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