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A Woman Just Had Four Bees Removed From Her Eyeball And We Have Questions

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A bee-less eye. (Luca Iaconelli/ Unsplash)

A 29-year-old woman in Taiwan took herself to the hospital this week, complaining of a swollen eye, after tending to a family member's grave. "What could that be?" she probably wondered, casually. "Allergies? Dust? Pink eye?" Nope! On closer inspection, a doctor found and removed not one, but four (FOUR!) living sweat bees from her eye, after noticing "the tiny legs of the bees wriggling in her ducts."

The reports around the incident initially left me with the overwhelming desire to blindfold myself and Bird Box my way through the world, in order to avoid becoming insect housing/ dinner. But, as the shock wore off, that fear turned into a lot of burning questions (not four-bees-in-your-eye kind of burning, but close). I shall now attempt to answer those questions, in order to facilitate sleep tonight.

What The Hell Is A Sweat Bee?


Sweat bees are teeny-tiny metallic-looking bees that feast on human sweat using their short tongues. (Feel free to take a minute or two to scream about that.) They come in a variety of colors including bronze, blue, green and black, and measure between 0.125 to 0.5 inches.

Why The Hell Were They In Her Eye? 

They were munching on her tears. (How's that for symbolism!) It's not the sweat bee's first snack of choice, but it will do in a pinch, apparently. Though they were only in the woman's eye for a matter of hours, she suffered severe corneal erosion and a bacterial infection. "Thankfully," the head of the ophthalmology department who treated her said, "she came to the hospital early, otherwise I might have had to take her eyeball out to save her life." Great.

They Just Live In Taiwan, Right?

I'm afraid not. Apparently, America, Canada and Central America host over a thousand species of sweat bee. Forty-four of those are in Florida, so you can go ahead and take Disney World off your to-do list.

They're Not Organized Though, Correct?

Wrong again. While some species of sweat bee are lone wolves, most work in colonies, exactly like regular bees. According to Terminix, the Queen "digs burrows underground and carves out cells, then fills each cell with pollen and places an egg inside. Eventually, the worker bees emerge from these eggs. One worker bee guards the colony, while the others dig additional burrows and the queen returns to laying eggs." Awesome.

Why Do They Hang Around Graveyards?

It's not because they're goths. Typically, sweat bees live in either fallen trees or little underground holes. They are big fans of graveyards, presumably because of all of the freshly tilled soil and human misery.

How Do I Not Have Sweat-Bee-Based Nightmares Now?

Good question. Try and seek comfort in the fact that sweat bees rarely sting and, even when they do, the Schmidt Sting Pain Index (which is a real thing) considers it the least painful of all the potential other stings you could get while out in the world. Also, when not trying to feast on human fluids, sweat bees perform vital pollination tasks.

Feel better? Me neither. Sorry, everyone.

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