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Illustration of bees in hardhats building homes

Illustration: Kaitlin O'Toole

Addressing the housing challenges of bees

U of M to launch international competition to design modern houses for nesting bees that will help their populations to rebound

March 1, 2016 — 

Bees need better homes. As such, on March 31, the University of Manitoba will open an international design competition challenging people to re-think houses for nesting bees.

The competition aims to take action on a pressing ecological issue: the decline of bee populations. Bee houses were chosen as the focus of the competition because they offer an easy way for the bee-loving public to help bolster bee populations. (If you really love bees, take our beekeeping course.)

“Around the world, pollinator insects are under threat from unintended consequences of parasites and pathogens, pesticide use, habitat loss and climate change, especially in urban areas,” says Robert Currie, professor of entomology at the U of M (read a Q&A with him on this subject). “Bees play a critical role in ecosystems, including pollination of many food crops we rely on. In urban areas, creating artificial habitats like bee houses that are appealing to the public, easy to use and attractive to bees can help support healthy and resilient pollinator communities.”

The competition challenges participants to create a bee house for 80-100 solitary nesting bees. There are several species of these bees, which are different from honeybees, and the houses must accommodate these various species.

“This project may sound simple because it is small, but entrants will be challenged to understand the needs of the home’s residents and then deliver excellent design in very tight space constraints,” says Jae-Sung Chon, competition coordinator and instructor in environmental design in the Faculty of Architecture.

Jurors Joyce Hwang, associate professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo, and Michael Loverich, co-director of a design farm in New York, will assess submissions, looking for function, innovation, excellence in design and constructability. The competition closes Apr. 20 and winners will be announced Apr. 25, 2016.

The Faculty Of Architecture’s FABLab will fabricate top submissions chosen for a field test, and real-world performance will be studied by the university’s department of entomology by installing more than 100 of the houses on the university campus through a partnership with the U of M Parks Canada Club student group.

“The competition is an opportunity to highlight the role that universities and design can have in creating knowledge to address sustainability challenges,” says Ian Hall, director of sustainability at the U of M. “Engaging students, professionals and the community in creating solutions is exciting and empowering, and we are looking forward to some creative contest entries.”

Full details about the competition are available at online. Contest submissions are welcomed from March 31 to April 20, 2016, with winners announced on April 25.


Competition timeline

  • Registration opens: March 31, 2016
  • Submissions accepted until: April 20, 2016
  • Results announced: April 25, 2016
  • Prototypes produced in FABlab: April 25 – May 15, 2016
  • Deployment for testing on campus: May 15 – May 30, 2016

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