The Beekeeper’s Lament

Andrew Coté's honey attracts more media attention than he wants

Andrew Coté with Martha Stewart

Beekeeper Andrew Coté on "The Martha Stewart Show" in NYC in 2010. Photo: David M. Russell/The Martha Stewart Show

Urban beekeeper Andrew Coté waited seven days before offering The Observer his phone number. He has no personal website, no business card.

“They’ll bother me,” he said. “I’m just going to keep working my bees.”

As the self-proclaimed largest single beehive owner in New York City, Mr. Coté has his work cut out for him. And despite his policy of privacy, Mr. Coté is constantly handling a swarm of media.

In a city dense with media companies in need of an expert source on the latest story, a local professional who submits to an interview runs the risk of becoming the spokesperson for their field.

Since a 2008 New York Times profile, Mr. Coté has had a hard time staying out of the news. In the past year alone he’s appeared on virtually every American news source, and then some, including: the Martha Stewart Show, NPR, PBS, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The Times of London, The Sydney Morning Herald, Time Out New York, AP and the BBC.

“Who else are you going to come to if you’re doing a story about New York City beekeeping?” Mr. Coté asked.

The middle-aged man isn’t exactly sure how the press — or even his clients, for that matter  — know to contact him.

“The truth is I just happen to run the club,” Mr. Coté said, referring to the New York City Beekeepers Association (NYCBA).

Indeed, the Association’s website was how we had contacted the reluctant super-source, our interview request just one of the roughly 180 emails he receives each day.

“Please send me whatever questions you have and I will do my best to respond,” Mr. Coté wrote to The Observer, from a g-mail handle that includes the word “beekeeper”. He later asked for a sample of our writing.

 

MR. COTE DOES NOT vet his media requests, apparently, out of reluctance to talk. Once he granted us access, Mr. Coté was eager to give The Observer some good material.  Upon learning that we had never been stung by a bee, Mr. Coté suggested we initiate ourselves to the club. It would make a good war story for the article.

We declined.

We accompanied Mr. Coté, clad in grungy jeans and orange NYCBA tee shirt, to a housing complex in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. There we met Brooklyn Beekeeping Club President Mike “Mickey” Hegedus, who is gaining notoriety for his naked beekeeping videos. He would be Mr. Coté’s partner in removing a hive from an apartment wall.

Mr. Coté began the job by snapping pictures of the scene on his iPhone, on which 580 photos were already saved.

“Time is money!” shouted the apartment manager.

But Mr. Coté insisted the “Before” photos were protocol. He e-mailed them as attachments later that night with a written explanation of the job to those he thought might be interested.

Mr. Coté and Mr. Hegedus propped a ladder on the side of the building, climbed up, and – with help from two apartment contractors – pounded away the brick to reveal the bees’ hidden lair. Mr. Hegedus assured the contractor that he had brought an epipen.

“Did you hear that? Did you hear how prepared the beekeepers’ club is?” he noted to The Observer.

Then Mr. Coté discovered honey. With an exclamatory “Ah!” from his perch atop the ladder, he grinned down.

“I wanna taste it. It’s wall honey!” He filled his Nalgene water bottle with the sticky comb and climbed down the ladder to slice off pieces for the building employees and passerby who had gathered to spectate. He instructed us to eat the whole chunk at once, like a piece of gum.

We popped the light-colored honey and comb into our mouth. Immediately, the comb melted and an overwhelming taste of sugar, with a hint of mint, melted over our tongue as the comb shrunk.

A novice beekeeper in his twenties named Elie Miodownik came to observe the “swarm kings” perform the hive removal. Mr. Miodownik took Mr. Coté’s introductory class through NYCBA and is heading to veterinary school in the fall. He scrambled up the ladder, poking his veil-covered head into the hole to see the hive. When he descended, Mr. Coté offered the apprentice a copy of The Beekeeper’s Lament.

By noon the the comb had been cleared from the wall and the professionals let Mr. Miodownik try his hand at vacuuming the bees from the wall. Mr. Coté had escaped with just one sting near his elbow. (He believes the ear is the worst place to be stung.) The three then stopped for beers and to talk shop on the stoop of Mr. Hegedus’s Brooklyn home.

Comments

  1. Joseph says:

    No, Mr Cote is not the single largest beehive owner in New York City. Far from it, though he enjoys LYING about it, selling his Connecticut honey as New York City honey (we have tested his honey he sells at the markets), and basking in the limelight whenever possible. Worse, Mr Cote is not a New York City native, nor even a full time resident. He is a Connecticut resident. A real New Yorker he is decidedly not, though preying upon the New York Market is very much his style.

    1. Dominique says:

      Mr. Cote is hardworking, multi-talented and definitely trustworthy.  Media people are attracted to him and everything he does like bees to honey, precisely because of his charming personality, giving nature and high moral values.  He is more of a New Yorker than most of us are. It is not because he lives in New York and works in New York.  It is because he has helped so many New Yorkers, made New York a legal residence for bees and he makes New Yorkers smile every Wednesday at his Union Square Market.       

      1. heartless hatemonger says:

        You REALLY don’t know this guy do you…….

      2. Dominique says:

        Oh I do know him…intimately.  I could have written many more wonderful things about Mr. Cote, but I was very careful to limit my response to the statements that can be supported by factual data.   

      3. BzzyBee says:

        Heartless, you claim to know this man.  Why do you hide behind a fake name?  Have the courage to tell us who you are and how you know him. 

      4. tania says:

        are you his lover?

  2. heartless hatemonger says:

    This guy is the biggest prick I’ve ever met.

    1. BzzyBee says:

      Perhaps the fact that he has “the biggest prick” you have ever encountered has something to do with his confidence, Heartless.  (But I assume you are a man, so probably, your wife told you about it.)

    2. Bob from Greenwich says:

       My wife and I have known Andrew for many years.  He is passionate about what he does and he has integrity.  If he treated you with anything other than respect and with humor it is a reflection of you and not on him.

    3. ExCT says:

      This is such an inappropriate behavior. If you have something against this person, than it’s better you keep it to yourself or state your opinion in a resnable manner. If you have something against his honey, than don’t buy it. I think the honey is the best honey I’ve tasted, and Mr. Cote is a passionate, smart, insightful individual. I’ve met him few years ago, and he left strong impression on me.

  3. Reader in NYC says:

    What an interesting world I did not know existed in NYC! Good luck to all of the beekeepers here, seems like a fun way to make a sweet living.

    1. BzzyBee says:

      Sounds bittersweet to me…

  4. BKeater says:

    Andrew Cote is a self-serving phony.  I was a part of his group, paid the exorbitant price for his lessons and, when after the classes were done and I had a bee emergency, he never helped me or returned my calls.  He’s in it for the money and his ego.

    1. BzzyBee says:

      One reason we know that you are a liar, BKeater, is that, as the reporter mentions, Andrew does not give out his number.  The NYCBA taught 280 students in 2011.   Should Andrew be responsible for every one of them, every time they cannot find their queen?  You paid for a course, you got your course, that’s it. The course did not come with a lifetime supply of free advice.   Andrew is not paid to teach the course.  This is all moot of course since we know who you are and what you are – a coward and a liar.