This shouldn’t come as a shock to you, but at one point during Ant-Man, somebody gets stung by an ant. But it was shocking to me. The person took the worst sting known to man right to the neck and somehow didn’t lay down and start screaming.
Paraponera clavata, or “bullet ants,” are large, predatory ants native to the rainforests of Nicaragua. Their nickname should tell you all you need to know about their venom. The sting of a bullet ant reportedly feels like, well, getting shot. If Ant-Man avoids using guns, commanding a swarm of ants whose stings simulate bullets is probably the next best thing.
In 1984, entomologist Justin O. Schmidt developed the “Schmidt Pain Index” by taking one for the scientific team. He let 78 different species of ants, wasps, and bees sting him. Schmidt then ranked the stings on a scale from 0-4, and described each venomous encounter like a connoisseur of pain:
- 1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
- 2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine WC Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
- 3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic and burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of Hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
At the top of this list, above the wasp that Fallout‘s cazadores are based on, is the bullet ant:
- 4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch nail in your heel.
Some entomologists like Alex Wild aren’t sure if a bullet ant’s sting really feels like getting shot (the control experiment would be pretty dangerous), but it’s certainly not something to be trifled with. “A Paraponera sting feels more profound than the average insect sting,” Wild writes. “Like tissue or bone damage, it is a deep throbbing ache that crescendos over several hours.”
The stings are so traumatizing in fact that the Satere-Mawe people of Brazil use the stings to prove the manhood of their youth. Tribesman capture and anesthetize dozens of bullet ants, and then weave them into grass mittens. The bullet ant stingers are facing inward. To become fully initiated, young men must wear these pain mittens for minutes at a time, which often results in temporary paralysis and hours of shaking, unyielding agony. When Hamish Blake of the comedy duo Hamish & Andy attempted the test, he was screaming and shaking in seconds.
So far, the most unbelievable thing in Ant-Man isn’t his fantastic suit, but why the villain stung in the neck by a bullet ant didn’t lie down for a good scream.
Images: Marvel; Didier Descouens