Thursday August 26 2021

Keeping bees safe over the winter, the fruit of a symbiotic collaboration!

We tend to underestimate the depth and breadth of our relationship to bees. To be sure, without the hard work of pollinating insects, the reproduction of the vast majority of botanical species – including most of the vegetables we consume on a regular basis – would simply be impossible.  The appearance of bees on earth precedes that of humans, and their disappearance would undoubtedly lead to our demise.  Any initiative that aims to help bees live a long and healthy life can therefore be considered a gesture for the longevity of the human species.

So when the co-founders of Bee Space, Olivier Lebrun and Jimmy Riopel-Thibault, approached Sollertia for support in the development of their winter covers for beehives, we did not hesitate to roll up our sleeves.  This simple and clever product, made with leftover membrane trimmings from our various projects, will allow beekeepers to overwinter their bees in optimal conditions, thus reducing losses within their colonies during the cold season.

Bee Space is a young company that aims to offer reliable, efficient and low-cost products to help improve beekeeping methods and procedures.  The two entrepreneurs, who met during their studies in product design, discovered a common passion for bees along the way.  And when they received the grand prize in an international competition for their design of a honey jar packaging, Jimmy and Olivier positively caught the apiculture bug (!).

Olivier, having worked with Sollertia on another project when he was an architectural technician, knew about our expertise in technical membrane construction when he contacted us. ”We needed help with prototyping and material testing in order to create the air space essential for the proper functioning of our winter covers,” says Jimmy.  Surprisingly, the cold isn’t the bees’ greatest foe, but rather humidity, which can easily condense and wipe out entire colonies if it gets trapped inside the hive. The main issue is therefore to prevent moisture from entering the hive, while at the same time allowing it to quickly evacuate from it.

Right from the get-go, Sollertia’s president Claude Le Bel came up with the idea of ​​upcycling our membrane trimmings for the manufacturing of the beehive covers.  As sustainable development and the sharing of knowledge are key concerns for both our companies, these principles have naturally become the engine of our collaboration.  Karenne Janson-LeBel, director of Sollertia’s confectioning workshop in charge of our collaboration with Bee Space, confirms it: ”Bee Space’s values are definitely in line with those of Sollertia”.

The winter of 2021 was an important study period for the Bee Space entrepreneurs, during which important data was collected (temperature, humidity, food ingested by bees, deaths, etc.) in order to measure the real-life effectiveness of the covers.  One hundred and twenty beehives from across the Quebec countryside served as experimental subjects for the trial period.  The preliminary results are very encouraging indeed: while beekeepers can regularly expect a whopping 30% loss of their colonies with each cold season, the data collected this spring indicates that the Bee Space covers can reduce this loss to only 16%.

Thanks to the crowdfunding campaign which has just ended and raised $42,000 (well above the campaign’s $35,000 target), Jimmy and Olivier plan to deliver a thousand covers before next winter to beekeepers who have placed their orders.

The Sollertia team is proud of our collaboration with Bee Space and wishes Olivier and Jimmy every success!