One item that every beekeeper must have as part of their beekeeping equipment is at least one hive tool. There are two types of hive tools that most beekeepers use: the J-type, and the yellow type. Any place that sells beekeeping supplies should sell both of these types of hive tools. New beekeepers will probably find a hive tool included with any kit they buy to get started in beekeeping.
The J-type tool comes in two different widths: the red J-hook, and the orange J-hook. The red J-hook hive tool is narrower than the orange J-hook. Both of them are flat and have a large hook on one end that can be used to prop up a frame within a super. On the other end is a chisel that can be inserted between supers and then the tool can be twisted up or down to pop the two apart.
The yellow type hive tool looks like a miniature crowbar. While the J-hook is a flat tool the yellow type hive tool has a rounded 90-degree curve on one end. The curved end can be inserted between supers and the tool is twisted either left or right to break the supers apart. It can also be used to hook the side of a frame and hold it up out of the super by using the curve as a fulcrum to lift the frame. Even though the yellow type hive tool has the word yellow in its name, it should be noted that these can come in just about any color (often orange and red).
Both the yellow type and the J-hook hive tool have a small eyelet in them to help pull nails that may be sticking out of a super. It has been recommended to tie a string through the hole to tie the hive tool to the beekeeper's belt. Both tools also have a chisel end which can be used to scrape propolis from the frames or do any type of cleaning that needs to be done on the hive.
Whichever style hive tool a beekeeper chooses to use, it is important to keep the tool clean so as not to spread disease from one hive to another. One USDA survey showed that 30% of honey packaged by individual beekeepers had spores of American foulbrood in it. What is worse is that 100% of commercially packed honey had spores for AFB in the USDA study. By cleaning the hive tool between hives a beekeeper can cut down on the amount of spreadable diseases between one hive and another.
One suggestion is to have a separate hive tool for each bee yard. This is because in each yard the bees are susceptible to the same types of diseases as the other hives in the yard. By not using the same hive tool between yards the worst that can happen is any disease spread would be contained to one group of bees. The hive tool would not be used to contaminate two different yards with the diseases of one set of bees.
Hive tools can be bought from many beekeeping supply catalogs or websites. Many times they are given away as door prizes at beekeeping festivals or club meetings. Hive tools range in price between $3 and $15 depending on the type and quality of the tool. At such a low price, it would benefit a beekeeper to have a few on hand to prevent the possible spread of diseases between hives.