The naked victim would be firmly fastened within a back-to-back pair of narrow rowboats (or in some variations a hollowed out tree trunk). The victim's head, hands, and feet would protrude from this improvised container.
The victim would be forced to ingest milk and honey to the point of developing severe diarrhea, and more honey would be rubbed on his body so as to attract insects to the exposed appendages.
He would then be left to float on a stagnant pond (or alternately, simply exposed to the sun somewhere).
The diarrhoea would accumulate within the container, attracting more insects, which would eat and breed within the defenseless victim's exposed (and increasingly gangrenous) flesh.
Death, when it eventually occurred, would probably be due to a combination of dehydration, starvation and septic shock.
In other recorded versions, the insects did not eat the victim; biting and stinging insects such as wasps, which were attracted by honey on the body, acted as the torture.
Death by scaphism is painful, humiliating, and protracted. Historical records suggest that Mithridates, sentenced to die in this manner for a perceived insult to the king, survived for 17 days before expiring.