Transitioning from childhood to adulthood is frequently painful. That is especially true when the right of passage involves the use of some of the most painful insects on the planet.
Boys in the Sateré-Mawé tribe in Brazil’s Amazon become men upon reaching age 13 and successful completion of the Bullet Ant Initiation. Bullet ants are notorious for having the most painful sting of any ant. The pain is equated to that of being shot, hence the name given to the creatures. Each sting is more than 30 times more painful than that of a wasp and causes waves of burning, throbbing, all-consuming pain that continues unabated for up to 24 hours.
In preparation for the ritual, hundreds of ants are sedated and then woven into a glove made of leaves, with the stingers facing inward. Once the ants have fully regained consciousness, the boy must place his hand inside the glove and keep it on for ten minutes. After this time, the boy can expect his hand and arm to be paralyzed temporarily and to endure uncontrolled shaking for a number of days. Full completion of the manhood ritual involves going through this process twenty times over the course of several months.