When I read a review of “The Sting of the Wild,” whose author supplemented his research by submitting to being stung by numerous insects, I thought I’d love to meet that guy. Well, I’m going to have a chance to do just that, and so will you, when he gives a lecture on his specialty at the Arizona Senior Academy at 3:30 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 26).
The speaker, Justin Schmidt, is a University of Arizona entomologist and author of the “The Sting of the Wild: The Story of the Man Who Got Stung for Science,” and creator of the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, the only scientific rating system of insect stings. He has attracted a lot of attention since the publication of this book, including an interview on NPR’s Science Friday, in which he explained why categorizing bee, ant, and wasp stings on his scale of 1 to 4 offers important data on understanding the lives of those insects.
A graduate of Penn State University, Schmidt studied honey bee nutrition, chemical communication, physiology, ecology and behavior at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson before becoming research director of the Southwest Biological Institute.
His studies indicate that stings play a variety of complex roles in the lives of insects. The stings of honey bees, rated 2, for instance, serve mainly to protect a hive and do actual physical damage; a mass attack can kill by stopping the heart. On the other hand, the agonizing 4-rated sting of the tarantula hawk, which just wants to be left alone, soon goes away, leaving no damage at all beyond a lasting memory.
Written by Betty Feinberg, Academy Village Volunteer