The Schmidt Sting Pain Index charts (on a scale of “1-4+”) the most painful insect stings in the world. A Sweat Bee’s bite will earn you a “1” ranking, described as “light, ephermeral, almost fruity”. Sounds pleasant actually. Less pleasant is the “4+“ effect of the scale’s most debilitating wound, a pain so fierce the index likens it to “fire walking over flaming charcoal with a three-inch rusty nail in your heel,” an almost unimaginable torture that only the infamous bullet ant is known to inflict.
Indigenous to South America, the bullet ant (Paraponera ciavata) is both feared and embraced as a part of local culture. The above video shows a coming-of-age ritual imposed upon male adolescent members of Brazil’s Satere-Mawe tribe. During the ceremony, boys prove themselves worthy of manhood by placing their hands into gloves woven thick with hoards of ferocious bullet ants. In order to be fully initiated as adult members of the tribe, candidates must undergo this process twenty separate times, each for an agonizing ten minutes.
When victims remove their gloves and show their hands, they appear completely blackened. The video’s narrator attributes the discoloration to the stings’ poison. I’ve also read that tribesman coat pre-stung hands in charcoal to “confuse” the ants. While dubious, I’m really hoping the latter is true.