I got back from jogging a little while ago. The weather seemed almost pleasant to me. Considering the fact that it was 99 degrees when I started, I may be losing my mind or, barring that, succumbing to another one of the many conditions that plague longtime residents of the desert. It did take me a little longer than usual to finish, but I think that's only because I had a minor stitch in my left side, rather than being a heat-related circumstance. Anyway, I'm writing this to inform you of my companion for a decent stretch of the jog:I swear it was following me, since I saw it numerous times over a ten-minute stretch. Strangely, even though stinging insects that fly are my most powerful fear and one of my strongest early childhood memories was of being set upon by a giant yellow-and-black creature that my parents insisted was a butterfly but I continue to maintain was a hornet, I wasn't unduly alarmed by the presence of this impressive member of the wasp family. I didn't even flinch when it circled my head a few times in apparent consternation. Of course, I hadn't yet read about what it might feel like for a human to be stung by one:
These wasps are usually not aggressive, but the sting, particularly of Pepsis formosa, is among the most painful of any insect. Commenting on his own experience, one researcher described the pain as "...immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations." It is listed near the top of the list in Schmidt Sting Pain Index. Although the sting is quite painful the effect is reported to last only a few minutes and is fatal less often than the honey bee. Their large stingers are considered defensive adaptations for living in the open, where they are prone to predators. Because of their stingers, very few animals are able to eat them; one of the few animals that can is the roadrunner.
Somehow the knowledge that the tarantula hawk's sting is "fatal less often than the honey bee" doesn't provide me a great deal of comfort. I guess I'll have to be careful not to anger the next one I encounter in my efforts to attain moderate fitness. In the meanwhile, I can delight in my discovery of the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which may be the best parody of the discourse of wine connoisseurs I've ever seen:
• 1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm. • 1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet & reaching for the light switch. • 1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek. • 2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door. • 2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine WC Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue. • 2.x Honey bee and European hornet. • 3.0 Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail. • 3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic & burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of Hydrochloric acid on a paper cut. • 4.0 Pepsis wasp: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath (if you get stung by one you might as well lie down and scream). • 4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch nail in your heel.
"Hot and smoky, almost irreverent" -- that's beautiful.