Master Beekeeping Basics

Hive Tool: The Most Versatile Beekeeping Tool

Lesson 3

The most versatile tool in a beekeeper’s arsenal is the hive tool. Like a tape measure, screwdriver, or utility knife, this tool gets used all the time in various situations. With all of these uses, how do you get the most out of your tool? In this lesson, you’ll discover the basic uses for a hive tool that all new beekeepers should know. You’ll also learn about the two main types of hive tools along with our recommended tool.

Beekeepers have used hive tools for more than a century. In fact, research suggests that the earliest reference to beekeeping tools dates back to 1869. (source)

Needless to say, hive tools have been used for a long time and for good reason. 

They are incredibly versatile.

As a beekeeper, you will use your hive tool in almost every encounter you have with your bees. This is why we include a hive tool as part of our Starter Kit.

Pro Tip

Hive tools can get lost easily and it’s often helpful to have multiple tools handy that you can use to give you more leverage. We highly recommend that you get at least 1-2 extra hive tools. 

Hive tools are inexpensive and you will need more than one as time goes on, so it's well worth the investment. 

How Can I Use a Hive Tool?

Your hive tools can be used in many different circumstances but here are some of the most common use situations:

  • Pry open hive top and/or pry frames out of a hive
  • Break propolis and wax off frames
  • Pound loose nails back into woodenware
  • Pry protruding nails or staples out of woodenware
  • Scrape beeswax and honey off frames during extraction

These are just a few ways your hive tool will benefit you. The entire range of use cases is outside the scope of this course so we’ll stick with these for now.

*Note: We’ll do a more in-depth analysis on our blog covering more uses for hive tools later on. If you’d like to get notified when we publish that post, you can signup to receive our newsletter and we’ll send you an email with details.

We’ve covered the uses but what about the different types of hive tools?

Different Types of Hive Tools

Hive tools come in two main varieties: regular and J-hook. 

Most beekeepers tend to stick with a regular hive tool (that’s what we use at Bear Country Bees), but J-hook hive tools have their uses as well. 

Here’s a little more about each of these.

Regular Hive Tool

Hive Tool

As you can see, a regular hive tool is essentially a smaller, flatter version of a crowbar. It has a long end that is used for leverage and a smaller curved edge for prying in tight spaces. 

A decent hive tool will usually cost $8-15. As of this writing, we sell ours for $12.

J-Hook Hive Tool

A J-hook hive tool has many characteristics that are similar to a regular hive tool. However, the shaft is generally longer and the curved end is opposite that found on a regular hive tool.

J-Hook Hive Tool

J-hook hive tools are great when you need extra leverage. The longer shaft combined with the hook on the end  provides you more leverage than you can get with a regular hive tool. 

That said, most beekeepers find that the regular hive tool works just fine for almost all situations

As you might expect, J-hook hive tools are a little more expensive than regular hive tools. A good J-hook tool can cost anywhere from $12-25. As of this writing, we sell ours for $17.

Our Recommendation

As mentioned before, we use exclusively the regular hive tools in our beekeeping. We use regular tools because we feel they have a few key advantages over the J-hook hive tools. 

Here's what we like about regular hive tools:

  • Less expensive
  • Easier to acquire (more commonly sold)
  • Woodenware is generally built to accommodate this type of tool
  • Easier to use in most cases

That said, you won’t go wrong using either type of tool. In essence, this will come down to personal preference. You’ll need to decide which tool best helps you fulfill your beekeeping goals.


The important thing to remember about hive tools is that you should (preferably) have a few hive tools on hand when you need them. 

At a minimum, you should have at least one good hive tool. 

 Now that we’ve covered hive tools, let’s take a look at one of the most popular beekeeping products: the smoker. 

Head to the next lesson and we’ll discuss this in greater depth.

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