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Do you like bees? You should like bees. Bees are responsible for pollinating the plants that grow your food, and do so on a scale that can”t be replicated by humans. They also pollinate non-food plants, which provide habitats for other creatures and contribute to diverse and healthy ecosystems. Bees are amazing little insects, and we rely on them much more than we realize.

Unfortunately, due to a variety of environmental issues, bees are having a hard time. Tons of bees are dying, meaning that crop pollination will sharply decrease. In an effort to catalogue species of bee as well as to introduce an often-fearful population to the insects, researcher Sam Droege from the U.S. Geological Survey took these stunning macro photos of bee species from around the country.

Specimens are sent to Droege and his team to be photographed. This would in include ethically sourced (we hope!) sample bees.

(via My Modern Met)

This bee is covered in pollen, most likely from a sunflower. This pollen gets on the bee as it sips nectar from a flower. It helps the plant reproduce and evolve in its ecosystem. This is crucial to the continued survival of the plant, as well as for the animals (including us) that need them to survive.

To capture bees in all their fuzzy glory, images were taken at different focal points and then stitched together to create an image that”s completely in focus.

Droege photographs the bees from all angles, including their faces.

Though they”re technically composite images, the colors have not been enhanced in any way, so all the colors you see here are just as they appear in nature.

People fear bees because of the possibility of being stung, and from the allergic reactions that can result. Droege and his team of researchers hope that with photos like these, people will come to find bees as fascinating as he does and get over their fears. Also, as he points out, not all species of bees sting. Droege thinks that the bees, now seen in a new light and a new context, will drop some of their scare power with these photos. “Once you blow [the bees] up to the size of a German shepherd and they have good hair, people start paying attention,” Droege says. “They”re like aliens from another world.”

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