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
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
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
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: