting, further opening up the wound. Luckily, these creatures are mostly docile toward humans so long as they are left alone.
Considering the large number of venomous creatures that inhabit Australia, the odd-looking, cute, and clumsy platypus might seem like a safe option. Think again. A male platypus has ankle spurs that are capable of delivering a wicked sting. So wicked that the excruciating pain can incapacitate an adult human. The pain is also long-lasting, and can even turn into a condition called hyperalgesia, a heightened sensitivity to pain that may last for weeks or months following the initial sting.
Tarantula Hawk Wasp
The tarantula hawk wasp is only two inches long and three inches wide, looks totally harmless, but the damage its bite can do is one of a kind. However, while it’s very close to the most painful sting on Earth, the agony and pain lasts only a few minutes.
This not so intimidating-looking ant is capable of inflicting the most agonizing sting in the insect world. The Schmidt Pain Index describes it as “pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a three-inch rusty nail in your heel.” According to victims who have suffered both the misfortune of being stung by a bullet ant and being shot with a firearm, the feeling is similar (hence the name). And the pain can last for twelve hours.