Asian honey bee

Alert

Varroa mites have been detected in Townsville.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has movement restrictions for bee risk items following the detection of varroa mites on Asian honey bees in Townsville. To move restricted items, please refer to the Movement Control Order (PDF, 427KB).

Report sightings of feral hives, Asian honey bees or hives showing symptoms in Townsville to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

Native to South-East Asia, the Asian honey bee has pronounced black and yellow stripes and is smaller and less hairy than the European honey bee. Asian honey bees (Java strain) have been found in far north Queensland.

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, carpenter bee

Description

  • Bee approximately 10mm long.
  • Body is smaller and less hairy than that of European honey bee.
  • Abdomen has pronounced black 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.
  • Compared to European honey bees, Asian honey bees have slightly smaller colonies and nest in smaller cavities.

Distribution in Queensland

  • First detected in Queensland in Portsmith, Cairns in 2007.
  • As at August 2015, 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 Mena Creek and South Johnstone.
  • As at 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 destroy European honey bee colonies) and could encourage their spread.
  • 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 seen close to international ports and outside of the known infested area around Cairns in far north Queensland.

Legal requirements

  • Asian honey bee is restricted matter under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • All sightings 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 risk of Asian honey bee spreading.
  • It is also an offence under the Biosecurity Regulation 2016 to keep or move Asian honey bees.
Last updated
22 September 2016