A surreal close-up of a weevil eye has taken the top prize at this year's Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition. The magnificent annual photography competition, now in its 44th year, celebrates the skill and artistry in the world of microscopic photography.

The winning image this year, selected from nearly 2,500 entries, came from United Arab Emirates-based photographer Yousef Al Habshi. Zooming in on a unique type of beetle, only found in the Philippines, Habshi's image captures the green scales surrounding the weevil's compound eye in never-before-seen detail.

"Because of the variety of coloring and the lines that display in the eyes of insects, I feel like I'm photographing a collection of jewelry," says Al Habshi. "Not all people appreciate small species, particularly insects. Through photomicrography we can find a whole new, beautiful world which hasn't been seen before. It's like discovering what lies under the ocean's surface."

Second place went to an equally extraordinary image of a Fern sorus. This striking snap used autoflorecence, capturing incredible colors by striking the structure with ultraviolet light. Third place was given to a somewhat more traditional, but no less spectacular, image of a spittlebug in the midst of constructing its "bubble house", a protective structure made from a foam substance.

"The Nikon Small World competition is now in its 44th year, and every year we continue to be astounded by the winning images," says Eric Flem, from Nikon Instruments. "Imaging and microscope technologies continue to develop and evolve to allow artists and scientists to capture scientific moments with remarkable clarity. Our first place this year illustrates that fact beautifully."

Take a look through our gallery featuring all the winners, honorable mentions and images of distinction in this remarkable competition.

View gallery - 108 images