Martin's Must Reads: 'Honey and Venom'

Oct 13, 2020

“I bleed honey. It runs deep in my veins. I am a fourth—generation beekeeper, intimately familiar with the world of honey bees and the aberrations of those who maintain them.”

I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and those are the first lines from the prologue to Andrew Cote’s book Honey and Venom: Confessions of an Urban Beekeeper. Although he learned his beekeeping skills from his father while living in Connecticut most of his turf today “includes skyscrapers, community gardens, ancient cemeteries, international territory and other hidden pockets of New York City.”

His book is filled with fascinating details of the life of a honeybee apiary, his work to keep beekeeping alive in New York City, jobs he has done for films that include swarms of bees and even one installation of a famous sculpture for the MOMA where the reclining woman’s head was a swarm of live bees.

He recounts some of the times his help has been enlisted to remove swarms of bees from inappropriate places including the top of the seventeen story New York Times building.  He has met many famous people through his bees including Yoko Ono, Paul Newman and Bill Clinton. He is also the founder of BWB, Bees Without Borders and travels worldwide teaching beekeeping skills to developing countries.

Cote describes apitherapy where clinicians use bee stings as therapy, particularly to alleviate arthritis and how bees can be trained to detect bombs and cancer. Bees have five eyes, four wings, sort-of two stomachs and no ears and their bodies are completely covered in hair -- even their eyes and tongue.

If you’ve ever wanted to become better friends with bees, then you must read Honey and Venom by Andrew Cote.