You’ve heard of B2B? Well, how about bee to eye? More, specifically, how about four live bees in your eye?
This is what happened to a patient with the last name of He in Taiwan. He is actually a she, a 29-year-old woman, whom the CTS news segment below referred to using only her last name:
The saga reportedly started when He was pulling weeds from around her family member’s grave and then noticed something going into her eye. She subsequently began experiencing stinging pain beneath and swelling around her eyelid, despite trying to wash out her eye.
The next day she saw Dr. Hung Chi-ting, the head of ophthalmology at Fooyin University Hospital in Taiwan. At a press conference, the doctor said, “I saw something that looked like insect legs, so I pulled them out under a microscope slowly, and one at a time without damaging their bodies.” These turned out to be four sweat bees, who had nestled into her tear ducts.
He, meaning the patient, didn’t seem to suffer any residual permanent damage from the bees. Things could have been a lot worse had she rubbed her eye while the bees were inside.
These bees are known as “sweat bees” because they are often attracted to perspiration. They comprise the Halictidae family of bees. Although they typically feed on pollen and nectar like other bees, they also like other things that can provide salt and moisture such as sweat, tears, and rotting corpses. Therefore, if you are a rotting corpse, who is running on a mountain and crying at the same time, you may want to be careful around these bees.
These bees don’t tend to be aggressive, if you don’t consider flying into your eye and nestling inside your tear ducts to be aggressive. In other words, usually they won’t sting you unless touched. Note that sweat bees may be smaller than what you normally picture as bees such as bumblebees. Therefore, you could mistaken them for flies or other smaller insects. Oh, here’s some more comforting news: these bees can be found all around the world. Thus, if you hike in the mountains or clean a grave, in theory, this could happen to you.
But before you start duct taping your eyes shut, keep in mind that this seems to be a highly unusual case. In other words, don’t get a bee in your bonnet about the risk of getting bees in your eyes. If your eye is swollen and hurts, an infection or some other foreign object is still far, far, far more likely.
This case does highlight the importance of not rubbing your eye if you feel that something is wrong with your eye. Rubbing your eye can cause more damage, regardless the cause. Instead, take the following steps:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Don’t touch your eye with dirty hands.
- Inspect your eye in a mirror in a well-lit room. You can use your clean fingers to gently hold open your affected eye. Avoid directly touching your eye and instead pull the skin around your eye.
- If you see or suspect a foreign object, use a gentle stream of clean, warm water to try to flush it out of your eye. The emphasis is on gentle as a fire-hose to your eye won’t end up well. Using a clean eye cup or glass in addition can help immerse your eye in water.
- If irrigation does not remove the object or you can’t determine a clear cause, see a doctor. Don’t go digging in your eye with tweezers or a pair of pliers, trying to remove the object.
Again, don’t be paranoid about the possibility of bees living in your eyes. This “B4I” case was an unusual one so no need to wear a pair of goggles or a plastic bag on your head (don’t do this is general) unless you know you are going to walk into a field of sweat bees. Just be careful in general what you allow to touch your eye.