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Pictures with a buzz

10 May, 2010
Eureka cover

The May 2010 cover of Eureka magazine

The front cover of this month’s issue of Eureka, The Times’ monthly science supplement, features a startling photomicrograph of a bee’s leg, created by multiple Wellcome Image Award-winning biologist, Spike Walker.

There are more images inside with a six-page spread featuring an alien-looking headshot, a diaphanous wing and more legs – literally the bees’ knees! The detail reveals just how cleverly a bee obtains pollen: the foreleg has a small groove for combing pollen captured by the antennae; the hind leg has a ‘basket’ for transporting pollen back to the hive, and the middle leg’s prong prises this pollen out of the basket.

Eureka bees feature

Spike Walker's bee images as used in Eureka's feature article

These pictures are new to Wellcome Images’ collection and were created specially for this feature article. We sometimes get requests for images we do not have, but which we can source through our network of researchers, scientists and artists.

In this case, The Times contacted us asking for microscopic images of bees. Though we have different images of bees in our collection, we didn’t have exactly what they were looking for. But we knew someone who could produce what they needed.

Spike Walker is an expert in photomicrography and has won more Wellcome Image Awards than any other contributor.

Spike used a Tessovar macrolens, essentially a camera with a microscopic lens attached, to photograph bee wings from samples sent to his home in Staffordshire by The Times. The images of the head and legs derive from his own extensive  collection of microscopic samples. He used a technique called bright field to produce the stark contrast of a highly detailed specimen against a white background – perfect for a magazine spread like this with the text of the article set around it.

The Times were very happy with the images provided, as are we with the final piece: a fantastic story accompanied by stunning images.

Louise Crane, Picture Researcher, Wellcome Images

For a detailed biography and video about Spike Walker, visit the Wellcome Image Awards website.

Image credits: The Times/Spike Walker/Wellcome Images

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