Scientists have investigated different families of bees in Thailand that drink tears, both human and animal. Eyes wide open, the researchers used themselves as bee bait.
On landing, automatic blinking with the eye often prevented the bee from getting a firm hold, causing it to fall off the eyelashes. If so, the bee persistently tried again and again until it was successful, or finally gave up and flew off. In a very few cases the approach was so gentle that the host (H.B.) did not realize he had a Lisotrigona attached to his lid, imbibing his tears. After landing and whilst sucking tears, H.B. often could barely feel the presence of a bee; indeed, checking by mirror was then required to make sure whether it was still there or had left.
However, when several bees were involved, the experience was rather unpleasant, causing strong tear flow. Once a bee had settled and more were approaching, these tended to settle near each other in a row. Closing the eye did not necessarily dislodge bees but some continued to suck at the slit.
The researchers eventually captured 262 of these tear-drinking bees using their own eyes as bait. They hypothesize that the bees use human tears as a primarily as a protein source, though the salt may be part of the appeal too. Next time you’re wiping off sweat or tears, remember there are starving bees somewhere who would love to drink some of that stuff.