Buzzing Ball Of Cactus Bees Wins Wildlife Photographer Of The Year 2022

As ever, this year's winning images are jaw-droppingly beautiful.


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

Ball of male bees trying to mate with a queen.
The winning image: "The big buzz." Image credit: © Karine Aigner/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The winners of the Natural History Museum’s (NHM) Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2022 competition have been revealed, and as ever, we're in for a treat. This year's top prize was scooped by American photographer Karine Aigner for their beautifully captured shot of a buzzing ball of cactus bees snowballing in the Texas sand.

The photograph shows a behavior known as balling whereby a gang of worker males are all attempting to mate with the single queen in the center. It’s an intense and aggressive behavior, which the judges decided was captured perfectly in this winning image. 


“Wings-whirring, incoming males home in on the ball of buzzing bees that is rolling straight into the picture. The sense of movement and intensity is shown at bee-level magnification and transforms what are little cactus bees into big competitors for a single female,” Rosamund ‘Roz’ Kidman Cox OBE, jury chair, said in a statement sent to IFLScience.

This year's competition which is in its 59th year – saw 38,575 entries from over 90 countries. An international panel of experts had to painstaking trawl through all of these images and judge them on a number of criteria, including originality, narrative, technical excellence, and ethical practice.

A Byrde's whale eating small fish
Winner of the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2022: "The beauty of baleen." Image credit: © Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

From these thousands of entries, the judges settled on 19 category winners. Aigner’s photograph – which also won the “Behaviour: Invertebrates” category – was considered the cream of the crop, landing her with the grand title of Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2022. 

The judges also selected Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn, a 16-year-old from Thailand, as Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2022. Their image shows a Bryde's whale in the midst of lunge-feeding to eat huge numbers of teeny fish. 


“Out of the jaws of a Bryde’s whale comes this dazzling creation. The pin-sharp detail of the tiny anchovies is set against an abstraction of colour with the weave of brown baleen hair rimmed by a cascade of water drops,” said Kidman.

This year's winning images will be on display at the Natural History Museum, London from Friday, October 14, 2022, until Sunday, July 2, 2023. 

You can see a selection of this year’s category winners below. If all of this tickles your fancy, you can also check out last year’s winning images.


An unusual perspective of a snow leopard charging a herd of Himalayan ibex towards a steep edge.
Winner, Behaviour: Mammals: "The great cliff chase." Image credit: © Anand Nambiar/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A dream-like image of a preening group of Chilean flamingos.
Winner, Natural Artistry: "Heavenly flamingos." Image credit: © Junji Takasago/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The electrifying reproductive dance of a giant sea star.
Winner, Underwater: "Shooting star." Image credit: © Tony Wu/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A snake eating a small bat in a cave.
Winner, Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles: "The bat-snatcher." Image credit: ©Fernando Constantino/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A dying gorilla lays in the arms of their beloved keeper.
Winner of the photojournalism category: "Ndakasi’s passing." Image credit: © Brent Stirton/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Polar bears hang out in an abandoned yellow house
Winner of Urban Wildlife: "House of bears" Image credit: © Dmitry Kokh/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A spectacled bear overlooks a bill in Ecuador.
Winner of Animals in their Environment: "Spectacled bear’s slim outlook." Image credit: © Daniel Mideros/Wildlife Photographer of the Year


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