Asian honey bee

The Asian honey bee is native to South-East Asia. It is smaller and has less hair than the European honey bee, and has pronounced black/brown and yellow stripes.

The Asian honey bee is a possible carrier of bee diseases and pests, and feral infestations could also compete with other bees for resources.

The Asian honey bee is restricted matter under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Apis cerana

Similar species

  • European honey bee, little black bush bee, halictidae family, blue banded bee, leafcutter bee, resin bee

Description

  • Bee approximately 10mm long.
  • Body is smaller and less hairy than that of European honey bee.
  • Abdomen has pronounced black/brown and yellow stripes.
  • Aggressive, protects nesting sites and stings.

View the Asian honey bee image gallery to help you identify swarms and nests.

Habitat

  • Found nesting in tree hollows, under eaves, in walls, under floorboards, and in letterboxes, cable reels, compost bins, and various other urban locations.
  • Have a tendency to abscond or ‘move’ from nest sites. Absconding colonies may travel up to 10km.
  • Asian honey bees that have been detected in North Queensland have relatively small colonies of up to 5000 bees.

Distribution

  • Asian honey bee that can be found throughout Asia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Australia is Apis cerana—Java strain. This strain originates from Indonesia but it is now spread through Papua Province (Indonesia), Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
  • First detected in Queensland in Portsmith, Cairns in 2007.
  • Known to infest the far northern Queensland area around Cairns the Asian honey bee known infested area (PDF, 407KB) spreads north to Wonga Beach, west of Southedge and Dimbulah, south to Silky Oak and Euramo.
  • Asian honey bees carrying varroa mites (Varroa jacobsoni) were detected in Townsville as per map of the affected area (PDF, 366KB). A National Varroa Mite Eradication Program was been established and the 2016, 2019 and 2020 Incidents have been declared eradicated.

Life cycle

  • Generally grows slightly more quickly than European honey bee.
  • Workers develop in 19 days, drones in 23 days, and queens in 13-16 days (compared to 21 days, 24 days and 13 days respectively for European honey bees).

Impacts

Environmental

  • Is natural host for varroa mites (which can destroy European honey bee colonies) and Asian honey bee colonies could encourage the spread of mites.
  • Is a vector for other bee diseases and pests.
  • May compete with other bees for floral resources.

Social

  • Stings could cause anaphylactic reaction in allergy-prone people.

Control

  • The Australian Government monitors incoming cargo ships entering Australian ports for bees and other unwanted insect pests. If you suspect a new incursion of bees in an international airport or seaport, contact the See. Secure. Report. hotline on 1800 798 636 or Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23
  • Early detection is essential to prevent Asian honey bees from establishing in new areas. Report all suspect bees in Townsville or outside the Asian honey bee known infested area (PDF, 407KB) around Cairns in far north Queensland to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

Legal requirements

  • Asian honey bees are listed as restricted matter under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • All sightings outside the known infested area around Cairns must be reported to Biosecurity Queensland within 24 hours of the sighting.
  • By law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks of Asian honey bee spreading.
  • It is an offence under the Biosecurity Regulation 2016 to keep or move Asian honey bees.

Further information