The big buzz

Karine Aigner's Image

Karine Aigner (USA) gets close to the action as a group of bees compete to mate.

Using a macro lens, Karine captured the flurry of activity as a buzzing ball of cactus bees spun over the hot sand on a Texas ranch. It was May, and having emerged from their birth burrows, the male bees were ready to mate.

Once mated, a female will feed mainly on cacti pollen and nectar, then wait out the year until next spring. As soon as the prickly pear and cholla cacti start to flower again, the mated females converge on a flat sandy area and start burrowing. It was the volcano‑like turrets of their individual burrows that led Karine to discover the presence of the nesting aggregation.

Like most bees, cactus bees are threatened by habitat loss, pesticides and climate change, as well as farming practices that disrupt their nesting grounds. Most bee species nest underground so maintaining areas of natural soil that are left undisturbed is vital to their survival.

Sugandhi Gadadhar, wildlife filmmaker and judge said, 'In today's world, where we struggle to grab the attention of the policymakers towards even big mammals, this image helps in bringing the spotlight to one of nature's most important creatures - bees'.

Behind the lens

Karine Aigner

Karine Aigner


Karine is an Associate Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers and a member of the North American Nature Photography Association. Her work has been featured in National Geographic Magazine, GEOlino, Nature Conservancy Magazine, WWF and BBC Wildlife Magazine. Her imagery is represented by National Geographic Creative, Tandem Stills + Motion and Nature Picture Library.

Image details

  • Sony α7R III
  • Laowa 24mm f14 2x macro probe lens
  • 1/1000 sec  •   ISO 6400  •   Profoto strobe + wireless trigger
  • South Texas, USA
Copyright in WPY competition photographs remains the property of the respective photographers. You may not copy, share, reproduce or republish the photographs except as expressly permitted by copyright law. For media image usage enquiries, please contact us.

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