The results are in and the newest winner of the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year award has been crowned. Selected out of a pool of over 38,000 entries from 93 countries, Karine Aigner's compelling shot of a buzzing ball of cactus bees spinning across a hot, sandy plain was awarded the top honours in the 2022 contest.

The big buzz
Winner, Behaviour: Invertebrates
Karine Aigner gets close to the action as a group of bees compete to mate. Using a macro lens, Karine captured the flurry of activity as a buzzing ball of cactus bees spun over the hot sand. After a few minutes, the pair at its centre – a male clinging to the only female in the scrum – flew away to mate. The world’s bees are under threat from habitat loss, pesticides and climate change. With 70% of bee species nesting underground, it is increasingly important that areas of natural soil are left undisturbed.
Karine Aigner/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Aigner – only the fifth woman to win the award in the competition's fifty-eight-year history – captured the image on her ranch in Texas.

"Wings-whirring, incoming males home  in  on  the  ball  of  buzzing  bees that  is rolling  straight  into  the  picture," Chair of the jury, writer and editor, Rosamund ‘Roz' Kidman Cox OBE described the winning image in a press release. "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."

All except one of the bees are males frantically fighting to mate with a single female in the centre of the ball. Cactus bees, like most other species, are threatened by habitat loss, pesticides, and climate change, as well as farming practices that disrupt their nesting grounds. 

Also among this year's winning images was an action shot of a surfacing Bryde's whale exposing its brush-like baleen while two tiny anchovies soar towards certain doom.

The beauty of baleen
Thailand Winner, 15-17 Years
Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn is intrigued by the contrasting colours and textures of a Bryde’s whale, which surfaces close by. Following government tourism guidelines, the tour boat Katanyou was travelling on turned off its engine as the whale appeared close by. This meant that Katanyou had to steady his hands to capture this close-up composition as the boat rocked in the swell. Bryde’s whales have up to 370 pairs of grey-coloured plates of baleen growing inside their upper jaws. The plates are made of keratin, a protein that also forms human hair and nails, and are used to filter small prey from the ocean.
Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The shot was taken by sixteen-year-old Katanyou Wuttichaitanakorn from Thailand who became this year's Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

In order to scoop up large numbers of schooling fish, filter-feeding whales employ a technique called lunge feeding that involves pushing their prey to the surface and closing their jaws around as many fish as possible. The whale's baleen plates do the rest, filtering out the prey from thousands of litres of sea water.

"Out of the jaws of a Bryde’s whale comes this dazzling creation," says Kidman. "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."

The two Grand Title winners were selected from 19 category winners that showcase the natural world in all its beauty and diversity. All of these images and the runners-up are now on display in a freshly-redesigned exhibition at London’s Natural History Museum which runs until July 2, 2023.

Here's a look at some of the other winning photos.

Battle stations
Winner, 10 Years and Under
Ekaterina Bee watches as two Alpine ibex spar for supremacy. It was near the end of a spring day trip with her family that Ekaterina spotted the fight. The two ibex clashed horns and continued to trade blows while standing on their hind legs like boxers in a ring. In the early 1800s, following centuries of hunting, fewer than 100 Alpine ibex survived in the mountains on the Italy–France border. Successful conservation measures mean that, today, there are more than 50,000.
Ekaterina Bee/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Out of the fog
Winner, 11-14 Years
Ismael Domínguez Gutiérrez reveals a monochromatic scene as an osprey sits on a dead tree, waiting for the fog to lift. When Ismael arrived at the wetland, he was disappointed not to be able to see beyond a few metres – and certainly he had no hope of glimpsing the grebes he wanted to photograph. But as the fog began to lift, it revealed the opportunity for this striking composition. Ospreys are winter visitors to the province of Andalucía. Here the many reservoirs offer these widespread fish‑eating raptors shallow, open water that is clearer than many rivers and lakes.
Ismael Domínguez Gutiérrez/Wildlife Photographer of the Year


Spectacled bear’s slim outlook
Winner, Animals in their Environment
Daniel Mideros takes a poignant portrait of a disappearing habitat and its inhabitant. Daniel set up camera traps along a wildlife corridor used to reach high-altitude plateaus. He positioned the cameras to show the disappearing natural landscape with the bear framed at the heart of the image. These bears, found from western Venezuela to Bolivia, have suffered massive declines as the result of habitat fragmentation and loss. Around the world, as humans continue to build and farm, space for wildlife is increasingly squeezed out.
Daniel Mideros/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Puff perfect
Winner, Animal Portraits
José Juan Hernández Martinez witnesses the dizzying courtship display of a Canary Islands houbara. José arrived at the houbara’s courtship site at night. By the light of the moon, he dug himself a low hide. From this vantage point he caught the bird’s full puffed-out profile as it took a brief rest from its frenzied performance. A Canary Islands houbara male returns annually to its courtship site to perform impressive displays. Raising the plumes from the front of its neck and throwing its head back, it will race forward before circling back, resting just seconds before starting again.
José Juan Hernández Martinez/Wildlife Photographer of the Year


The great cliff chase
Winner, Behaviour: Mammals
Anand Nambiar captures an unusual perspective of a snow leopard charging a herd of Himalayan ibex towards a steep edge. From a vantage point across the ravine, Anand watched the snow leopard manoeuvre uphill from the herd. It was perfectly suited for the environment – unlike Anand, who followed a fitness regime in preparation for the high altitude and cold temperatures. Snow leopards live in some of the most extreme habitats in the world. They are now classed as vulnerable. Threats include climate change, mining, and hunting of both the snow leopards and their prey.
Anand Nambiar/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
The bat-snatcher
Winner, Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles
Fernando Constantino Martínez Belmar waits in darkness as a Yucatan rat snake snaps up a bat. Using a red light to which both bats and snakes are less sensitive, Fernando kept an eye on this Yucatan rat snake poking out of a crack. He had just seconds to get the shot as the rat snake retreated into its crevice with its bat prey. Every evening at sundown in the Cave of the Hanging Snakes, thousands of bats leave for the night’s feeding. It is also when hungry rat snakes emerge, dangling from the roof to snatch their prey in mid-air.
Fernando Constantino Martínez Belmar/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Heavenly flamingos
Winner, Natural Artistry
Junji Takasago powers through altitude sickness to produce a dream-like scene. Junji crept towards the preening group of Chilean flamingos. Framing their choreography within the reflected clouds, he fought back his altitude sickness to capture this dream-like scene. High in the Andes, Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt pan. It is also one of Bolivia’s largest lithium mines, which threatens the future of these flamingos. Lithium is used in batteries for phones and laptops. Together we can help decrease demand by recycling old electronics.
Junji Takasago/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
New life for the tohorā
Winner, Oceans: The Bigger Picture
Richard Robinson captures a hopeful moment for a population of whales that has survived against all odds. Hindered by poor visibility, Richard used a polecam to photograph the whales gradually moving towards his boat. Pushing his camera to its limits in the dark water, he was relieved to find the image pin-sharp and the moment of copulation crystallised in time. When ready to mate, the female southern right whale rolls onto its back, requiring the male to reach its penis across the female’s body. Known by the Māori as tohorā, the New Zealand population was hunted to near extinction in the 1800s, so every new calf offers new hope. Shot under New Zealand Department of Conservation permit #84845-MAR
Richard Robinson/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
The magical morels
Winner, Plants and Fungi
Agorastos Papatsanis composes a fairy tale scene in the forests of Mount Olympus. Enjoying the interplay between fungi and fairy tales, Agorastos wanted to create a magical scene. He waited for the sun to filter through the trees and light the water in the background, then used a wide-angle lens and flashes to highlight the morels’ labyrinthine forms. Morels are regarded as gastronomic treasures in many parts of the world because they are difficult to cultivate, yet in some forests they flourish naturally.
Agorastos Papatsanis/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Shooting star
Winner, Underwater
Tony Wu watches the electrifying reproductive dance of a giant sea star. As the surrounding water filled with sperm and eggs from spawning sea stars, Tony faced several challenges. Stuck in a small, enclosed bay with only a macro lens for photographing small subjects, he backed up to squeeze the undulating sea star into his field of view, in this galaxy-like scene. The ‘dancing’ posture of spawning sea stars rising and swaying may help release eggs and sperm, or may help sweep the eggs and sperm into the currents where they fertilise together in the water.
Tony Wu/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
‘Under Antarctic ice’
Winner, Portfolio Award
Living towers of marine invertebrates punctuate the seabed off Adelie Land, 32 metres (105 feet) under East Antarctic ice. Here, at the centre, a tree-shaped sponge is draped with life, from giant ribbon worms to sea stars.
Laurent Ballesta/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
House of bears
Winner, Urban Wildlife
Dmitry Kokh presents this haunting scene of polar bears shrouded in fog at the long-deserted settlement on Kolyuchin. On a yacht, seeking shelter from a storm, Dmitry spotted the polar bears roaming among the buildings of the long-deserted settlement. As they explored every window and door, Dmitry used a low-noise drone to take a picture that conjures up a post-apocalyptic future. In the Chukchi Sea region, the normally solitary bears usually migrate further north in the summer, following the retreating sea ice they depend on for hunting seals, their main food. If loose pack ice stays near the coast of this rocky island, bears sometimes investigate.
Dmitry Kokh/Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Ndakasi’s passing
Winner, Photojournalism
Brent Stirton shares the closing chapter of the story of a much-loved mountain gorilla. Brent photographed Ndakasi’s rescue as a two-month-old after her troop was brutally killed by a powerful charcoal mafia as a threat to park rangers. Here he memorialised her passing as she lay in the arms of her rescuer and caregiver of 13 years, ranger Andre Bauma. As a result of unrelenting conservation efforts focusing on the daily protection of individual gorillas, mountain gorilla numbers have quadrupled to over 1,000 in the last 40 years.
Brent Stirton/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London.

Header image: Junji Takasago