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.)

Euglossa: the orchid bees. The males gather fragrances produced by orchids who are then pollinated by the infatuations of these males. The males ultimately transfer the fragrances to the modified hind legs where they are stored in the small slot like area you can see in these picture surrounded by black hairs. National Journal
The fluorescent hairs banding the abdomen of this old-world species are what give the group the general name of blue-banded bees. National Journal
Amale Megachile mendica I caught in Green Ridge area in western Maryland. National Journal
A male Nomia from Thailand, note the corkscrewed antennae and the greatly expanded leg segments (presumably useful in mating at nest aggregations. National Journal
A male Nomia from Thailand, note the corkscrewed antennae and the greatly expanded leg segments (presumably useful in mating at nest aggregations). National Journal
This species and its kin feed their young Cactus pollen. National Journal
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