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The Sting of the Wild by Justin O. Schmidt

The Sting of the Wild

by Justin O. Schmidt

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Justin O. Schmidt is the entomologist who developed the Schmidt Pain Index that ranks how much pain different insect stings deliver on a scale of 1 to 4 with 4 being the rolling on the ground in agony pain. He wrote The Sting of the Wild to not just tell his pain index story, but to explore how stinging evolved and to what purpose.

His focus is on ants, bees, and wasps, the triumvirate of stinging insects. The insects are both prey and predator. Honeybees and fire ants sting to protect their homes. On the other hand, tarantula hawks (a wasp) stink to paralyze their tarantula prey so they can drag it home to be eaten alive for weeks as their eggs develop into pupa. I sure hope tarantulas don’t feel pain or have awareness because the larvae feed on them while alive and they don’t die until they develop into pupae and eat the brain and nerve cells. It’s so gross.

He also describes the life cycle of several of these species and some of them are fascinating. For example, we are generally told that critters cannot mate across species, that’s kind of what makes them species. However, two species (rough harvester ants and red harvester ants) of harvester ants have a sort of ant orgy where the females of both species mate with males of both species. The eggs fertilized by their own species become reproductives and the eggs fertilized by the other species become the nonreproductive workers. Amazing!

The Sting of the Wild is a great book for lay readers. Think of it as insect gossip, though verified gossip, of course. It has that convivial tone of sharing what’s going on with the Jones, but the Jones are killer bees. It’s full of fun anecdotes including tales of stings in history and tidbits of information such as the infamous “yellow rain” that Gen. Alexander Haig claimed was a chemical weapon dropped on the Hmong in retaliation for their helping the US that turned out to be bee poop.

You don’t have to be a bug lover to enjoy The Sting of the Wild. I sure am not one, but nature is endlessly inventive and Schmidt knows how to make her inventions interesting and enjoyable.

I received a copy of The Sting of the Wild as a gift from John Hopkins University Press with no expectation of review.

The Sting of the Wild at Johns Hopkins University Press
Justin O. Schmidt research publications at ResearchGate

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2018/06/21/9781421419282/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Jun 21, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
OUCH! DAMN IT! ARRGH! - Justin Schmidt hits a home run in his publication of "The Sting of the Wild". Schmidt entices the reader to travel with him though time and across the planet as he teaches us how insects use stings, venom, and mimicry to survive in a ant-eat ant world. His use of easy language and storytelling style allow us to walk with him through jungles, deserts, woodlands and backyards to encounter ferocious monsters which rival any sci-fy constructions. These real life monsters - ants, wasps and bees come to life as never before. Schmidt is really stung in this account of his work - he makes the fire of the venom pulsing in his body come to life as he calmly describes what is happening in terms of physiological systems and neurological signaling pathways (We can watch from the safety of our nook). Huh?? This sounds like science - It is! But Schmidt makes scientific complexities sound like a child's primer as he weaves the narrative chapter by chapter, As a beekeeper who learned from an wise elder, I just now learned many of the reasons why we do things such as hold our breath, or breathe out to the side when entering a hive without a veil. Your knowledge and amazement of our world will expand dramatically as you take this walk into Schmidts world of "THE STING".

Disclaimer: I received an audio book of this from library thing for review. ( )
1 vote difreda | May 25, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A detailed survey of stinging insects looking at how they evolved, their life cycles, and various cultural meanings. The author is fascinated with the reactions caused by stings and how that has become such a source of fear and instinctual wariness in humans.

I enjoyed parts of this book, but insects are really not my area. The author is obviously fascinated by his chosen career but failed to fully capture my casual attention. Much of the book felt like unrelated scientific articles about various topics. As a result, parts were repetitive and others just tedious. I think the book would be more accessible to a wider audience if an overarching narrative were constructed to place all this information into a clearer framework. Most of the book is just a prolonged discourse of dry facts interspersed with bits about the author's personal experience and some few beliefs of other cultures. ( )
  Juva | May 23, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The author is an entomologist at the Southwest Biological Institute, University of Arizona where he studied a group of insects called Hymenoptera. There is something about a man who would deliberately subject himself to insect stings to develop a pain scale that just screams dedicated scientist. Doctor Schmidt is such a man. His book covers the usual yellowjackets and wasps along with lessor known sweat bees and tarantula hawks. The book has a bit of biological history, insect evolution and curiosity that Is both intriguing and yet a bit masochistic. His comprehensive pain index includes 83 insect stings rated on a spectrum of 1 to 4. One sting is described as “instantaneous, electrifying, excruciating, and totally debilitating”. This is biology best read than experienced.

L.J. Ganser does a fine job narrating the audio compact disc version. He other narration works include three novels by James Ellroy: Because the Night, Blood on the Moon, and Suicide Hill. He has also appeared on stage in New York and in several episodes of the television show Law and Order. ( )
  bemislibrary | May 21, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Good non-fiction book that will teach you oodles about stinging insects. The book is interspersed with humorous and interesting stories by the author so it makes a nice read. Particularly appreciated was the information on chemical make up of various venom. Would recommend to anyone interested in the natural world. ( )
  happytreehugger | May 15, 2017 |
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"Entomologist Justin O. Schmidt is on a mission. Some say it's a brave exploration, other shake their heads in disbelief. His goal? To compare the impacts of stinging insects on humans, mainly using himself as the gauge. In The Sting of the Wild, the colorful Dr. Schmidt takes us on a journey inside the lives of stinging insects, seeing the world through their eyes as well as his own. He explains how and why they attack and reveals the powerful punch they can deliver with a small venom gland and a 'sting,' the name for the apparatus that delivers the venom. We learn which insects are the worst to encounter and why some are barely worth considering. The Sting of the Wild includes the complete Schmidt Sting Pain Index, published here for the first time." -- Amazon.com.… (more)

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