Bees

Reporter: Graeme Butler

The white suit is to protect me from the bees but a barrier far more sophisticated is going to be needed to protect the bees from a tiny pest that threatens to wipe them out.

"What we're particularly interested in is looking into ways in which we could probably control a pest that's gone around the world that's caller Varroa mite and it's the most serious pest that's actually affected bees."

Dr Denis Anderson is the world's leading Bee Pathologist its' become his mission to protect Australia's honey bees and free the world's bees from the Varroa mite - its' tiny about the size of a pin-head, but this pint size parasite can have a giant size effect on bees.

At the moment Australia and PNG are the only countries in the world free of the mite, which has already wiped out half the world's population of European Honey Bees. "We haven't yet got that mite here when the mite does arrive our bee numbers will surely decline as they have done everywhere else, you say when it arrives, is it going to? It's when it arrives. It's not if it's when."

At that's what Dr Anderson wants to prepare for, after 25 years with the CSIRO he's now gone out on his own establishing an organisation called Bees Down under. "What I've decided to do is to go public and try to get private industries on board coming in to support us and if they can support us they can direct that funds into various institutions like the University of Western Australia."

A decline in bee population would have a devastating effect on agriculture, as bees are the key pollinator of many crops--there's also the simple issue of Australian honey remaining free from pesticide used to control the mite in other countries.

Colin Cook keeps bees in his Swanbourne backyard producing a thousand kilos of honey each year... he's one of an increasing number of backyard growers which is evident by the recent surge in numbers joining the W.A Apiarist association.

But if the mite makes its way to Australia it would have a devastating effect on backyard industries. Research into Bee behaviour is being undertaken all over Australia, some like this at the CSIRO has involved fitting bee's with tiny transmitters robo-bees who are effectively flying computer chips. But with any research funding is always an issue, a problem Dr Anderson is tackling head on, so he can unlock the secret life of bees and outwit the mighty mite.

"We've already identified a weakness in its life cycle it's got to do with the mite recognising particular signals on the bee that it needs in order to reproduce on that bee." It could be one of the clues to overcoming the mite and protecting our bees.

Further information

KEEPING AUSTRALIAN HONEYBEES HEALTHY… ONE STYLISH STEP AT A TIME

Bees are the social butterflies of the insect world, they even communicate by dancing. That's why we love them and created honeybees for the person who dares to be different and dance free of the pack.

honeybees is Australian designed and dreamt. For us, it's about being different, not being better.

Wear your honeybees with pride knowing you're celebrating individuality and making a difference to the world.

Fashion is going green and honeybees are on the forefront of this movement. Using recycled rubber and packaged in reprocessed cardboard, honeybees are on a journey to save the Australian honeybee without compromise to the environment.

Available in black, neutral colours and sorbet hues, the honeybees collection is available for $29.95 at www.myhoneybees.com.au

SUPPORTING BEES DOWNUNDER

honeybees is on a mission to raise money for the world's leading bee pathologist Dr Denis's Anderson's Bees Downunder research institute.

For every pair sold, honeybees will donate $2 to Bees Downunder.

In 2000, Dr Denis achieved international acclaim for discovering the deadly Varroa destructor mite - a pinhead size insect that is responsible for killing off over 50% of the world's bee population.

Einstein himself said, if all the world's bees died, humanity would follow in just five years as bees are responsible for pollinating some 70% of crops.

Australia is the only country in the world that's yet to be invaded by the Varroa mite. Dr Denis is currently working on keeping it that way by developing a new strain of honeybees with inbuilt protection against the Varroa destructor mite.

If successful it would ensure the survival of the European honeybee in Australia and around the world.

Other countries are not sure lucky. Every year millions of Australian bees are put on a plane and flown to places like California where all the wild bees have been wiped out.