Bees That Drink Human Tears


This is, I kid you not, the actual title of a paper published in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society. I love it, because it sounds like it could just as easily be the fan-encyclopedia description of some minor creature from a Lovecraft story. The bees in question are workers from three species, Lisotrigona cacciae, L. furva and Pariotrigona klossi, and were studied--going about their tear-drinking business--in Thailand. From the paper...

...workers drank lachrymation (tears) from human eyes in more than 262 naturally-occurred cases at 10 sites in N and S Thailand during all months of the year. A few visits were also seen to eyes of zebu and dog, indicating a probable broad mammalian host range. On man the bees were relatively gentle visitors, mostly landing on the lower eyelashes from where they imbibed tears for 0.5-2.5 min, often singly but occasionally in congregations of 5-7 specimens per eye.

The authors think the bees have adapted to drink tears as a way to get some protein in their diet and may, possibly, drink tears in lieu of feeding on pollen at all. That's pretty nifty, if a bit creep-tastic.

Image shows a Thai bee, though I'm not sure if it's actually one of the species studied in this paper. From Flickr user travlinman43, via CC.


  1. “imbibed tears for 0.5-2.5 min, often singly but occasionally in congregations of 5-7 specimens per eye.”


  2. Strange, I wonder how they carried out that experiment.

    It annoys me that people still used “man” to refer to humans, both women and men.

  3. I originally read “lachrymation” as “lachryNation,” which now just sounds like the Secret Kingdom of the Emo Kids.

  4. @Apoxia – Perhaps because it is proper usage of the word? It isn’t as if it is being used in the sense of slang.

    As for the bees? I think that is something more out of a John Saul novel…wasn’t it “the Homing?”

    1. I believe using “man” is outdated, whether or not it is technically correct usage. I remember a study in my first year psyc text book (I don’t have it on me and can’t find the reference after a quick google search), that showed that young people given the assignment to make a collage for a book entitled something along the line of “the world of man” used a higher percentage of male figures in the collage then those asked to make a collage for the title “the world of people”. The authors interpreted this as meaning that “man” was taken to mean masculine, and thus altered their interpretation. Thus, I don’t like the usage.

  5. It sounds like a song by Marc Almond…

    I have these irrational fears
    Like Bees That Drink Human Tears
    And rabbits with overgrown ears
    Yes I think I’ve had too many beers

  6. “So sad, I let the bees drink my tears. ”
    Man that is depression to new low. To not care that a bee is flying into your face.

  7. “Bees drank my tears” sounds like some kind of punk rock follow-up to “Weasels ripped my flesh.”

  8. Reminds me of something from a few years ago in the New Scientist, a moth that drinks tears from sleeping birds –

    and a poem that was written about it –

    The Madagascar moth drinks sleepers’ tears.
    Each insect, merciless, to dreamers brings
    the dust of midnight sadness, midnight fears.

    They’re silent; even waking, you’d not hear
    these famished sleep-intruders hovering.
    The Madagascar moth drinks sleepers’ tears.

    But in your dreams, you’ll feel them circling near,
    surrounding you with spectral flutterings
    and dust of midnight sadness, midnight fears.

    The nightingale’s aghast when they appear,
    and tries to warn the sleepers. Hear, he sings:
    “The Madagascar moth drinks sleepers’ tears!”

    Into your dreams it falls, and falls for years,
    the poisoned dust from Madagascan wings—
    the dust of midnight sadness, midnight fears.

    Tomorrow night perhaps they’ll reappear
    but now they’re gorged on sorrow, staggering.
    The Madagascar moth drinks sleepers’ tears
    and feeds them midnight sadness, midnight fears.

  9. As I scanned the thread, the threat of a gender rant nearly scared me away. The poem is ample reward for reading on. “Into your dreams it falls, and falls for years…”

  10. I know the story was not about genus Apis, but I think “man” comes from Manu, a regular in some Hindu myths, and it seemed to just mean, “you know, someone like you and me,” and I would like very much to read a short story about a hive of Apis lachrymanu, and the orphan child living in the forest who is starving, is weeping over her lost parents, and feeding the bees, and she eats their honey, and is transformed . . . into . . . I don’t know, I want to find out.

    Someone write it please? “The Child Who Cried Bee?”

    1. That’s a GREAT idea for a modern fable. If you don’t write it before I have the time, I’d love to.

      just genius.

  11. Take a good look at my face
    You know my smile looks out of place
    If you look closer it’s easy to trace
    The tracks of the bees

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