Doctors Find 4 Sweat Bees in Woman’s Eyes, Living Off of Her Tears

Doctors Find 4 Sweat Bees in Woman’s Eyes, Living Off of Her Tears
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Sweat bees are a common nuisance in the summertime, but they’re much less frightening than, say, hornets or wasps. Still, you wouldn’t want to have a sweat bee in your body. Yet, a Taiwanese woman experienced just that. Doctors discovered 4 of the winged creatures living in the woman’s eye, where they were feeding off of her salty tears.

The woman, 29, couldn’t figure out what had caused her eye to swell shut. She was overcome with pain and her eyes seemed to water constantly. She figured she had some sort of infection, but she didn’t understand why it kept getting worse and worse.

The patient, known only as “He,” sought treatment at Fooyin University Hospital in Taiwan, where doctors told her she didn’t have an infection at all. As Hung Chi-ting, the hospital’s head of ophthalmology, peered into He’s eyes with a microscope, he saw tiny legs wiggling from one of her eye sockets.

From there, he proceeded to remove 4 intact sweat bees, all alive, 1 by 1 from He’s eyelid.

Hung Chi-ting explained during a press conference that the tiny bees had been craving salt, which they found in He’s tears. The insects set up shop under the woman’s eyelid, in what the doctor called a “world first.”

“I saw something that looked like insect legs, so I pulled them out under a microscope slowly, and 1 at a time without damaging their bodies.”

How in the World Did This Happen?

So, how did 4 sweat bees end up turning He’s eye into a buffet? She believes she acquired the uninvited visitors while participating in the Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day.

He said:

“I was visiting and tidying a relative’s grave with my family. I was squatting down and pulling out weeds.”

[Note to self: Just let the damn weeds grow next time.]

At some point during the day, He felt something get in her eye. She splashed a bit of water in her eye, believing it to be a little harmless dirt. But when her eyes started to swell up later that night and she began to experience a stinging pain that made her eyes water up, she wrongly assumed she was coming down with some sort of infection.

It turns out that sweat bees tend to nest near graves and in the mountains.

Fortunately, He kept herself from rubbing her eyes too much, which could have caused blindness. The woman was found to be suffering from cellulitis and severe corneal erosion because of the bees. [2]

Hung said:

“Thankfully she came to the hospital early, otherwise I might have had to take her eyeball out to save her life.”

Despite several hours of excruciating pain and increasing worry, He will not have any lasting repercussions from the buzzing parasites.

Matan Shelomi, an associate professor of entomology at National Taiwan University, said: [1]

“The woman will be fine. The bees will be fine. This is not something that people need to concern themselves with. I don’t expect we’ll ever see this again.”


[1] The Washington Post

[2] CNN