Slideshow

Here Are the Most Gorgeous Photos of Bees

It’s national pollinator week. Behold the beauty of the bee, an essential component of our agricultural economy.

June 20, 2014, 1:11 a.m.

For­get about “Shark Week,” pol­lin­at­or week is where it’s at.

In 2006, with the un­an­im­ity usu­ally re­served for the re­nam­ing of post of­fices, the en­tire U.S. Sen­ate de­cided that a week in June would be ded­ic­ated to the cel­eb­ra­tion of pol­len-trans­fer­ring in­sects, such as bees. The res­ol­u­tion boldly de­clared: “The Sen­ate re­cog­nizes the part­ner­ship role that pol­lin­at­ors play in ag­ri­cul­ture and healthy eco­sys­tems” and “en­cour­ages the people of the United States to ob­serve the week with ap­pro­pri­ate ce­re­mon­ies and activ­it­ies.”

This year (via pro­clam­a­tions by the Ag­ri­cul­ture and In­teri­or de­part­ments) pol­lin­at­or week falls between June 16 and 22 (read: this week!).

Pol­lin­at­ors are es­sen­tial to the ag­ri­cul­tur­al eco­nomy, re­spons­ible for “$15 bil­lion in in­creased crop value each year,” ac­cord­ing to USDA. The bees pro­lif­er­ate pol­len, the sperm of the plant world, to spur new plant seed growth. The al­mond-grow­ing in­dustry in Cali­for­nia alone re­quires 1.4 mil­lion bee colon­ies a year for pro­duc­tion. But in re­cent years bee colon­ies have been col­lapsing for un­known reas­ons. “An­nu­al losses [of bee colon­ies] from the winter of 2006-2011 av­er­aged about 33 per­cent each year,” USDA re­ports. The con­ser­va­tion of pol­lin­at­ors is the con­ser­va­tion of ag­ribusi­ness.

In the spir­it of the cel­eb­ra­tions, the U.S. Geo­lo­gic­al Sur­vey’s Bee In­vent­ory and Mon­it­or Lab has pub­lished the fol­low­ing high-res­ol­u­tion, macro-fo­cused im­ages of bee and wasp spe­cies from across the globe. Though people may fear their stings, they are really beau­ti­ful creatures. See be­low.

(Pho­tos and ed­ited cap­tions are from USGS’s Flickr ac­count.)

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