Australia’s Anderson Quits CSIRO Due To Lack Of Varroa Research Funding


Alan Harman


Australia’s world-renowned bee researcher has quit the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization saying it refuses to fund his work at a time when he is on the verge of finding how to stop Varroa destructor’s global rampage

   Denis Anderson identified and named Varroa destructor and was awarded the 2007 CSIRO medal for his work spreading awareness of the mite.

   He tells the Sydney Morning Herald he left the CSIRO out of frustration and says he has been forced to rely on funds from selling women's sandals to continue the research, because the CSIRO is unwilling to put money into solving the problem.

   “The product we are after is a bee resistant to the mite, whether we manufacture that bee or select it naturally,” Anderson says.

   Research has found the mite relies on a chemical signal from the bee to trigger its breeding cycle and Anderson believes by manipulating that signal without harming the bee it is possible to trick the mite into not laying eggs and therefore not reproducing.

   “But to get to that end product you need all this research, and CSIRO is not interested in funding that,” he says.

   Anderson figures it will take about five years and A$10 million to find the chemical switch and a way of changing it to stop the mite breeding, but says it is very achievable and would be a breakthrough for agriculture around the world.

   CSIRO ecosystem sciences chief Dan Walker tells the newspaper there is a range of work continuing at CSIRO on bees and the Varroa mite, but it is not possible to fund all forms of research.

   “CIRO has invested significantly in Varroa mite research over the past 23 years, inclusive of the research undertaken by Dr. Anderson on ‘switching off’ the ability of the Varroa mite to breed," he says.

   Walker says the CSIRO has advanced the knowledge significantly over this period, “but as with many other areas of research undertaken by CSIRO we rely on industry co-investment to take research through to many applied solutions. In this case industry funding has not been forthcoming.'”

   Anderson is appealing to the corporate sector and West Australian fashion business www.myhoneybees.com.au is providing a portion of sales from women's sandals to fund bee research.

   The researcher is featured prominently on the company’s website where he is described as one of the world's leading bee pathologists and founder of the research body Bees Down Under.

   Anderson is working to establish a foundation to fund research by universities and PhD students in the area that he hopes will lead to a bee resistant to the mite.