A small orchard in the house yard of an old Queenslander at Cryna tells the story of a man whose life’s work has revolutionised human health and nutrition globally.
The old 100-acre dairy property south of Beaudesert has been home to Professor Emeritus Richard Drew AM and his wife, Dr Glenys Drew, for 22 years.
In Professor Drew’s tiny orchard, which he can see from his verandah home office, sticky yellow discs hang from six varieties of citrus trees, plums, pears, peaches and mulberries.
Those discs are a world first trap invented by Professor Drew to attract and catch female fruit flies before they lay eggs in fruit.
He led a team of researchers to develop the non-toxic traps when he was Director of the International Centre for Management of Pest Fruit Flies at Griffith University.
Since going to market in 2016, his invention continues to help farmers win the fruit fly battle in Australia and abroad and has even enabled children in developing countries to eat fruit for the first time in their lives.
Professor Drew has received a swathe of deserved accolades, but his satisfaction is in making a difference.
When Professor Drew was 23, Australia’s leading fruit fly specialist Dr Alan May, who was mentoring him as a cadet with the Department of Agriculture, died suddenly of leukaemia at the age of 49.
“I really carried on Dr Alan May’s work,” he said.
“And I think one of the reasons I’ve spent my life on non-toxic attractants for fruit flies is I saw we were losing entomologists to cancers. All those chemicals that have been used for the last 50 years that we know are carcinogens, the Australian Government withdrew them around the time we launched our trap.”
When Dr Glenys Drew married Professor Drew in 1969, she married his fruit fly research too.
The pair met through youth group activities and really connected on a camp at Christmas Creek, not far from where they live now.
To this day, she is the biggest supporter of Professor Drew’s work and the pair, who have three adult children and eight grandchildren, treasure time with their family.
For someone who has spent 55 years managing pest fruit flies, Professor Drew loves fruit flies more than anyone else in the world does.
“We’ve discovered over 800 species across Asia Pacific, in the rainforests, I’ve studied every one of them,” he said.
“They’re amazing, beautiful insects and they play a vital role in the rainforest ecosystem.”
Professor Drew, who will be 80 in March, is so passionate about the impact of fruit fly management on human health and nutrition, he has continued his work pro bono since retiring nearly a decade ago.
“It is so essential to have confidence and a positive attitude to life – detractors have never worried me,” he said.