Slideshow: A Dozen Native Bees

Viewed up close, it’s easy to appreciate the diversity—and beauty—of the nation’s wild bees

  • Laura Tangley
  • PhotoZone
  • Jul 22, 2013
BIOLOGIST SAM DROEGE wants us to see the beauty of bees—even bee specimens.

As part of his all-volunteer effort to establish an inventory and monitoring program for the nation’s more than 4,000 native bee species, Droege and his colleagues at the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center make macro images of each bee they receive from participants across the country. Created by combining up to 100 shots of a single specimen, the final photos clearly show the physiological details scientists need to distinguish one bee species from another.

Indeed, the primary purpose of the photos is to create an online identification guide to help others, even nonexperts, identify bees, the first step in any effort to monitor how these economically and ecologically important insects are faring in any given region. USGS provides all the images free of charge to the public.

But Droege also wants viewers to appreciate how stunning the photos’ subjects are—and he works hard to make sure bees look their best before they appear in front of the camera. Technicians meticulously wash and dry each specimen, for instance, and Droege may adjust an insect’s head to a more flattering angle. Once the photos are taken, he uses computer software to fine tune them for color and other aesthetic attributes. “We’re not just about counting and identifying bees,” Droege explains. “We’re also about beauty.”

That beauty, along with the remarkable diversity of native bees, is apparent from the photos above, just 12 of many thousands of images the scientists have made so far. See and download more of the project's wild bee photos at

Read more about Droege's efforts to inventory native bee species >>

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