One of the "flaws" of the Warre hive design is the necessity of lifting the entire hive to nadir new boxes and/or shrink the hive for winter. Given that each box can weigh upwards of 40 pounds, adding boxes to a big hive can mean lifting upwards of 150 pounds. Sure, you can dissasemble the hive and lift a few boxes at a time, but that is somewat counter to the Warre philosophy of avoiding opening the hive to limit the loss of warmth, humidity, and pheremone signals.

So, lots of people have turned to building hive "lifts" that can grab the handles on a stack of Warre boxes and lift the hive in one piece. There is a collection of great examples of this at: (Thanks to David Heaf for maintaining such a great site on the practical aspects of beekeeping with the Warre hive.)

While there are a lot of great ideas there, none met my needs perfectly. I was looking for a lift that was portable, easily store-able, wouldn't take a ton of time to build (oops! last minute planning...) and was cheap to build out of readily available stuff. Bonus points if it could be used to lift between any pair of boxes in a hive.

I think I mostly succeeded:

The lift is build around a trailer jack (the black post in the middle), which are designed to lift the tongue of utility/boat trailers.

 They're strong and cheap. (For US based folks, Harbor Freight has decent ones for ~$20, less 20% if you look for a coupon). Usually they have a big hand crank on the top. I removed it from mine, b/c it was a horizontal crank and got in the way of the hive boxes. Instead, I put a coupling nut on top so I can drive it with a cordless drill.

To attach the support legs and the lift arms, I simply used 2 2x3s (for arm structure) or ripped down 2x6s (for base support), which I made a hole through slightly smaller than the diameter of the jack.


For the lift-arm supports, I had a hole saw that was the same diameter as the upper post on the jack, so I temporarily screwed the two 2x3s together, and drilled the hole through them at the joint. The hole ended up a bit larger than I wanted. (The joined wood would slide up and down freely on the post.) So, I just ripped a thin strip off the "hole side" of each piece on the table saw. Now, when bolted together, they firmly gripped the post. For the base support, I didn't have the right hole saw, and was too cheap to get it, so I just cut out a close approximation of the shape on the table saw, and then used a belt sander to shape it. You have considerable latitude here, as when you bolt 'em together, you kinda crush the wood to get a press fit.

Now, I just had to attach the lift arms and support legs to the bolted on "clamps" on each half of the jack. A few screws, some corner bracing, and construction adhesive gives a strong pair of lift arms. That's the easy part.

For the legs, I had a slight problem. My entrance landing board is on the same side as my lift handles. It's an odd hive design, made necessary by the fact that my hive is kinda stuck in a corner and I didn't want my observation windows on the same side as the entrance. (That would not be a fun place to stand and watch for long!) So, my legs have to go under my landing board, while the jack base sits on my hive stand at the same level as the landing board. So, I made my legs out of doubled up 3/4" plywood that's glued and screwed together. If you had a "normal" hive setup, a couple of 2x4s screwed to the base clamp boards would work great. In all, the side view ends up looking like this:

The lift arms are the white rods. These go under my handles. The legs sit on my hive stand, and I can lift away by putting a socket on my cordless drill. Presto! A portable, electric hive lift. (One can easily turn the coupling nut by hand as well. It doesn't even require a wrench.)

The hive lift has been tested to 185 pounds (by me standing on it). It does start to deflect a bit at that weight, but not much. My lift arms are tilted up just a bit, in anticipation of some "slop" in the system. At weights less than 165 pounds, there is no deflection at all. So, for all but the heaviest hives, this thing is perfect.

Goals achieved. It's small and easily stow-able in the shed. It cost me less than $25 in parts and scrap lumber. The legs and arms are in the same plane, so I can put the legs on any one set of handles and lift the boxes above it if needed. And, it only took me a couple hours work and basic shop tools to make it.

If you have any questions, or would like any advice on building a variation on this, hit me up with an e-mail: wdeutschman(at)westminstercollege(dot)edu.