Justin Schmidt (right) with his major professor, Murray Blum, in the 1970s enjoying a drink at a local Athens eatery.

Dr. Justin O. Schmidt, retired from the USDA’s Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, died February 18, 2023 of complications from Parkinson’s disease. Known as the “King of Sting” and author of The Sting of the Wild, Dr. Schmidt developed what is widely known as the “Schmidt Sting Pain Index,” categorizing human reactions to arthropod stings. In addition to assigning a number (1 to 4), he provided verbal pain descriptions reminiscent of wine tastings, such as “fruity” or “smoky.”

Justin Schmidt received his PhD from the University of Georgia in 1977, working with Dr. Murray Blum on defensive strategies of wasps and ants. After a postdoc at the University of New Brunswick, he joined the Hayden Bee Research Lab where he worked until his retirement in 2005. By that point he had established the Southwestern Biological Institute to continue research on social arthropods. He was widely sought as an educational and entertaining speaker and, in fact, provided a webinar, “Stinging Insects are Beautiful,” a week prior to his death.

As a proud UGA alumnus, Dr. Schmidt and his wife, Dr. Li Schmidt, established the Schmidt Student Seminar series in the UGA Dept. of Entomology in 2021. This funds an annual student-directed and student-selected seminar speaker.