Add this to the list of most horrifying experiences you can have with insects: bees living in your eyes.
It doesn't even seem like it would be possible, but a woman in Taiwan was recently diagnosed with an eye infection caused by four bees camped under her eyelid, reports CNN. The bees apparently survived there by drinking the woman's tears.
"It was very painful," she said. "Tears wouldn't stop coming out of my eye. I was scared to death."
You might wonder how four bees could possibly fit in a person's eye, but these weren't your average bees. They were a tiny species of sweat bee that only grows to about 3 to 4 millimeters (0.12-0.16 inches) in length. As their name suggests, sweat bees are often drawn to human perspiration, and they may have been attracted to the moisture and salt content of the woman's sweat.
Of course, tears also have a high moisture and salt content.
According to the woman's account, the tiny insects were encountered while she was tending to a loved one's gravesite. The bees may have flown out of some weeds or flowers that she had disturbed and accidentally got caught in her eye. The woman immediately experienced a sharp stinging sensation, which is pretty frightening to imagine given what we now know about the source of the pain.
After three hours of agony, she finally made it to a hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection. A closer inspection revealed the true source of the affliction, though.
"I saw something that looked like insect legs, so I pulled them out under a microscope slowly, and one at a time without damaging things inside," explained Hung Chi-ting, the head of the ophthalmology department at Taiwan's Fooyin University Hospital.
"Thankfully she came to the hospital early, otherwise I might have had to take her eyeball out to save her life."
Fortunately, the woman is expected to experience a full recovery, though it could easily have gone worse. Because it was so painful to the touch, she never rubbed her eyes, which might have agitated the bees even more and prompted them to relentlessly sting her. She also wears contact lenses, which might have added a layer of protection.
If you can stomach it, images of the bees in her eyes can be seen in the following video clip produced by a local Taiwanese news agency: