Bee news update!

In India, a type of bee belonging to a group called Lisotrigona has been observed feeding on something that might seem a little unusual: the sweat and tears of humans. This feeding behavior has a special name:

Feeding on sweat is called sudophagy.
Feeding on tears is called lachryphagy.
Meaning “eating” or “feeding on,” -phagy is a word ending that comes from Ancient Greek. Another example of a word using the -phagy ending is coprophagy: feeding on feces.

Image: Kayla Harren

Bees in the group Lisotrigona are small, stingless bees of 3 mm or less in length. They usually feed on nectar and pollen. So far, only females have been observed feeding on human tears and sweat. Researchers plan to study the behavior of the male bees as well.

Lisotrigona bee drinking sweat on the ear at Thenzawl (Mizoram). Photo by Rojeet Thangjam.

Why do these bees feed on tears and sweat?

Sweat and tears provide salt and proteins for the bees. Proteins are an important resource for bees.

Lachcryphagy is also seen in some other insects, including some fruit flies and also some moths and butterflies.

Lisotrigona bee foraging nectars and pollens from rapeseed flowers. Photo by Rojeet Thangjam.

Modified from an original article on Mongabay India: