not all flags and fake tubes

Every day I think I've finished our bumblebee setup, and every day I come up with something new. ☺

So, today I was lying in bed thinking I need more flags! When I say "flags",  I mean the fake flowers we made the other day. It occured to me we could use them mroe constructively to bring the exploring bumbles nearer to our nest entrances, and possibly train them to a degree by offering a reward if they follow them. It's well established that (honey) bees can be trained -e.g. to detect explosives and bumbleebees are trained during lab experiments. 

Anyway - I decided to create a row of flags leading to the boxes; to extend one above our garden wall so it is visible from outside the garden, and to flag each entrance to a nestbox. Anyway,  here are the pictures of the set up. 

descending row of hi-viz flags


flags by each of the nest entrance tubes

There is a small reward on some of the flags, by way of some sugar water. This may train any bumblebees to keep visiting the yellow flags, which will ultimately draw them nearer to the nest box entrances. 

row of flags approaching the nest boxes

I also decided that it might be useful to bury some more entrance tubes in the lawn. These don't go anywhere, but are intended just to be highly visible to Queens and give them a reason to explore the garden. By having more, there's a greater chance they will spot one in passing and investigate, thus increasing the chance of spotting others. 

fake entrance tube - using hi-vis tape for contrast


high flag on pussy willow - visible from outside the garden

Of course, it wasn't all flags and fake tubes today - I also had a spare input on the camera system which I wanted to use more productively. Usually it is just a wide view of the garden - more of a "security" camera view, but I had a spare "bullet cam" that was fixed to the house wall down low. I removed that and attached it to a nice big rock which I got from my parent's garden in the highlands. This gives me the flexibilty to move the camera wherever needed. Note the high-tech waterproofing! ☺

rock cam!

"Rock Cam" now provides the view seen in the very bottom right hand window of the screen, shown in "mission control" below. (Colour image). The three smaller images around it are from the nestboxes. And the three larger images are from the beepol lodge, which doesn't have its colony yet. 

the view from mission control with all cams installed

We can also get the "mission control" view on our iPhones and iPad, anywhere in the world. We can zoom into individual pictures if needed and get sound from the onboard camera microphones. 

remote viewing on iPhone

After all the setup, we went out and were quite quickly able to catch a couple of Queen in succession. We have a new capture technique (to be described later) and tried the first queen in the right hand box (box 3). It wasn't very successful and after a while she worked her way out of the capture tube (which we allowed to happen). So, we revised our tactics slightly and I was able to catch a big beautiful bufftailed queen. 

This time we introduced her to box 2 - the "pilkington" box (brown, centre) and she went in no bother. She too would have been able to get out if she wanted, by removing moss in the capture tube, but she actually stayed in the box. By the time 2 hours had passed, it had gone sunset, so she would not have left anyway due to the low light - so I'm pleased to say she has stayed overnight. 

We fully expect her to leave tomorrow morning - the question is, whether she finds the location desirable and memorises it for a future return. We'll set the CCTV to try and record her exit to see if she does. 

Queen in residenceAbove is the picture of the setup with the queen in residence. The capture tube is covered in a cloth to stop any stray light, but she can exit via the moss filled end if she wants. We added lots of daffodils so that there is immediate nearby food (and also to attract other bees to the garden, which worked: we have a redtail on them within 5 minutes). 

redtail queen on our newly added daffodilsSo, we now wait to see what tomorrow morning brings for our overnight guest... 

QB2012-06 in the nestbox overnight