Final stage: nestbox tech

It was phase 3 of the "Pilkington box" preparation today: installing the tech!

All our nestboxes and the beepol lodge are fitted with at least one (in some cases two) miniature CCTV cameras. They are small and discreet and have a built in microphone and infrared lighting - which means they can essentially see in the dark. They allow continuous monitoring of activity in the box, including the potential for motion detection. 

The other item to fit is a thermometer - the readout is external to the box, but a wire runs inside the box to sample the temperature. 

spy camera in nest box
Here's a wider view of the finished article. 

This is how the box looks located at its final site against our garage wall. The red filter is effective at allowing a view inside the nest without creating disturbance to any resdents. I haven't decided where to mount the thermometer yet. 

installation site for pilkington box

Next is the series of entrance tubes we have fitted. We have three boxes and five tubes. The idea of the tubes is to create a more natural looking entrance and also trick the bumblebees into thinking they are going underground - which of course is especially important for Bombus Terrestris (Bufftailed). 

We have tried to make the tubes look like holes in the undergrowth so that the bumbles we see them easily when scanning the garden for nest sites (of which we've seen several doing). 
entrance tube 1

Entrance tube 1 is for the left hand box. The coloured marking is to attract attention - we have noticed that the high-visibility tape is very successful at attracting bumbles. It would also provide an easier landmark to memorise should a queen check the box out and want to come back later. There is a small amount of old used mouse bedding in the entrance to create an aroma that is also appealing.

entrance tube 2

Entrance tube 2 is for the Pilkington box. This one is facing more directly upward so that it's more easily seen from a height. 

entrance tube 3a
There are three entrance "3's" - left (a), centre (b) and right (c) - as they are all connected to the right hand nestbox. This helps us try a few different designs of entrance. 
entrance tube 3b
entrance tube 3c

Finally, here is the full setup of nestboxes against our garage wall. We've trimmed the nearby grass to make the entrance tubes stand our more easily, but left some grass uncut so that the bumblebees are attracted into the garden in the first place to look for a possible nest site: they do seem to like searching over the uncut grass on the lawn.

We also have some "fake flowers" made of the yellow tape & canes to attract attention (not shown). We've seen several queens now flying from one to the other figuring out what they are. We've created a row that leads them down to the entrance tubes. We'll experiment with this to see what effect different arrangements have and whether it has any effect on queens looking for nests, or whether they don't combine forgaging behaviour with nest searching. 

the full nestbox setup with 3 boxes
We have lots of plants not shown in the picture which are now in bloom, including a Kilmarnock Pussy Willow, which seems to be very popular! But round the boxes we've put white and purple heather - the bumbles are very attracted to purple. 
So, aside from having some low-level radar ☺,  we have a pretty good setup to try and study the garden nest searching behaviour.