History's 'Kings of Pain' on Their Mission to Update the 'Pain Index'

Emily Aslanian
Preview History Channel

Animal handler Rob "Caveman" Alleva and wildlife biologist Adam Thorn are on a painful mission. That is, they want to update the "pain index," created by an entomologist in 1983 to categorize hazardous insects.

As they travel the globe over 12 weeks on Kings of Pain, Alleva and Thorn subject themselves to the bites and stings of often deadly (definitely dangerous) creatures — all because knowing what to expect can help save lives.

We needed to learn more about this hard-to-believe venture.

Why was this necessary?

The original pain index counted intensity on a scale of 1 to 4 and, notes Alleva (above left), "didn't really give the whole picture."

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The men — strangers before they were Kings — base their findings on a wider scope of animals: 22 of 'em so far, from piranha to reticulated python. Plus, their index measures intensity, duration and damage on a 30-point scale.

How do they stay alive?

Extensive prep work helps. So does having a medical team on standby, not to mention the occasional police escort or helicopter to whisk them to a hospital if needed.

Rob Alleva, Adam Thorn, and entomologist Dr. Justin O. Schmidt, creator of the original Schmidt Sting Pain Index (Damien Maloney/HISTORY)

What was the most perilous part?

Surprisingly, the biggest threats came from wildlife they encountered while looking for specific test subjects.

"Other animals almost ended us," says Thorn (above right, with a tarantula hawk wasp). "We had, like, four hippos attack in Africa. They nearly tipped our boat."

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