Sweet as Athens Honey


Bees buzzing at Athena Bee, local Athens apiary and bee supply company, in Athens, Georgia, on November 18, 2015. (Photo/Ansley Walker, eawalker@uga.edu.)

Forever buzzing and sporadically stinging, bees make nearly anyone cringe. However, bees are Brendan Nordgren’s “friends.”

Nordgren, 61, works as a bee keeper and bee supplier in Athens, Georgia. Every day she suits up and tends to her hives to sell the honey they produce. Starting a business is risky at any point in life, and despite doubters suggesting she lacked experience, Nordgren launched her business, Athena Bee Co., at the age of 60.

Beekeepers face additional risks in their careers from colony collapse disorder. CCD became newsworthy in the last 10 years when bees started to disappear around the world. Scientists have not discovered what causes CCD, but research is focused around the use of insecticides. Fortunately for Athena Bee, independent beekeepers avoid the disorder because insecticides are not used near smaller sized colonies, Nordgren said.

Athena Bee is an independent apiary, or a location where beehives are kept, and a bee supply company. The business celebrated its first birthday in August, which also marked Nordgren’s sixth year of working with bees.

“It’s a passion that developed later in my life,” said Nordgren. “I didn’t find beekeeping, as much as it found me.”

While a lifetime lover of nature, Nordgren had never worked with bees before an ex-boyfriend presented her with a surprise birthday present in 2009: her first hive. From there she collected 10 more hives and turned a hobby into a living.

Before her unexpected journey into beekeeping, Nordgren followed a collegiate path focused on science education. For the majority of her life, she worked as an elementary school science teacher. Nordgren returned to the University of Georgia to complete an organic agriculture certificate.

“My mission is to bring kids in public schools a newfound love and knowledge for the environment,” Nordgren said.

As an independent business owner, Nordgren now has the time to pursue her other interests like non-profit work. Combining her love for bees and childhood education, Nordgren partnered with Coile Elementary School to build a pollinator garden, or an outdoor space for bees and other insects. The students involved in the after school program “Coile Serves,” study and observe the insects in the garden. Giving back to the community is a priority, Nordgren said.

Due to the recent rainfall and cold weather, Nordgren lost a few of her hives. However, she predicts a profitable spring full of sweet and rare Athens honey.

Brendan Nordgren, 61, from West Dundee, Illinois, poses in Athens, Georgia, on Tuesday, November 10, 2015. (Photo/Ansley Walker, eawalker@uga.edu)