Ranking the Pain of Stinging Insects, From ‘Caustic’ to ‘Blinding’ | Atlas Obscura

The most sting I’ve gotten so far this summer has not been at the hand (er, the other end) of an insect but rather the bountiful nettle that grows along Nameless Creek.

But it’s only a matter of time. I don’t recall a summer since we moved in here (1999) that the warm months have not sustained a colony of wasp, ants, hornets or yellowjackets out of which one or more have nailed me.

And like fine wines or the hotness of peppers, there are delicate nuances of difference between the sting of a velvet ant and a white-faced hornet.

Even so, I am certain I would not go out looking for these venomous stingers to test and then describe them with the odd, often snooty adjectives and phrases of the wine snob. You really ought to study this one:

Ranking the Pain of Stinging Insects | Atlas Obscura

I have to admire this as a study in articulating the sensory experience–a challenge for all writers, usually NOT regarding degrees and flavors of pain. Attend his adjectives and descriptors carefully.

Those adjectives include, among many others: rude, insulting, bold, unrelenting, fierce, blinding, explosive and long lasting

The unexpected descriptors for such an unpleasant experience include, among others: rich, hearty, slightly crunchy, pure, messy, and rude.

The best way to describe pain of course is to compare it to known (or imagined) pains. Those include, among others: Hot oil from the frying pan spilling over your entire hand; and “a rat trips snaps shut on your index fingernail.”

So when you get that inevitable sting this summer, quick–grab your notepad and jot down the finer points of pain and come back to share them with us.

BTW, I’ll try to have five posts in this series, maybe all this week unless…

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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