Honey bees and beekeeping

Asian honey bee alert

Asian honey bees are a significant threat to Australian and Northern Territory (NT) honey and pollination industries because they could carry the varroa mite which feeds on bees.

They can also spread other pests or diseases to European honey bees, which are used to produce honey and pollinate fruit and vegetable crops.

The Asian honey bee is already in Queensland and a swarm was found in Karama in May 2018.

Although the bees were not carrying the varroa mite or other pests and diseases, authorities are asking the community to report any suspect bees to help protect beekeeping and plant industries.


Asian honey bees:

  • are yellow and dark brown with black stripes on their body and legs
  • similar to the common European honey bee, but about 5mm smaller
  • move in very tight clusters that range from the size of a closed hand to that of a basketball when swarming
  • are more aggressive than European bees and more likely to sting.

Bee comparison

The photo above shows the Asian honey bee (at right) compared with the standard European honey bee (at left).

The Asian honey bee prefers the following plants:

  • coral vine (Antigonon leptopus)
  • golden shower (Cassia fistula)
  • morning star (Turnera subulata)

Other plant species they may be attracted to include:

  • bottle brush (Callistemon sp.)
  • golden cane (Dypsis Lutescens)
  • lilly pilly (Syzygium sp.)
  • mad hatter (Cuphea sp.)
  • mangroves (Sonneratia sp. and Bruguier sp.)
  • sheena’s gold (Duranta erecta)
  • Singapore daisy (Sphagneticola trilobata)
  • tea tree (Leptospermum madidum)

For pictures of these plants, get the poster of Asian honey bee host plants PDF (1.4 MB).

The Rainbow bee eater is a native bird that eats honey bees.

Bee eaters can be used to monitor for the presence of honey bee species by tracking roosts and collecting their pellets for testing.

Bee eaters roost in large colonies in single trees. They move collectively to their roost tree shortly before sunset. You can track them by following the birds at sunset.

Any information on location of roost trees, or sightings of small groups of bee eaters travelling in a specific direction at sunset may help us locate the presence of Asian honey bees.

Call the apiary officer on 0401 115 853 to report sightings of bee eaters.

Get more information about tracking the rainbow bee eater PDF (234.2 KB).

You must report suspect bees to NT Plant Biosecurity by calling the apiary officer on 0401 115 853 or the exotic plant pest hotline on 1800 084 881.

You can find out what to look for by getting the Asian honey bee poster PDF (595.0 KB).

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Last updated: 05 July 2021

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