Paper wasps pack a nasty punch. We can refer to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index to see just how painful the sting of this very common wasp is. If you've not heard of this rather bizarre excercise in scientific masochism, an entomologist named Justin Schmidt set out, a few decades ago, to quantify and compare the stings of various insects in the Hymenoptera. He did this by letting stinging insects sting him, of course. His magnum opus, first published in 1984, is the aforementioned Schmidt Sting Pain Index. Its scale goes from 1 to 4+, with a 1 being a very mild, only slightly painful sting. Our paper wasp weighs in at a 3, and its sting is described by Schmidt as follows:
"Caustic and burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut".
Ouch. And what a hand's-on scientist is Mr. Schmidt.
And then my 20 minutes of documenting life in the goldenrod patch was up, and it was time to return to work.