Book Review: Honey and Venom

From the Publisher:

Considered an “industry legend” by The New York Times, Andrew Coté has one of the most intriguing, challenging, and unique jobs in New York City—maintaining millions of honey bees atop some of the city’s most iconic buildings. His apiaries have crowned the Waldorf Astoria and the Museum of Modern Art; reside on the North Lawn of the United Nations; reign above stores, hotels, restaurants, schools, churches, and synagogues; and are situated in community gardens, and even cemeteries, throughout the five boroughs.
 
In this debut collection, Coté takes readers with him on his daily apiary adventures over the course of a year, in the city and across the globe. Here, among his many duties, he is called to capture swarms that have clustered on fire hydrants, air-conditioning units, or street-vendor umbrellas. Annually, he travels with his father to regions like remote Fijian islands, rural Uganda, Haiti, Ecuador, or Iraq with his organization, Bees Without Borders, where he teaches beekeepers how to increase their honey yield and income via beekeeping endeavors.
 
Written with Coté’s trademark humor, acumen, and a healthy dose of charm, Honey and Venom illuminates the obscure culture of New York City “beeks” and the biology of the bees themselves, from the humble drone to the fittingly named worker to the queen herself—who is more a slave than a monarch. The hive world, Coté reveals, is full of strivers and slackers, givers and takers, and even some insect promiscuity—startlingly similar to the prickly human variety.
 
For Coté, a fourth-generation beekeeper, this is a family tradition, and this personal significance pervades his celebration of the romance and mystery of bees, their honey, and the beekeepers whose lives revolve around these most magical creatures.

My Thoughts:

When I think of beekeepers, I think of pastoral, rural, peaceful settings, a life full of flowers and honey ; Andrew Coté is far from this image. His life and career is globetrotting, star studded, and full of rooftops and city streets, hard work and long hours (although I am sure those rural type beekeepers also work long and hard hours!)

I was pleasantly surprised by this book! I should have realized that the life of an urban beekeeper would be leagues different from those on farms and homesteads, however I never would have imagined the amazing things that Coté, has done in his life as a beekeeper. One such thing is his Bees Without Borders program that he founded to help fight poverty, and he has travelled to such countries as Kenya, Nigeria, and Iraq and others, to teach them beekeeping skills. Some of the stories he had to tell about his travels were were humorous, while some highlighted the dangers he faced in his mission to help others, and bees.

Coté, also had stories to tell of commercials, tv show appearances (Cake Boss, for one), and being a beekeeper to the rich and famous – namely one very famous woman renowned for her lifestyle whose name begins with M. In addition to all of this, Coté, also founded the New York City Beekeepers Association, maintains his own empire of bees, and assists with dangerous bee situations that plague the city – such as a hoarding house whose bees became a danger and nuisance to the city, working side by side with the police in such cases.

I really loved this book – I loved hearing about all of Coté’s adventures, his family history with bees and beekeeping, and the little facts that he threw in about bees as well – such as the fact that the scent of bananas enrages them! This book was a great read and I loved learning about a whole different world, the world of the urban beekeeper.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

14 thoughts on “Book Review: Honey and Venom

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