To the untrained eye the Asian honeybee is not easy to distinguish from the common European honeybees in Australia. It is slightly smaller and not as hairy.
The pale bands on the abdomen are pale yellow and regular and prominent. There are more than three of them.
One vein in the hindwing is different (see illustration). Put technically, the wing has a distal abscissa of vein M, which the European honeybee lacks.
The hindwings of a European and Asian honeybee. Photo: Ken Walker, Museums Victoria, PaDIL
Asian honeybees fly faster.
When swarming, they move in very tight clusters that vary from the size of a closed hand to that of a basketball. The swarms often land on fences, trees and other structures.
They nest in smaller cavities than European honeybees, and unlike the latter they readily nest in human-created spaces such as letter boxes, pot plants, weep holes in walls, compost bins and stationary vehicles. They readily nest near the ground.
When a bee approaches the nest it flies straight in rather than landing at the entrance and crawling in as European honeybees do.
To anyone very familiar with European honeybees the difference in size and banding are noticeable, and it is the difference in hindwing venation that serves as proof.
Asian honeybees might be confused with red dwarf honeybees, which are not (yet) established in Australia.
More close-up images of Asian honeybees can be found on the PaDIL website.
Asian honeybees showing the regular banding. Photo Denis Anderson, CSIRO | CC BY 3.0
An Asian honeybee alongside a European and giant honeybee. Photo: Ken Walker, Museums Victoria, PaDIL