Hive tools come in several different designs. They are absolutely indispensable to the beekeeper. It’s the one item you will never open a hive without.
The most common design in the U.S.—and the one that comes with most beginner kits—is somewhere around 7-10 inches (18-25 cm) long. These usually have a curved end meant for scraping and prying, a flat end for prying, and a nail-pulling slot somewhere in the middle.
Frame lifter hive tools are 9-14 inches (23-36 cm) long and have a hook at one end and a little offset which allows you to lift out frames. The other end is designed for scraping and prying. This is my favorite.
The so-called Italian hive tool is about 12.5 inches (32 cm) long, very narrow, and it said to be good for cutting top-bar comb away from the sides of the hive.
Besides the stated purposes, you will find many other uses for hive tools. I have my favorite one marked with the depth of various supers so I can tell them apart in the field. I also use it to cut duct tape, flatten yellow jackets, release corroded tie-downs, and clean mud from my boots. After your first season of beekeeping you will find you never lay it down. You use it so frequently it seems like an extension of your arm. And sometimes it gets so sticky you can’t let go of it, even if you want to.
Most beekeeping suits have special pockets for hive tools. There are also holsters available that attach to your belt. Hive tools are easy to lose, so it is a good idea to check for it before you leave your beeyard. Some folks paint them bright colors or tie cords through the holes so they are easier to see. But if you are prone to losing things, you should have more than one. It’s nearly impossible to keep bees without one.