Today was planned as a tech day.
The second infra-red equipped camera arrived in the post (far too early!) so the plan was to fit that to the main beebox (currently in the back garden) and put that box at the front again. Of course, the first job was to check whether anything had crept into it.
Based on our learning from the first infra-red cam in the back-up box, I'd decided that I would add this new camera to the main box and leave the original one in there. I.e. two cameras in one box. This would provide better coverage across the floorplan of the box and also cater for situations where a camera gets disturbed or occluded (as happened with BB15). Also, it meant I could arrange them to provide better coverage of the entrance and avoid blindspots. We had BB15 sneak out on us without being able to see her on the camera and were lucky to spot her leaving the entrance through the window.
Here's our new floor plan, which is the latest template for both boxes.
The main features are as follows:
- Much reduced amount of bedding. And the hamster bedding (for smell) is now mainly under the brown fibre bedding. We're not convinced the Bees find it useful and there is a risk of it blocking the camera.
- A new and extended "inner entrance tube" with a chamfered edge. The idea of the tube is to help trick the Bees into thinking they are going further underground, and I suspect there is a benefit from reducing the incoming light too. The chamered edge serves a couple of purposes. It limits the reduction in visibility from the main camera and is also intended to force the bees into view of the camera when they enter and leave.
- Some high-visibility reflective markings on the walls that the cameras can see. This really helps line the cameras up and get a sense of what they can and can't see. But also once the box is in situ with the lid on and operating under infra-red, they provide a marker for the far wall which helps makes sense of what you're looking at and the depth of field, since the main cameras are looking along the length of the box. They reflect the infra-red so appear as a very bright white marker, so you know instantly if you can see the far wall or not. From what we've learnt already this is an extremely useful feature.
Having set out this template for the main box, the next job was apply it to the second box; this would bring them both up to the same standard.
It's basically the same as box 1, although the inner entrance tube (which was done previously) is probably not as good. And of course, there's only the one camera.
This was the box that BB15 spent two hours mooching around in the day before, so we were keen to see what she had been up to. Plenty it seems, as below:
On the right hand side is the sense of a little nest/tunnel that BB15 made. And she'd done the same thing in several places in the box. We still don't understand the logic of her doing this but then deserting the box.
Once the boxes were completed, the next job was to get them sited and get all the video monitoring set up. This meant now having two monitors at the front and one at the back.
Monitoring Front (Main) Nestbox
For the last few days I'd been using an old TV as the main monitor for the front desk. Apart from being unweildy and energy thirsty, I took a massive chunk out of the wall when I nearly dropped it, so it was essentially unpractical. So, we replaced it with a new slim 16 inch LED screen. Compact, light, low on energy, able to play our music on a USB stick and all sorts of other goodies. The picture quality is good and the iPhone is able to photograph it ok!
The second camera will be monitored with our small LCD TV that we had been using to date. The camera it is attached to (the very original one I used) is benefitting from the addition of infra-red.
Monitoring Rear (Secondary) Nestbox
As a temporary solution I have put the old TV in the garage to monitor the rear nestbox, but the intention is to remove the need for this and bring the video signal into the house; possibly to the main TV.
I made a small improvement to wiring today. Most of the wiring is sealed already and in long single segments so not a problem being outdoors; and also routed underground using some trunking. However, the cameras are connected to power and video/audio at the nestboxes using standard phono and powerjack connectors. (This makes it possible to disconnect the box from installed wiring in order to move it.) To date I haven't sealed these connections, so today I took the opportunity to do so. I'd orginally planned to use something like a "chocbox" (as seen on Dragon's Den). They are fairly cheap in the grand scheme of things but expensive for what they are, really. So, I bought some very small and cheap plastic containers (probaby the kind of thing you'd stick in a child's pack lunch box) and made my own by routing the wires through the clip on lid. Some insulating tape helps seal it and hold the lid on extra tight. This solution is about 1/3rd the cost of a chocbox.
Bees, Bees, where are you Bees?
We went out at about 4pm to try and find a Bee for our newly installed setup; it was still about 15 degrees C, but the weather was looking more threatening and ominous. It had been a bit of weird day - warm (about 16 degrees) but we'd seen no bees at all at the front or back of the house; even around the newly mowed lawn. As ever I was feeling like we have run out of time to get a Queen and that it's only a few stragglers that we are seeing. But BCW is more confident and she is, after all, BCW, so I trust her :-)
We wandered to the usual place and saw nothing. I even went into the nearby field and tracked along the ditch line, which is popular (especially with Redtails), but no joy. BCW was just explaining how at the corner of this field she regularly sees bees coming across the field and then hunting for somewhere to bed down in the corner when she spotted one! But it dived under the bramble bush and never came out. And that was that.
Somewhere along the way she pointed out where she last saw three bees altogether, and I said "the Beegees?" - and we fell about laughing. We are easily amused!