The 2022 FORBY Awards – Part 1

It’s time for the FORBY awards!

The FORBYs (Featured Organisms Rated Best of the Year) are an opportunity to celebrate prairie species photographed during the past 12 months. Some of the individual awards have already been decided upon by our editors. Others will be left up to you.

Every species that lives in the prairie is outstanding, of course, but each year, some step forward in ways that deserve special recognition. (Editor’s note: it also makes for some really easy blog posts to write.) Either way, please take a few moments to help us celebrate our 2022 FORBY award winners!

The first FORBY category for today is ‘Best Hair’. For this category, the term ‘hair’ can be loosely defined, since lots of animals and plants have structures that look similar to hair but might technically be called something else by experts who specialize in those organisms. Doesn’t matter! If it looks like hair, we’re calling it hair.

This year’s FORBY winner for ‘Best Hair’ was spotted on a wet sandbar along the Niobrara River this summer. It paused long enough from feeding on wetland plants to pose for a photo and ended up getting the award! It’s a Henry’s Marsh Caterpillar!

Henry’s Marsh Caterpillar (Simyra insularis) The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve. June 29, 2022.

Next, we move to the ‘Best Antennae’ category. This category is often dominated by moths, beetles, and katydids, since each can have spectacular – though very different from each other – appendages sprouting from their heads. As a result, this year’s winner isn’t a huge surprise, though definitely worth of celebration!

After much consideration, the sheer length of the antennae held up by this tiny katydid nymph on a prairie wild rose won it the prize. How does it walk around with those things?? Give it up for the FORBY winner for ‘Best Antennae’!

Early instar katydid nymph on prairie rose. Prairie Plains Resource Institute’s Gjerloff Prairie. June 9, 2022

We couldn’t walk away from this category, however, without recognizing three other candidates for ‘Best Antennae’. Below, you’ll find the three runners-up for 2022. The moth smartly utilized dew drops to accentuate its fuzzy feelers and that was almost enough to win it the prize. A gorgeous clay-colored beetle showed off its distinctive triangularly-segmented antennae to great effect but fell just short. And the striped antennae of a fuzzy olive-green grasshopper were enough to get it on the podium, if not to the top spot.

Runners-up for ‘Best Antennae’ include A) a moth, B) Clay-colored leaf beetle, C) Fuzzy olive-green grasshopper. Click on the image to see them more clearly.

This next category has been criticized as “too specific”, “silly”, and “too scary”. We reject that last one, but are willing to consider the first two. Ok, we considered them. Now, let’s highlight this year’s FORBY winner of ‘Best Wasp Pattern and Coloration’!!

What a category! So many gorgeous wasps showed up this year – making the final call extraordinarily difficult. In the end, there were two that seemed to stand out from the rest. The FORBY award winner for ‘Best Wasp Pattern and Coloration’ is – a golden paper wasp! (That’s probably the right species, though the coloration of these wasps is variable and makes it difficult to tell species apart from each other.)

Golden paper wasp – probably – (Polistes aurifer) on butterfly milkweed. Lincoln Creek Prairie. July 3, 2022.

Also worth of recognition, however, is this slightly smaller wasp, which is in the potter and mason wasp group family (Eumenidae). We don’t know the particular species, but that didn’t prevent us from loving its bold colors and gorgeous patterns. Congratulations to the runner-up!

Eumenid wasp – runner-up for ‘Best Wasp Pattern and Coloration’. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies. September 14, 2022


We now come to the first category decided by audience vote. It’s the always-popular ‘Best Face – Insect Division’ category and this year is packed with candidates. Each of them has their own distinctive charm. It’s up to you to pick which one is the BEST. Be sure to click on the image below to get an extra clear version of the image to examine. Then vote in the poll below the photo and select the winner! Once you click on a choice, you’ll get to see which candidate is winning.

Best Face – Insect Division. A) Grasshopper, B) Skipper, C) Spittlebug, D) Chinese Mantis #1, E) Bush Katydid, F) Chinese Mantis #2

Our final category for today is the ‘Best Backlit Animal’ category. This one will also decided by audience vote, so you’re up! Click on the image below and then decide which backlit animal is best. Wow, tough choice, right?

Candidates for ‘Best Backlit Animal’. A) Cricket, B) Dragonfly, C) Bison, D) Praying mantis

Thank you for your voting and your support of the 2022 FORBY awards! We’ll be back soon with more award winners, so stay tuned for that! In the meantime, be well, have fun, and may all your prairies be FORBY!

(I don’t think I’ve ever put so many exclamation points in one post before. It’s exhausting. I hope it wasn’t exhausting to read. Thanks for putting up with all this silliness.)

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

23 thoughts on “The 2022 FORBY Awards – Part 1

  1. Your photos are always entertaining, your narratives more so. Good to behold and observe someone so enthralled with their profession. Can’t get too many smiles or chuckles. Thank you.

  2. Best insect face: F


    div>Best backlit: Bison!!!!  ( of course)

    Sent from my iPhone


    div dir=”ltr”>


    blockquote type=”cite”>

  3. First question has to be C as I can’t really tell what all is a part of the face (some of it may be a Jimmy Durante nose).

    Best backlit is B the Dragonfly.

  4. Hi Chris,

    Thank you for the FORBY’s! I look forward everyday to receiving your email everyday. I wasn’t able to click so here’s my votes: Chinese Mantis #1 Dragonfly

    With gratitude for the beauty, information and life enjoyment you share. Regards Carol Brown

  5. My votes are C for spittlebug face & D for best back lit with praying mantis holding sunny day:>Thanks for this year’s great photos I’ve learned & appreciated the beauty you captured:>Kathy J


  6. What a joy it is to look forward to your posts during the year. Know I’ll continue to look forward to seeing Nebraskaland through your camera lens. Wellness wishes and continued discoveries & appreciation!

    Sent from my iPad


  7. Pingback: The 2022 FORBY Awards – Part 2 | The Prairie Ecologist

  8. Pingback: The 2022 FORBY Awards – Part 3 | The Prairie Ecologist


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.