10 Creatures That Deliver the Most Painful Stings and Bites

Watch out!

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There are many animals in the biological world that are venomous, but not all venom is created equal. Some stings and bites are merely irritating; others can stun their victims slowly and unexpectedly. Then there are those stings that hurt — and that's putting it mildly. Here's our list of the 10 animals that deliver the most painful bites or stings in nature. While not every bite or sting from one of these creatures will kill you, the pain involved might have you wishing they would.

Platypus

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Considering the large number of venomous creatures that inhabit Australia, the odd-looking, cute and clumsy platypus might seem like a safe option. Think again. A male platypus has ankle spurs that are capable of delivering a wicked sting. So wicked that the excruciating pain can incapacitate an adult human. The pain is also long-lasting, and can even turn into a condition called hyperalgesia, a heightened sensitivity to pain that may last for weeks or months following the initial sting.

Gila monster

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Gila monsters are colorful lizards native to southwest North America that can deliver quite the wallop — and their neurotoxin venom is only the half of it. Since they lack the musculature to forcibly inject the venom, they rely on hard chewing with their sharp teeth to ensure that the poison gets implanted. Gila monsters can be so aggressive that they have been known flip over while biting, further opening up the wound. Luckily, these creatures are mostly docile toward humans so long as they are left alone.

Black widow

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One of the world's most notorious spiders, the black widow lives up to its reputation and is capable of delivering a bite that ranks among the most painful in nature. Interestingly, bites from small black widows are benign because the smaller spiders aren't capable of delivering much venom. But if you're unlucky enough to get bitten by a larger widow, get ready for a rough ride. Envenomation from a black widow can cause a condition called latrodectism, which involves constant, strong, painful muscle contractions that seem never-ending.

Stingray

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The creature that killed Steve Irwin isn't usually a threat to humans, but it won't hesitate to strike with a painful, serrated barb if threatened. Aside from being laced with venom, the barbs are also known to break off in the wound, occasionally requiring surgery to remove. It doesn’t help that the barbs are most often delivered to the sensitive underside of a person's foot while wading along the beach. This is one sting you won't soon forget.

Tarantula hawk

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These humongous wasps are voracious. (The name is derived from their habit of hunting tarantulas, if that's any clue.) Because tarantulas are not easy prey, tarantula hawks are equipped with a powerful venom that is reputed to create one of the most painful stings in the insect world. In fact, according to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index — a pain scale rating the relative pain caused by some insect stings — the tarantula hawk rates as the second most painful sting ever measured.

Stonefish

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Not every creature on this list is capable of delivering a painful sting that can kill you, but the stonefish is one of the exceptions. Stonefish are the most venomous fish in the world, delivering often-fatal stings to humans as well. An ancient dance ritual performed by Australian Aborigines is a lesson in the dangers of the stonefish: The dancer displays terrible agony, writhing on the ground until finally succumbing to a death song. Needless to say, this is onefish you don't want to accidentally step on while walking on the beach.

Viper

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There are more deadly snake bites than those delivered by a viper, but viper bites are reputed to be the most painful. Van Wallach of the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology describes his worst encounter with a viper as follows: "It felt like somebody had a blowtorch and was burning the inside your arm. It went on for three straight days before I had any relief." Of course, envenomation from a viper can also kill you, so it's best to avoid these slithery serpents at all costs.

Arizona bark scorpion

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These are the most venomous scorpions in North America — a frightening fact considering that this is the most commonly encountered house scorpion in Arizona. The venom causes acute pain and can lead to frothing at the mouth, breathing difficulties and muscle convulsions. Limbs may become immobilized. Though the venom is rarely fatal, its effects can last for as long as 72 excruciating hours.

Box jellyfish

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These gelatinous sea creatures, sometimes referred to as "stingers" in Australia, are among the most feared animals in the ocean. You might have a better chance of escaping a shark attack unscathed than surviving a swim through a box jellyfish's tentacles. The venom is so toxic that it is reputed to be the most venomous creature in the world. Adding to their nightmarish mystique, box jellyfish are nearly invisible to unsuspecting swimmers.

Bullet ant

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As evidenced by the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, the bullet ant has the reputation of delivering the most painful sting in the insect world. Some even believe that a bullet ant sting might be the most painful sting, period. Amazingly, there's an indigenous tribe in South America that requires young men to endure these stings for 10 minutes at a time — as many as 20 times consecutively — as a rite of passage ritual. Despite the pain, the stings are not fatal and cause no permanent damage, except maybe to the psyche.