Wildlife Photographer of the Year awarded to woman who captured frantic cactus bee ball

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The Natural History Museum’s prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition revealed striking images that detail the profound environments and behaviors of creatures around the world.

On Tuesday, American Photographer Karine Aigner was announced as this year’s winner of the grand title award for her image, called “The big buzz,” which captures a ball of mating male cactus bees frantically surrounding the sole female bee on a Texas ranch. 

“The sense of movement and intensity is shown at bee-level magnification and transforms what are little cactus bees into big competitors for a single female,’ Rosamund ‘Roz’ Kidman Cox, Chair of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Jury, said.

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The Big Buzz, by Karine Aigne has won the Grand Title in the London Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition.

Aigner, a former National Geographic photo editor, captured a behavior that’s rarely seen in photos. Cactus bees normally live lives of solitude but then amass in huge numbers in mating events. Her image could help scientists better protect the vital insects, officials said. 

“The typical image of bees is usually that of a large colony buzzing around a honeycomb, yet the vast majority of the 16,000 known bee species are actually solitary,” competition officials said. “These solitary bees play a vital role in the pollination of plants, including many of those we eat.” 

Of the grand title winners in the competition’s 58-year history, Aigner is the fifth woman to receive the award. 

The beauty of baleen by Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn, 16, of Thailand, who as awarded Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2022. Wuttichaitanakorn photographed the Bryde whale in Phetchaburi, Thailand.

Thailand photographer Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn, 16, was awarded the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2022 for his image called “Beauty of baleen.” Katanyou was on a whale tour boat when he photographed a whale’s lunge-feeding technique to capture large numbers of small schooling fish and filter small prey from the ocean.

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See other winning photographs and take in more of nature’s awe.

The Cuban connection' by Karine Aigner. “A Cuban bullfinch is positioned alongside a road so that it becomes accustomed to the hubbub of street life and therefore less likely to be distracted during a competition. These birds are highly prized for their sweet voice and feisty spirit.”
Heavenly flamingos by Junji Takasago, Japan, won the Natural Artistry category. The group of Chilean flamingos in the Andes, Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt pan, are threatened by one of Bolivia’s largest lithium mines.
The magical morels taken in Mount Olympus, Pieria, Greece, by Agorastos Papatsanis, of Greece, won the Plants and Fungi category.
The great cliff chase by Anand Nambiar, of India, won in the Behaviour: Mammals category. Nambiar captured an unusual perspective of a snow leopard charging a herd of Himalayan ibex towards a steep edge at Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary, Himachal Pradesh, India.
Spectacled bear’s slim outlook by Daniel Mideros, of Ecuador, won the Animals in their Environment category with this image decpiting the bear’s disappearing natural landscape in Peñas Blancas, Quito, Ecuador
The dying lake by Daniel Núñez, of Guetamala, won Wetlands - The Bigger Picture category. Núñez used a drone to capture the algal growth on Lake Amatitlánn, Villa Canales, Guatemala. ‘It was a sunny day with perfect conditions,’ he says, ‘but it is a sad and shocking moment,’ he said.
House of bears by Dmitry Kokh, of Russia, won the Urban Wildlife category. Kokh captured a “haunting scene of polar bears shrouded in fog at the long-deserted settlement” on Kolyuchin Island, Chukotka, Russia.
Ekaterina Bee, of Italy, won the 10 Years and Under category for this image of two Alpine ibex sparring at Pian della Mussa, Piedmont, Italy.
The bat-snatcher by Fernando Constantino Martínez Belmar, of Mexico, won the Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles category. Martínez Belmar waited in darkness until a Yucatan rat snake snatched up a bat in Kantemo, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Out of the fog by Ismael Domínguez Gutiérrez, of Spain, won the 11-14 Years category with this monochromatic scene of an osprey sitting on a dead tree, waiting for the fog to lift in Embalse de Los Hurones, Cádiz, Spain.
Puff perfect by José Juan Hernández Martinez, of Spain, won the Animal Portrait category with this image of a Canary Islands houbara in : La Oliva, Fuerteventura, Spain.
‘Under Antarctic ice’ by Laurent Ballesta, of France, who won the Portfolio Award. Living towers of marine invertebrates punctuate the seabed off Adelie Land, 105 feet under Antarctic ice. Here, at the centre, a tree-shaped sponge is draped with life, from giant ribbon worms to sea stars.
‘A theatre of birds’ by Mateusz Piesiak, of Poland, won the Rising Star Portfolio Award. Piesiak produced a series of intimate photographs exploring the behavior of local birds.
The listening bird by Nick Kanakis, of the U.S., won in the Behaviour: Birds category with this image of a young grey-breasted wood wren foraging in Tatamá National Park, Risaralda, Colombia.
New life for the tohorā by Richard Robinson, of New Zealand, won the Oceans: The Bigger Picture category. Robinson captured a hopeful moment for a population of whales that were hunted to near extinction in the 1800s, so every new calf offers new hope.
Shooting star by Tony Wu, Of the United Sates and Japan, won the Underwater category for this photo of a male Leiaster leachi sea star broadcasting sperm into murky water in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.

The Natural History Museum will reveal the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition on Friday, Oct. 14 in London.

Camille Fine is a trending visual producer on USA TODAY’s NOW team. 

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