Phase 2 box preparation

Having put the first coat of wood stain on our new "Pilkington" nest box last night, I was left with the second phase of preparation, namely a further coat of wood stain! Not just that, but also the internal preparation of the box and the assembly of the components. 
First I decided to fit an internal liner in the box. The reason for doing this is because bumblebee nests get rather messy! As a general rule the bees themselves will not use the same nest site twice - once the colony has expired there will be a lot of dead bees and wax and debris in the nest, possible invasion by other predators and bugs and so on. For this reason most nestboxs are only recommended for a single use. 
However, the Pilkington box is a particularly fine and sturdy box and more expensive than other smaller versions, so ideally we would like to get multiple uses out of it if a colony decides to take up residence. Hence the liner will protect the inside of the box to a degree and allow a better clean up job. No guarantee it will work, but it's worth a try for the sake of a piece of cardboard!
liner template for Pilkington box
Here is the liner fitted and tape down. I'm using High Visbility cloth gaffer tape. The hi-vis colour is irrelevant as it will pretty much be almost pitch black in there, but I've chosen it because it's strong tape, and importanly is fabric, so easy for the bees to grip. I know from experience that they find silver gaffer tape harder to walk over. 
liner fitted in nestbox
Next job is to load the box with its bedding. This comes in two sorts - some paper shreddings, part of which can be used as a toilet area and some soft bedding for insulation. We were fussy last year about how this was organised, but having seen how the bees can arrange it as they want (video) we can leave it fairly loosely and roughly organised. This is all supplied with the box, as is a small amount of "mouse" bedding, which has mouse scent on it. This helps to fool the queen that the nest cavity has been used over winter for nesting by a rodent, which in bumblebee world seems to give it a seal of approval, providing Queen feels she won't find herself under future attack again. 
I didn't actually use all the mouse bedding in here - instead keeping some back to put in the entrance tube and to add to some of our other boxes. 
bedding installedNext job was to install the "cat flap" entrance system. This is a plastic flap on two wire hooks that prevent intruders getting into the nest. Any bumblebees from inside the nest learn how to operate the flap for themselves. 
The additional longer piece of wire stops the flap closing at the moment - the flap isn't needed until there are residents. And is also used as part of the training process for a Queen by gradually lowering the flap each day. 
The side buffers on the entrance stop the bumblebees from using the sides of the flap, because if they do they will think this is the correct system and then be unable to get back into the nest (rather distressing to watch, as we discovered when we experimented with different flap systems last year). 
Finally, the buffers are marked with a bright colour to aid memory and navigation in low light - the high viz tape is perfect for this also. I fitted a piece of tubing, about 60cm for now. The tubing is very cheap and readily available on eBay, and is just 2cm "cable-tidy" designed for keeping wires together and tidy (I must get some for my CCTV cables!).
A bit of tape holds the tube in the entrance well using friction.
initial entrance setupI then temporarily sited the box - just for the afternoon on the offchance it caught some passers by, as I didn't have time to complete the next phase (tech!).
You can see the general idea with the tubing is to route it so it forms an entrance in the "undergrowth" and convince the queen she is going down underground to the nest cavity. 
This is not the final location, nor the final set up of the tubing. 

temporary siting of nextbox
I still also have to paint the base struts and fit the wax-moth box.
Finally, the last job today was to adapt the internal perspex viewer of one of our existing boxes by adding some red lighting gel to the lid. This means being able to look into the nest in daylight with much less dispruption to any bumblebees inside. We got used to working with them in the beepol lodge under red light last year (as we had cut the lid off) and so this is an obvious improvement to all the nest boxes. The Pilkington box comes with a red lid as standard. 
red filter for existing nestbox
So, now I'm left to ponder the best way to fit a thermometer and camera to the new box - which really means thinking about how much drilling I want to do! Hopefully I'll get that done before the weekend.