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Building a better beehive

The University of Manitoba has opened an international competition aimed at giving bees better housing

Solitary nesting bees, like this native leafcutter bee, will get better houses that will augment their numbers through a University of Manitoba open competition.

Wild bees need homes too. That’s the simple idea behind an international design competition opened by the University of Manitoba on Mar. 1.

The competition hopes better housing for the beleaguered insects will help address a pressing biological issue — their declining numbers. 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, a media release from the university said.

“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,” said Robert Currie, professor of entomology at the University of Manitoba. “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,” said Jae-Sung Chon, competition co-ordinator 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, a New York-based designer, 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 University of Manitoba’s 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,” said Ian Hall, director of sustainability at the university. “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 online on the U of M website at Bee/House/Lab.

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