The insect with the most toxic venom in the world

Insects have developed some crazy defenses, since they're generally always going to be food for something. Some bite, some sting, and others like the bombardier beetle just smell like absolute garbage. But which one delivers the most venom?

First off, Encyclopedia Britannica notes that there's a big difference between poisonous and venomous. The easiest way to remember it is that an animal is poisonous if it's toxic when you bite it, and it's venomous if it's toxic when it bites you. So to answer this question, we must seek out the insect which delivers the most venom through a bite or sting, rather than when it is consumed. 

Also, we have to clarify the standard which we'll judge it by, which in this case is the LD50 value, the standard for median lethal dosages. This is an objective standard, separate from the amount of pain or discomfort caused, just a pound for pound gauge of toxicity. And the winner is…

The harvester ant! According to University of Florida's Book of Insect Records, these ants, specifically the Maricopa harvester ant species, have the most toxic venom based on mice LD50 values. The LD50 for harvester ant venom in rodents is 0.12 mg/kg, compared to an LD50 of 2.8 mg/kg for a honeybee sting. Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D, puts that in perspective, saying it would take about three Maricopa stings to kill a one pound rat. Considering these ants essentially bite down and pivot, stinging continuously, this could happen quite quickly. Obviously, we are a different species and weigh far more. According to UF, one sting would have us in severe pain for up to four hours.

So while this is objectively the most toxic venomous insect in the world, it's definitely not the most dangerous to humans. That honor is held by mosquitoes, which BBC reports is responsible for about 725,000 deaths a year, due to the diseases spread through bites.