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Stingray Barbs - What Makes Them So Dangerous

When making stingray-resistant booties like DragonSkin® Achilles Heels, one of the things you run into are stingray barbs – and lots of them. We’ve tested with dozens of real stingray barbs and learned from experts on what makes a stingray’s barb so dangerous. Between venom and serrated edges, a stingray barb is meant to scare away predators but, inevitably, sometimes humans are on the receiving end of a sting.

Close up of stingray barb and the serrated edges

It has serrated edges leading up to a pointed tip, like an arrowhead. You can see how the serrated edges also have a backwards curve to them. This makes the stingray barb more likely to be retained in the skin upon entry. These small edges can also break off inside the wound, increasing the risk of infection. If you’re ever stung by a stingray, it’s a good idea to have a professional remove the barb so that they can remove any pieces left behind in the wound.

The barb itself is encased in a thin skin pouch and sits flush on the stingrays’ tail, typically near the base:

Stingray barb near the base of the stingray's tail

When a stingray strikes, it lifts and flexes its tail, causing the barb to stick up and into the perceived threat:

Stingray stinging a force meter with their barb to measure its force

The barb also has grooves to hold venom. Once it gets through the skin, this venom causes an excruciating, long-lasting pain. Many believe that hot water helps denature the toxin and alleviate the pain. Lifeguards on the beach usually have kits to help out if you ever need to get your foot into hot water quickly.
Inside the stinger of a stingray barb
At the end of the day, stingrays aren’t out to get humans. They sting only in self-defense when we accidentally step on them, kick them, or otherwise startle them in their own home. Practicing safe beach habits is key to minimizing your chances of getting stung. Learn more in our article How to Avoid Getting Stung by Stingrays for best practices when at the beach.