This is what I love about beekeeping. You never know what you're going to get when you open a hive. In this case it was virgin queens, and lots of them. Beeman's hives are bursting at the seams, and this one seems a bit restless and unsatisfied.
Swarm cells. Supercedure cells. Cells constructed and then abandoned. Cells ripped apart by an emerging virgin queen. Cells intact housing a virgin queen. This hive doesn't discriminate.
I removed a cell and opened it up out of curiosity. There is the live queen, sitting in waxy darkness waiting to learn her fate. She is small and unmated, with a slender abdomen not yet ready for egg-laying, and she's all mine.
Into a queen cage she goes until we decide where to put her. Imagine being suspended in a cage, in darkness, with thousands of others clamoring for your release, when you'll either be accepted as the future of the hive or killed on the spot. What a game of chance.
This is the swarmy virgin-factory. This hive is literally spilling over with bees. Dripping, buzzing, crowded, restless bees.
I caught another live one just hatching. In the cage you go.
Sidenote: to the beekeeper go the spoils. Always reserve a taste for yourself.
Another nice queen cell. Let's open it and collect another.
By this time the hive has been open for a while.
We ran out of queen cages, so for now they'll live in these jars. When I dream of my perfect bedroom, there is an observation hive in the wall above my bed, and jars like these on shelves.
That dark beauty is a definite keeper. In fact, I may take her with me and make a split from my hive at home. A virgin queen is a gamble - she has to make it out on a mating flight and then back again, but experimentation and a bit of uncertainty are the spark of beekeeping for me.
Beeman has incredible colonies. The swarmy virgin-factory is one of his.
In all, we gathered six new queens from that hive that were healthy and strong enough to save. Two are going with me, and four are co-habiting this nuc for the time being (two in cages and two unhatched cells).