Well, well, well!
We were expecting to collect our Natupol hive tomorrow, so BCW gave Koppert a call to check everything was ready and there were no problems. (I think we were a bit nervous that because they usually ship by courier they might have gone ahead and done that, even though the arrangement was for us to pick it up.) During the call they said the box was ready and invited us to pick up the box today. Couldn't believe it! So, I was glad we were so prepared.
For those that are curious, here is a video from Koppert (with a delightful Netherlands accent) that describes the Bumblebee Hive.
At the time of writing, I haven't actually been home yet, but I was able to join BCW over skype from my hotel while she prepared the box and opened it up to allow the bees to come out.
Here is the box, closed with the bees inside, under its shelter:
To let the bees out, you open the sliding entrance control. It has two positions. The first position allows bees to enter the box, but not to come out. So you use this position when you need to gather the bees up, e.g. if you are going to move the box, or need to protect them while spraying. The second position (shown below) is fully open and the bees can come and go freely.
This is the position for most of the time - except tonight it was so cold they didn't come out at all! Who can blame them! It's 30 degrees C inside that box and 7 degrees outside!
My next job will be to figure out if I can get a camera into the box without disrupting the bees or nest. I think that's going to require my best Harry Houdini act to date!