Asian honey bee

Alert

Varroa mites have been detected in Townsville.

Following the detection of varroa mites on Asian honey bees in Townsville, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has established the National Varroa Mite Eradication Program. Restrictions apply to the movement of live bees within the Townsville area. Please refer to the Prevention and Control Program (PDF, 3.68MB) and the map of the affected area (PDF, 366KB).

Report sightings of Asian honey bees or feral bee nests in Townsville to 13 25 23.

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.

Habitat

  • Found nesting in tree hollows, under eaves, in walls, under floorboards, and in letterboxes, cable reels, compost bins, and various other urban locations.
  • Asian honey bees that have been detected in North Queensland have relatively small colonies of up to 5000 bees.

Distribution

  • First detected in Queensland in Portsmith, Cairns in 2007.
  • As at January 2017, the area known to be infested by Asian honey bees surrounds Cairns and spreads north to Mossman, west towards Mutchilba, Atherton and Malanda, and south to Millaa Millaa, Mena Creek and South Johnstone.
  • In June 2016, Asian honey bees carrying varroa mites (Varroa jacobsoni) were detected in Townsville.

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's Department of Agriculture monitors incoming cargo ships entering Australian ports for bees and other unwanted insect pests.
  • Early detection is essential to prevent Asian honey bees from establishing in new areas. Report all suspect bees outside of the known infested area 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 also an offence under the Biosecurity Regulation 2016 to keep or move Asian honey bees.

Further information