Spectacular photos of bees as you’ve never seen them before

Happy National Pollinator Week!

Topics: bees, Photography, Agriculture, colony collapse disorder, usgs,

Spectacular photos of bees as you've never seen them beforeEuglossa orchid bee, found in the Guyana rainforests(Credit: USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab)

It’s Pollinator Week, a national celebration of the massive contribution pollen-transferring insects and animals make to the global food supply — and economy — and a call to action to help protect them before it’s too late. Chief among those needing our help: bees, which have been dying off by the hive-full in a mysterious phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

You should care about the fate of the bees if you care about almonds, apricots, mangos, melons — even coffee, to start. In the U.S., honeybees bring $15 billion of added value to agricultural crops. Pollinators as a whole, which also include birds, bats, beetles and butterflies, are responsible for about a third of the entire world’s crops.

But you should also care because they’re pretty damn incredible. As these macro-focused photographs made public by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab attest, the classic image of a fat, yellow and black bumblebee doesn’t do justice to the range of spectacular colors and features found in other bee species.

Check out some favorites below, with edited captions provided by the USGS:

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    USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

    Bees, like you've never seen them before

    Ah, what a lovely ethereal composition. This is the male of the Blue Orchard Bee, studied for its use in orchards as a pollinator. Collected and photographed by Laura Campbell in the Virginia Beach area.

    Bees, like you've never seen them before

    Euglossa....the orchid bees, swanky glintlings of the New World tropical forests. This one from our joint trip with the Smithsonian Ant Heads to the interior of Guyana rainforests.

    USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

    Bees, like you've never seen them before

    A male Megachile mendica caught in Green Ridge area in western Maryland. One of the more common leaf cutting bees in the state.

    USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

    Bees, like you've never seen them before

    Exearete frontalis. Big, Big, Big, In all its black-winged metallic glory...this species is larger than any bee north of Mexico, we trekked 2 days into the jungles of Guyana to find it.

    USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

    Bees, like you've never seen them before

    Exearete frontalis again. This species, and the genus as a whole, is a nest parasite on other equally large canopy dwelling Orchid Bees.

    USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

    Bees, like you've never seen them before

    White Oak Borer (Goes tigrinus) - larvae live in living white and related oaks.

    USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

    Bees, like you've never seen them before

    A male Nomia from Thailand. Note the corkscrewed antennae and the greatly expanded leg segments (presumably useful in mating at nest aggregations).

    USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

    Bees, like you've never seen them before

    India. An unknown species of Amegila collected by Suzanne Batra. The fluorescent hairs banding the abdomen of this old-world species are what give the group the general name of blue-banded bees.

    USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

    Bees, like you've never seen them before

    First Maryland record for this species: a possible nest parasite of Andrena wilkella. Picked up at Andelot Farm in Kent County, Maryland.

    USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

    Bees, like you've never seen them before

    Paraguay! Cactus! This species and its kin feed their young cactus pollen. Specimen from the Packer lab at York University.

    USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

    Bees, like you've never seen them before

    A male Nomia from Thailand. Note the corkscrewed antennae and the greatly expanded leg segments (presumably useful in mating at nest aggregations).

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Lindsay Abrams
Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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