American photographer, Karine Aigner, has won the Grand Title in this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition with an image of a ball of cactus bees vying for a mate.

The Big Buzz, by Karine Aigne has won the Grand Title in this Year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition © Karine Aigne.

The winning image was taken in the deserts of southern USA, where the normally solitary cactus bees gather in huge numbers in search of a mate. As soon as a female emerges from its burrow in the ground, the males scramble to reach her as quickly as possible. Bees in Texas face many of the same challenges as others around the world, including habitat loss, overuse of pesticides, competition with invasive species and rising temperatures as a result of climate change. The biology of many species remains poorly understood. In the case of the cactus bee, it’s not known why it normally lives a life of solitude but then amasses in huge numbers in this mating event. Karine Aigner’s winning image was taken while she was on a routine drive around a ranch in Texas, USA, when the ground suddenly became ‘pockmarked with hundreds of volcano-like turrets’. On investigation, they turned out to be bees. The close-up shot was taken at ground level, with a specialist lens and flash, putting the ground-nesting bees centre-stage.

The top prize for Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2022 has gone to Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn from Thailand for his extraordinary picture of a feeding Bryde’s whale.

The image, titled The Beauty of Baleen, captures the moment the whale surfaced, feeding on anchovies close to the boat Katanyou was travelling on. Intrigued by the contrasting colours and textures of the whale’s baleen, gums and skin as it breached the surface, Katanyou caught this almost abstract image of the gentle giant.

The two winning images were selected from 19 category winners, which won out against some 38,575 entries from 93 countries to the fifty-eighth Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. Click here for more information and to see the winning images in each category.