Bee Stings

Many people have had the experience of knowing what a bee sting feels like and let me tell you, it is not pleasant.  If someone has been stung more than one time, odds are that they haven’t been stung in the same spot numerous times. With that being said, someone who is stung in different spots can compare the pain and figure that one may have hurt more than another. Assuming there is no confounding variables, such as type of bee, it can most likely be concluded that a bee sting may be more or less painful in some spots compared to others. Testing this, comparing bee stings on different parts of the body, would be difficult because it is hard to compare without testing it in a controlled experiment where all factors are the same for each sting to ensure valid results. On the other hand, choosing to conduct a controlled experiment would not be ideal because it is unethical to purposely sting someone in random spots on their body and compare the pain for each spot. However, that is exactly what researchers at Cornell University have done.


There was a popular study done by a man named Justin Schmidt who judged the painfulness of stings from different insects and rated them on a scale of 1 to 4. The results were published and became the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. Gaining knowledge of how painful stings were from different species was very helpful, but it did not answer the question of whether or not location affects the painfulness of a sting. So Cornell University decided to conduct this experiment based on Schmidt’s findings and research.

In the experiment, researchers wanted to figure out if certain locations of stings were more painful than others and wanted to basically make a scale showing the results. To ensure valid results, they used one man and chose the European honey bee because it is a very common bee sting which would make it an ideal experiment stimulus. Since the research program at Cornell does not have any policies of self-experimentation, the author was the tested subject and was fully aware of the circumstances and gave his consent.


They chose 25 different locations (as seen above) on the body to test and used the forearm as an internal standard assuming that it would induce a “median level of pain”. Each day the author would self-administer five stings upon himself. The first and last stings were on the internal standard point, the forearm, and the other 3 stings were judged in relativity to the stings on the forearm which was rated as a 5 on the pain scale they came up with. Lower scores concluded lower pain and higher scores concluded higher pain. In total, the author received three full rounds of stings on each body part chosen and was stung over a total of 38 days.

To conclude results, the researchers took the pain rating for each location from all three stings in that spot and averaged them and ordered those from lowest to highest in a table (see table below). It was found that the location of the sting of a bee showed a significant impact on the level of pain that was experienced. Seeing that the experiment was only conducted on one person, it can be assumed that the pain levels that this individual experienced will not hold to be the same in others. And also, any confounding variables would tamper with the results. However, the question at hand of whether or not the location of a bee sting affects the pain felt, has been proven true and this experiment as a whole is very interesting.



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