Where Bee Stings Are the Most Painful

Nostril, upper lip, and penis, study finds

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 8, 2014 1:21 PM CDT

(Newser) – Where would it hurt more to get stung by a bee: on a testicle or on a nostril? It was this burning question that led Michael Smith, a graduate student at Cornell University studying honeybees, to his latest research. After being stung on the testicle and realizing it didn't hurt as much as one might think it would, Smith decided to use himself as the subject of an experiment with the goal of charting the worst places to get stung by a bee. The most painful, according to National Geographic, in descending order: the nostril, upper lip, and penis. The least painful: the skull, the upper arm, and the tip of the middle toe.

Smith's methods sound pretty awful: He gave himself five stings a day for 38 days, ultimately stinging 25 body parts multiple times. "Some locations required the use of a mirror and an erect posture during stinging (eg, buttocks)," he wrote in his amusing paper on the matter. He rated the painfulness of each sting on a scale from 1 to 10, and found that all of them were somewhat painful, though none of them ranked a 10 (the nostril was scored as a 9. "When you get stung there, your whole body reacts," Smith explains to the BBC). One body part he didn't test: the eye. "When I talked to [my advisor], he was concerned that I might go blind," Smith explains. "I wanted to keep my eyes.” As for why some body parts experience more painful stings than others? Sorry, but it's not clear. (Last month, a California woman was stung 1,000 times, and survived.)

  (Shutterstock)
Keep bees clear of your nostril.   (AP Photo/USDA, Lance Cheung)
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