When you go into the wild, you do your best to steer clear of mountain lions and bears. But how do you prepare for legions of pint-sized creepers far more likely to put you in a world of hurt? Get ready for a trip into the darkest recesses of the animal kingdom, where what doesn’t kill you makes you wish that it had.
Candiru You might have read about the candiru, also known as the toothpick fish or vampire fish, in your favorite Burroughs, Grann or Palahniuk novel. What makes this little punk so special? Well, he has a particular place he likes to crawl up—your urethra. Did we mention he also likes to suck blood? Long considered an urban legend… until some dude rolled up at a hospital and needed one surgically removed from his junk. Our advice? Don’t go swimming in the Amazon.
Brazilian Wandering Spider You’re looking at the freakiest eight-appendage creature this side of a Siamese twin. What’s so scary? The Guinness World Record for venomous-ness, to start. And not only does this guy have toxic juice, he can bite through your skin like a warm knife through butter on an Alabama summer night, he likes to live near human populations, and he ain’t afraid of humans. He will attack if you scare him or even try to. And, oh yeah, his bite can cause priapism. No f-ing joke.
Bullet Ants Did you know we can measure the pain of an insect bite or sting? It’s called the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. And the bullet ant—so named because his bite feels similar to getting shot—is the reigning world champ. But hey, relax, the shaking and paralysis wears off in a day or so. Among the Satere-Mawe people of Brazil, a man isn’t a man unless he’s worn gloves lined with angry bullet ants… for ten minutes... 20 separate times. We’re really glad all we had to do was get a driver’s license.
Irukandji Jellyfish Just five millimeters in diameter, this tiny Aussie boasts tendrils that extend about a meter and shoot venomous stingers. At first it feels like a mosquito bite. Then the real fun begins: pain so excruciating, victims beg doctors to kill them. Headache, backache, vomiting, sweating, nausea, rapid heartbeat and, yes, “an impending sense of doom.” One woman compared it to the worst pain of childbirth when it starts… and building from there. And she said that after a full shot of morphine.
Japanese Giant Hornet The Japanese Giant Hornet is one big tiny insect. So big, in fact, that when he finds a hive of bees kept for honey, he eats every last one. A bug that eats bees, people. And just wait until he stings you. The venom isn’t the deadliest, except when he injects a ton, which he’s prone to do. About 40 people die from such stings every year, making it the most lethal animal in Japan. Yeah, this hornet kills more Japanese people than bears, snakes or day-old sushi.
Army Ants This one’s almost obligatory. The army ant isn’t content to chill around the anthill, sending out scouts for food here and there. In fact, army ants don’t live in anthills at all. They don’t construct permanent homes and they all go out looking for food together. They’re basically one massive Viking raiding party made up of ants. They swarm in one of two ways, both with terrifying names: swarm attacks and column raids. Either way, not the kind of crew you want to doze off in the sand around.
Human Botfly Human isn’t in the name because this one’s is our buddy, as much as it might want to be. Botflies like to lay eggs in humans that then develop into larvae. Remember that scene from Wrath of Khan with the earworms? This is kind of like that, except they can lay the eggs anywhere, the eye being a popular spot. You can kill the thing while it’s in you—if you want a really nasty infection. Best to seek professional medical attention. It’s the only way to remove the entire larva safely. Have fun!