The most beautiful photos of wild animals and nature rewarded by the Big Picture 2022 contest

From the most beautiful to the weirdest, the California Academy of Sciences’ Big Picture competition aims to be a photographic showcase of life on Earth and thus highlight some of the most amazing species and places on our planet.

Every year since its launch in 2014, the competition celebrates photographers whose shots highlight the Earth’s biodiversity and illustrate the many threats to our planet. The California Academy of Sciences hopes to encourage viewers through the winning photos to protect and conserve the diversity of life.

Rare Bee Mating Ritual Wins Big Picture Natural World Photography Grand Prize

For this 2022 edition, the jury, made up of experts in nature and conservation photography, had to decide between more than 7,000 photos from 65 different countries. And it was the American photographer Karine Aigner who won the Grand Prix, with her shot of a “coupling ball” of bees. An extremely rare moment captured extremely close.

A rare American bee mating ritual immortalized by Karine Aigner and awarded the Big Picture Natural World Photography grand prize. Karine Aigner

IN IMAGES, IN PICTURES Here are the most beautiful photos awarded in 2022 by the Big Picture competition

A female bee, just after leaving her nest in the ground on a warm spring day, was mobbed by dozens of males. This ball is a mating ritual of the Diadasia Rinconis, a species of solitary Central and North American bee, which lives in individual nests rather than collective hives. After a few seconds of tumult, the “bee ball” dissipates and the female flies off, a single victorious male on her back.

Bees kill each other during heat waves

“Mating in bee balls often takes place on bare, extremely hot ground”explains entomologist Avery Russell of Missouri State University, “so that the males who confront each other risk being cooked.” He adds to the California Academy of Sciences: “The sex ratio in this species is often very unbalanced, with single females occasionally emerging, dozens of patrolling males finding it within seconds, and potentially thousands of males flying overhead.”

Dozens of impressive photos that celebrate nature

The 2022 winners also include seven other winners in different categories, who explore marine and terrestrial biodiversity, but also the relationships between animals and humans, and the impacts they have on nature. Remarkable scene immortalized by the Hungarian photographer Bence Mate: these frogs rejected in a river of the Romanian Carpathians, in the middle of the egg-laying period, after having had their thighs torn off by hunters.

Or this shot of a sea lion, resting at the bottom of the sea and covered by dozens of starfish of different colors. With this image, the photographer Bence Mate wanted to illustrate the cycle of life, where the death of one can give life to dozens of others.

These images originally appeared in bioGraphican independent nature magazine, official partner of the BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition from the California Academy of Sciences.

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