Scientific Study: Bee Sting on the Penis Hurts Less Than on the Lip

Monday Apr 7, 2014
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Cornell University graduate student, Michael Smith
Cornell University graduate student, Michael Smith  (Source:Cornell University Dept of Neurobiology and Behavior)

What would you do in the name of science?

Michael Smith, a Cornell University student who researches bee colonies, published a study in scientific journal PeerJ Thursday on the human body’s sensitivity to pain. For his research, he deliberately subjected himself to weeks of bee stings on various parts of his body, including his penis and testicles, in an attempt to determine which part of the human anatomy is most sensitive to pain. The Independent reports:

"We speculated it probably really would hurt to get stung in the testicles," Smith said. "Two days later, by chance, I did get stung there. It didn’t hurt as much as I expected it to."

For his research, he picked 25 locations on the body and then, with a live honeybee firmly grasped in forceps, he placed the insect next to his skin until stung. The bee’s stinger was left in for one-minute to allow delivery of the venom. The process was repeated five times for 38 days. Each body part was stung three times over the course of the experiment.

Smith was alone in his research; all of the pain rating collected in the experiment came from the student. There were no other subjects in the study.

He concluded that, using a pain rating of 1 for mild and 10 for excruciating, the top ten worst places to get stung by a bee are:

1) Nostril  - 9.0            
2) Upper lip - 8.7         
3) Penis - 7.3              
4) Scrotum - 7.0             
5) Palm - 7.0              
6) Cheek - 7.0
7) Armpit - 6.7   
8) Nipple - 6.7 
9) Middle finger tip - 6.7
10) Abdomen - 6.7  

The five least painful places to get stung were the:

25) Skull - 2.3
24) Middle toe tip - 2.3
23) Upper arm - 2.3
22) Buttocks - 3.7
21) Calf - 3.7

According to Wikipedia, when a honey bee stings a person, it cannot pull the barbed stinger back out. It leaves behind not only the stinger, but also part of its abdomen and digestive tract, plus muscles and nerves. This massive abdominal rupture kills the honey bee. Honey bees are the only species of bees to die after stinging.

There is no data in Smith’s study on how many bees were murdered over the course of his research.

PETA was unavailable for comment.

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