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Dr John Roberts

Senior Research Scientist


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GPO BOX 1700


Dr John Roberts works on pests and diseases of honey bees.

He joined CSIRO at Black Mountain ACT in 2010 and now leads our bee pathology research area. His research applies molecular approaches and tools to address a variety of health and biosecurity issues that impact Australia's honey bee population and the valuable pollination services it provides.

His research has included studies on the genetics, pathogens and management of emerging Varroa and Tropilaelaps mite pests in Papua New Guinea, conducting the first Australia-wide study of honey bee viruses and other pathogens affecting honey bees, examining genetic and nutritional factors associated with the honey bee fungal pathogens, Nosema and chalkbrood, and developing diagnostic tools for bee mites and viruses.

John is also investigating how we can use hive environmental DNA or 'eDNA' collected by honey bees as they gather nectar and pollen for cross-industry surveillance of bee pests and diseases, plant pathogens and noxious weeds.

He is also working with industry to improve the current importation protocols for honey bee genetics (semen and live queens) and support development of a Varroa-resistant bee breeding program in Australia.

His research has been supported by the Honeybee and Pollination R&D of AgriFutures Australia, Hort Innovation and Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Current Roles

  • Project lead on honey bee industry (AgriFutures) projects
    Factors influencing chalkbrood outbreaks in Australia (2019-2020); Reducing the impact of Nosema and viruses through nutrition (2016-2018); Australia wide pest and disease survey of honeybee pathogens (2013-2015); Disease status of invasive Asian honey bee in northern Australia (2012); Genetics and viruses of Varroa jacobsoni an emerging parasite in Papua New Guinea (2010-2013).

  • Supervisor of CSIRO postdoctoral researchers
    Genomics of Varroa resistant honey bee genetics imported into Australia (Angel Popa-Baez); Cross industry surveillance using hive eDNA (Erin Hill); RNAi for honey bee pests and pathogens (Biko Muita)

  • Researching biosecurity threats in our region
    Management strategies for Varroa and Tropilaelaps in Papua New Guinea (ACIAR); Virome of honey bees in the Pacific

  • Contributor to the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program
    Molecular diagnostics for exotic mites (Varroa, Tropilaelaps, tracheal mites) and bee viruses (DWV, SBPV). Conducting bee pest & disease surveillance on Norfolk Island.

  • Project lead for biosecure importation of Varroa resistance honey bee genetics (Hort Innovation)
    This project aims to trial the current importation guidelines for honey bee genetics (semen and live queens) and develop recommendations for industry and government that can be of use to future importers (2019-2021)

  • Investigating honey bees for plant pathogen surveillance
    Demonstrated the potential for NGS of honey bees to detect exotic plant viruses (e.g. CGMMV and ToRSV) before field observations. Surveillance for Avocado sun blotch viroid with pollination hives (UQ/Hort Innovation).

  • Co-investigator for biopesticides to control fall armyworm
    Investigating microbial pathogens and RNAi control options for fall armyworm (DAWR)

Academic Qualifications

  • 2005

    Bachelor of Science (Honors)
    University of Melbourne

  • 2010

    PhD (Genetics)
    University of Melbourne


  • 2022-2023

    eDNA technology for detecting priority pest bees and bee mites (DAFF)

  • 2022-2025

    Hive eDNA surveillance for bee and plant pathogens and weeds (Environomics FSP)

  • 2022-2024

    Rapid molecular diagnostics for Varroa, Tropilaelaps and Tracheal mites (DAFF)

  • 2021-2024

    Genomic selection for Varroa tolerance traits in Australian honey bees (CSIRO R+ postdoc grant)

  • 2021-2022

    Norfolk Island bee pest & disease survey (DITRDC)

  • 2021-2023

    Biopesticides for control of fall armyworm (DAWE)

  • 2020-2021

    The enemy of my enemy is my friend: viral biopesticides for invasive fall armyworm (CSIRO Acorn grant)

  • 2019-2021

    Development and implementation of protocols to enable importation of improved honey bee genetics to Australia (Hort Innovation MT18019)

  • 2019-2021

    Avocado sunblotch viroid survey - using bees for surveillance (Hort Innovation AV18007)

  • 2018-2020

    Investigating factors that influence chalkbrood outbreaks in Australia (AgriFutures PRJ-10815)

  • 2018-2019

    A novel approach to plant virus surveillance using honey bees (CSIRO Acorn grant)

  • 2018-2019

    Novel Approaches for Increasing Participation in the Honeybee Industries of the Pacific (ACIAR LS/2017/100)

  • 2017-2021

    Systems biology approach to honey bee nutrigenomics (CSIRO R+ postdoc grant)

  • 2016-2017

    Improving honey bee diagnostics in Australia (Plant Health Australia)

  • 2015-2017

    Reducing the impact of Nosema and viruses by improving honeybee nutrition (AgriFutures PRJ-9987))

  • 2015-2016

    Training and surveillance for Tropilaelaps mites in PNG (ACIAR)

  • 2013-2015

    Upgrading knowledge of pathogens (particularly viruses) in Australian honeybees (AgriFutures)

  • 2012-2013

    Establishing the disease status of Apis cerana in Cairns (AgriFutures PRJ-8433)

We have publications by Dr John Roberts