Where is the worst place on the body to get stung by a bee? One student has found the answer...

Michael Smith of Cornell University put the nostril at the top of the list followed by the upper lip and the penis

Throughout history, a select band of the brave has willingly turned into human guinea pigs in the cause of science. Benjamin Franklin got a shock from lightning by flying a kite in a storm. Sir Humphry Davy discovered laughing gas was an effective anaesthetic and Albert Hofman took the first LSD trip in his search for new medicines.

Now, an academic has deliberately subjected himself to weeks of pain to answer one burning question – just where is the worst place on the body to get stung by a bee?

Michael Smith of Cornell University in the US was unstinting in his dedication to the task with even the most delicate parts of his anatomy subjected to multiple stings.

The results, published in the scientific journal PeerJ on Thursday, could shed new light on the human body's sensitivity to pain in general. Mr Smith, who researches bee colonies, said the idea came to him after a chat with his adviser about the occupational hazards. "We speculated it probably really would hurt to get stung in the testicles," he said. "Two days later, by chance, I did get stung there. It didn't hurt as much as I expected it to."

And so a science project began. After choosing 25 locations on the body, Mr Smith grasped a honeybee in forceps, placed it against his skin until it stung him, then allowed the stinger to remain for a minute – five times a day for 38 days.

The results were not quite as expected. He rated his experiences with marks out of 10, compared with a control sting to the forearm which was given a five.

The testicles turned out to be the fourth worst place with an average score of seven, equal with the cheek, palm and armpit. The sorest place, the nostril, was much worse – he rated the experience as a nine – followed by the upper lip on 8.7 and the penis some distance behind in third on 7.3. The least painful locations were the skull, tip of the middle toe and upper arm, all rated at 2.3.

Despite the regular bee stings, Mr Smith admitted that when he came to press a bee to his nostril for the third time, he thought to himself: "I really don't want to get sting in the nose again – that's not fun. Your body really reacts. You're sneezing, wheezing. Your eyes are streaming."

Mr Smith, a graduate student, speculated that the results might not be specific to bee stings. "Everyone knows certain places on the body are more sensitive than others. With a healthy pinch of salt, I would say it's applicable to other types of pain."

He stressed that bees were generally not aggressive towards humans. "If you have a bee buzzing around you and you think it's peeved, if you calm down, don't breathe a lot – they are attracted to carbon dioxide – and slowly walk away, you will be fine. Most stings are probably wasps."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Workshop Deputy & Production Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A rare and exciting role has arisen within thi...

Recruitment Genius: HR Assistant

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a keen...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this multi-ac...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Specialist

£21000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an e...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat