A scientist figured out the most painful spots on the body for a bee sting by intentionally getting himself stung over and over.
This was quite a sacrifice to make in the name of science. Michael Smith is a Ph.D. candidate in neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University. From what I gathered from his website, he’s spent years studying the behavior patterns of bees within colonies and how information transmission within a bee colony is linked to reproductive strategies.
So naturally, I’m writing about him because he let a bunch of bees repeatedly sting him on the penis.
In his work with bees, Smith has been accidentally stung countless times — and he noticed that certain stings hurt worse than others. He decided to test which body parts suffered the worst from bee stings. But under the 1975 Declaration of Helsinki, any experiment on human subjects would have been considered unethical.
Fortunately (I guess?) for Smith, there’s no ban on what you can do to yourself.
So every day, Smith would take a bee, grab it with forceps and jam it up against a certain body part until it stung him. After one minute with the stinger in his body, he’d rate his pain on a scale of one to 10. He did that with up to five bees per day, for 38 days, spacing out three unique stings on 25 different body parts.
And in the end, Smith came up with the first-ever definitive rankings for bee sting pain.
Here are the 11 body parts where bee stings hurt the worst. If you disagree, I suppose you could replicate the study on your own.
11 | Top of the foot (pain: 6/10)
I guess this is good news if you’re worried your totally sweet henna tattoo might serve as a target for bees. Do note: If a bee is headed for your foot, try to redirect it to sting the tips of a toe or your heel, both of which hurt less.
10 | Abdomen (pain: 6.7/10)
That soft, supple belly skin is a great place for pain — whether you’ve got post-Photoshopping abs or the “14 months pregnant” look. I don’t know which describes the researcher; as a man of science, I doubt he has the seven minutes for abs (or six minutes, if that idea ever happened), but I also doubt he’s fully Bastian Booger.
9 | Fingertip (pain: 6.7/10)
If you’ve ever pricked your finger to sign an oath in blood — or, far more realistically but way less badassedly, test blood sugar — you know it’s not something you find particularly groovy. For about two seconds. Then you can move on. It seems the bee sting pain lingers a little longer, but not much.
8 | Nipple (pain: 6.7/10)
I know he only gives it a 6.7 out of 10 for pain, but the mere thought of having a bee sting me right on the nipple makes me recoil. Had I been running this experiment, I would’ve “forgotten” to test the nipple. All science is really about selective “forgetting,” right?
7 | Armpit (pain: 7/10)
It would probably be hard in reality for a bee to sting your armpit, unless it happened to get you during a sexy Top Gun beach volleyball game or while you were throwing your hands up in the air sometimes. Otherwise, armpits are usually pretty well protected — ya know, with arms.
6 | Cheek (pain: 7/10)
I assume he did this on the outside of his cheek (he wasn’t testing bee stings on the inside of the cheek, which would only be necessary if you were training to be one of those dogs that shoot bees at you when they bark). The inside of the cheek might be more painful — in the many cavities I’ve had filled in my life, that shot of novocaine into the cheek or gums always makes me clench up in pain — but the outside of the cheek isn’t exactly made of armor.
5 | Palm (pain: 7/10)
It’s interesting that the palm ranked so high, since it seems like much tougher skin than the cheek or the armpit — and definitely tougher skin than the next two things on this list. Apparently it’s highly sensitive to bee stings. Don’t give bees a high five, I guess. Oh, sure, they’ll try to sucker you in with promises of unlimited honey, but don’t be fooled.
4 | Scrotum (pain: 7/10)
I’m picturing the moment in this experiment where this guy was about to press an angry bee to his scrotum for the first time. He’s at an Ivy League university, he’s devoted his life to science, he’s striving to become a top-level expert in neurobiology — and somehow all of that culminated in pressing a bee against his genitals and hoping its sting is only sorta painful. What a strange fork in the road.
3 | Penis (pain: 7.3/10)
According to Smith, “It’s painful, and thereâ€™s definitely no crossing of wires of pleasure and pain down there.” In other words, beware of dominatrixes with apiary-adjacent sex dungeons.
2 | Upper lip (pain: 8.7/10)
If you gave 100 men the opportunity to have a bee sting you on the lip, penis or testes, 100 out of 100 would take the lip. And apparently, they’d all be wrong. (Even with this information, 100 out of 100 would still choose the lip.)
1 | Nostril (pain: 9/10)
Strangely enough, the nostril is the worst place on the body to take a bee sting. Smith says, “Youâ€™re sneezing and wheezing and snot is just dribbling out. Getting stung in the nose is a whole-body experience.” I say… perhaps it’s time to stop being so judgmental toward people with nose rings. Apparently they’re the toughest ones of all.
Least painful: Skull (2.3/10)… toe tip (2.3/10)… upper arm (2.3/10)… buttock (3.7/10)… and calf (3.7/10).