Sometimes one must suffer in order to inform and entertain people, but some are learning the hard way that there are limits to these kinds of challenges. Australian comedian Hamish Blake ended up in the hospital after undergoing an Amazonian initiation ritual.
The challenge consisted of wearing gloves filled with bullet ants and trying to withstand their venom. The problem is Paraponera clavata has the most painful sting in the insect world.
A challenge that left him hospitalised
Hamish Blake might have expected the worst, but he still clearly underestimated the power of the venom. The editing and the humorous tone of the show make the test a bit comical, but there is nothing funny about the level of pain he goes through. His body spasms and he screams under the impact of the pain which lasts for hours.
Blake was eventually hospitalised. He did not pass the Satere-Mawe tribe’s rite of passage, but this failure was the least of his worries when 24 hours later his hands were still swollen and paralysed.
At the top of the pain scale
Paraponera clavata is at the top of the hymenoptera Schmidt sting pain index. The entomologist Justin O. Schmidt was accidentally stung by a host of insects during his research, and he decided to use his unfortunate experiences to form this relative scale. It ranges from 0, a harmless sting, to 4.
In addition to this species of ant, only wasps from the genus Pepsis can boast of reaching the highest pain level. According to the Myrmecos website which is dedicated to ants, the pain from a bullet ant bite is comparable to ‘walking on hot coals with a rusty 3-inch nail in the heel of your foot.’ Justin O. Schmidt describes it as pure, brilliant and intense.
Despite the horrific and long-lasting suffering they provoke, these ants rarely cause death in humans.
A very ancient species
Paraponera clavata interests entomologists for various reasons beyond its bite. First of all because of its size. The workers can measure up to an inch long and, as in primitive ant species, the different castes are not accompanied by significant physical differences. Even the queen is scarcely larger than her subjects.
Moreover, this species is the only one of its kind, and its last common ancestor with other ants is 90 million years old. Thus it is an ideal candidate to study the fascinating world of ants.