Build a Scale to Weigh Bee Hives





Introduction: Build a Scale to Weigh Bee Hives

Portable Hive Scale

The goal is to build an accurate, electronic bee hive scale for under $50 that allows anyone to weight 4 hives per minute – up to 250 lbs each – without materially disturbing the colony.


In my first year as a beekeeper, I had 2 out of 3 hives swarm. I think. I experienced a Tulip Poplar nectar flow. I think. I saw bees gather nectar – some days more than other days. I think. I say, I think, because I am led to believe that these things happened and I saw evidence that they did occur but I cannot be sure. And if they did occur, I cannot tell you if it was more or less than previous occurrences. But if I could have weighed the hive once or twice a day, I would have known for sure:

    * I would know the population of the runaway swarm …estimated at 3500 bees per pound.
    * I would know the mass of nectar (and pollen) gathered during the day and of water evaporated at night. One pound equals roughly 1.04 US pints.
    * I would know the number of bees foraging by monitoring the loss of weight in bees leaving in the morning.
    * I would know the rate of growth of daily nectar collection as a nectar flow began.
    * I could compare my hives with the hives of others and with my own hives in previous years.

Lord Kelvin said, “To measure is to know.” If I could weigh a hive, I would know a lot more than I do now…

How Does It Work?

The scale has 3 fingers or tongue that lift one side of the hive. The two outside fingers push down while the center finger lifts the hive. A $16 electronic luggage scale measures the force required to separate the center tongue from the outside tongues. The force to lift up the back of the hive is roughly half the total weight of the hive.


Step 1: Buy a Luggage Scale

This is the luggage scale that I bought off the Internet for $16. You attach your luggage to these hand-held devices and lift them with the luggage attached. The scale beeps or stops changing value and then you read off the weight. Their maximum range is about 125 lbs – less than a lot of bee hives. However, if you measure the hive by only lifting one side - and assume that weight in the hive is more or less centrally distributed - then you are only measuring half the hive's weight. You have a loss in accuracy but your maximum range is now extended to 250 lbs.

You do not need to use exactly the same scale shown here. However, you may need to get creative in attaching the luggage scale to the scale handle.

Step 2: Gather All Hardware Parts

Assemble all the parts in the photograph. You can find a complete parts list at These are all available from Lowes or Home Depot.

Not listed are bolts, washers, and screws. I used mostly 1/4″ x 1″ rounded headed screws. You need washers to prevent the bolts from sinking into the wood and getting loose. Some of the parts are shown at right.  Moving clockwise, the parts shown are

    * Electronic luggage scale
    * 1-1/2″ corner brace (one of two needed)
    * tee hinge (one of two needed)
    * pulley as purchased. You need to break off the black hanger and drill out the axle.
    * steel mending plate shown in the middle of the picture
    * pulley assembly at top consisting of:
          o two (2) 2-1/2″ corner braces shown prior to bending of bottom flanges
          o 1/4″ clevis pin axle
          o one 1″ nylon spacer with .257” ID, cut in half to get 2 1/2” pieces
          o one nylon pulley

Step 3: Drill and Cut the Wooden Paddle and Lever

Saw out the outline of the paddle in 3/4" plywood, oak, maple, hickory, or other tough wood. Make a lever that the user will use to pull the luggage scale with. Then drill the holes.  Cut out the center tongue as shown at right. I used a band saw for the two long cuts down the tongue then used a jigsaw to join the two cuts.  Sand and finish with a tough marine varnish.

A note on drilling the holes: the mending plates on the bottom share some of the same holes as the corner braces on the top. I could see no way around it. You just need to be precise in your drilling.

Step 4: Assemble the Parts and Attach the Lifting Cable

The parts screw together quickly.  Note that the two smaller corner braces hold the luggage scale to the lever. In order to allow the luggage scale to move freely, I had to saw some plastic off of the side of the scale near the attaching screws. You may need a few slightly longer screws to hold the pulley assembly to the paddle and mending plates on the bottom.

The cable is 1/16″ wire rope attaches the lifting tongue to the luggage scale with ferrules on both ends. The ferrule is used as a stop on the lifting tongue.

Step 5: Increase the Accuracy of Your Pry Scale

The photo shows that I added two things:

1. A red plastic level insures that the scale is held consistently each time I weigh the hive.
2. A threaded insert, bolt, and 1/4" screw are shown under the lever. This insures that the tongue is lifted a consistent amount each time.

Both of these improvements will improve the accuracy of your hive scale.

Step 6: Create a Slot Stick

In order to pry up one end of your hive, you need a slot that you can insert your pry scale into. You can either route out a slot on your bottom board or deep body or simply build a stick like the one shown that you will simply leave under the backside of your hive.

Step 7: Contribute to a NASA-sponsored Research Project

There is currently a NASA-sponsored nation-wide research project  ( that asks volunteer beekeepers to take daily weight measurements of their bee hives. The data is used to estimate when nectar flows begin in order to answer how changing climate effects honey bees.

For more information on this project and many other projects for beekeepers, hackers, and beehackers, visit



  • Science of Cooking

    Science of Cooking
  • Trash to Treasure

    Trash to Treasure
  • Paper Contest 2018

    Paper Contest 2018

We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.




Hi I am Serbia. I made this device but I think it is accurate only in ideal conditions. Problem is that conditions are never ideal. Beehives are tilted towards front side and weight is rare centrally distributed. i think even diference in weight is not going to be very accurate.


I agree.

Hi Serbia,

Your scale looks great. However your experience is the same as mine before I added 1) a stop to insure that the handle is depressed exactly the same each time and 2) a level to insure that the measurement is consistent. Yes, it will not be as accurate as an iron platform scale but if you measure hive weight over time, you should be able to see trends and infer problems or nectar flows.

Nice try. However I don't think the scale offers enough consistency. Standard deviation is the polite way of saying that you have mosty +-1000grams different measurements in 99% or so cases. That is at the very edge of usability IMHO.

Now the interesting point: I have made myself a solution that differs about 10grams from mean value. I think my Slavne scale is more suitable, sorry for my directness. You can check this solution at:

My congratulations goes to trearick of course. It was not easy to come to his solution either. But we are here to improve our solutions, convey knowledge (if we have it, myself excluded :-) and help each other in this disrupted world, right?

That a clever idea. Last year I wanted to bring my beehive to scout camp (where i worked for the summer) and being a Biologist wanted to be able to make some a project out if it with some hard data. But couldn't find a way to weight it cheaply. On the way to a flea market I saw this scale for sale. I said we will stop, I 'll ask, he will say too much and I can walk away. $20 dollars later its in the car. People throw away the scales it the hanging weights people want. Also not pictured was a indoor out door thermometer. Which is more useful to tell when the bees come out of hibernation. but also when I added the second brood chamber it remained at ambient temperature for three weeks until they built it out and then raised to about 98 deg after they built it out. As my luck would have it, New England had a hot dry summer and the hive went from 125lbs to about 90lbs (I have never Checked to see if the scale is accurate I just wanted to know when the nectar flow started) After checking with other bee keepers this was a low flow year. Last year we had a lot of rain and there was no poilen or nectar


HI turbo bug Can you tell me what brand/make the scale you purchased is??

Very cool. Kind of a mechanical/electronic solution.

I just put each hive on its own Nintendo Wii-Fit Board. ;-)

What app do you use to read it? Do you need to reset the Bluetooth every time?

wow... i am learning a lot. i have never kept bees but am planning on doing so once the conversion of my property is further along. i plan on getting rid of all the grass and planting a lot of bee loving wild flowers and many more fruit trees. i want my 1 acre to be all food generating.

i live in N. Idaho which is not the warmest place on earth. are you saying that in cool climates like here, i have to worry about the bees getting food even if the hive has honey because the honey is too cold for them to get? is there a way to warm the hive? i am building green houses... would it be useful to have hive against the green house to warm in a bit in winter? i was not thinking about these things at all... thanks for bringing it to my attention :-)

Bees are amazing. They overwinter in Maine and throughout Canada. So if a colony is healthy and has food, they can survive weeks of subzero temperatures without you doing anything. They can do fine in N. Idaho.  Of course, if a beekeeper is greedy (takes too much honey) or if the bees are sick or if the hive is drafty or has leaking water, all bets are off.

Click here to learn about beekeeping activities near N. Idaho and Spokane.