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Giant honeybee

Our Work Invasive insects  |  Insect Watch

A large Asian honeybee, the giant honeybee (Apis dorsata) will compete with native pollinating insects and birds.

Photo: Rison Thumboor | CC BY-SA 4.0

Identification

The giant honeybee bears some resemblance to the common honeybees in Australian gardens, but the differences are substantial.

  • It is bigger, with a proportionally longer abdomen.
  • The head has black rather than brown hairs.
  • The thorax (the section between the head and abdomen) is black at the front (and usually pale brown at the back).
  • The abdomen darkens along its length, going from orange-brown at the base to black at the end.
  • The wings are smoky rather than entirely clear.
  • The bees have open hives that hang from branches, cliffs or buildings.

You can see more images of giant honeybees on the PaDIL website.

Giant honeybee. Photo: Vengolis | CC BY-SA 4.0

Size

Worker bees are 1.7–20 millimetres long. Their forewings are 12-15 millimetres long.

Behaviour and location

Giant honeybees visit a wide range of flowers, including those of garden plants and weeds. If they establish in Australia they will be noticed in parks and gardens and in native vegetation.

They are a tropical and subtropical bee unlikely to be seen in Victoria or Tasmania or in outback locations.

They suspend their open hives from high branches, and sometimes from buildings and cliffs. These can be 1.5 metres across. They are flat because there is only one large comb, on which the bees rest.

Giant honeybee hive. Photo: Vinayaraj | CC BY-SA 4.0

Similar species

European honeybees are 11.5-13 millimetres long with clear wings. Their forewings are 7.5-10 millimetres long. Their hives are inside boxes, tree trunks or other cavities.

European honeybee. Photo: Fir0002 | Wikimedia Commons

Safe collecting

If the bees are regularly attending flowers you may be able to take a photo of one, capturing key diagnostic features such as the long shape. Or you may be able to catch one with a net, or in a jar or thick plastic bag lowered over it while it is busy at a flower. These bees are not highly aggressive at flowers but they can sting fiercely so be careful. A bee that is captured can be killed in the freezer and photographed. Alternatively, you may be able to kill one by spraying it with a knockdown aerosol insecticide. A photo from a smartphone should be good enough to rule out mis-identification.

Who to tell

Think you’ve found giant honeybees?

If you detect these bees phone the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline: 1800 084 881. You will be put in touch with the Department of Primary Industries or Agriculture in your state or territory. If you do not receive a satisfactory response within a week email us via our contact form.

The problem

European honeybees have enormous wild populations in Australia which compete with native insects and birds for nectar and pollen. They are often the dominant visitors to native flowers, greatly outnumbering all native visitors, suggesting very substantial impacts. In the northern half of Australia the giant honeybee could become another introduced bee that competes with native visitors to flowers.

Giant honeybees are regularly intercepted at Australia’s borders. At an inquiry into biosecurity the interceptions from 2009-2014 there were multiple interceptions each year

It has been intercepted at Australia’s borders on several occasions, including with nests on ships found in 2015 and 2016.

Further information

Who to tell

Think you’ve found giant honeybees?

If you detect these bees phone the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline: 1800 084 881. You will be put in touch with the Department of Primary Industries or Agriculture in your state or territory. If you do not receive a satisfactory response within a week email us via our contact form.

Other Insect Profiles

Dear Project Team,

[YOUR PERSONALISED MESSAGE WILL APPEAR HERE.] 

I support the amendment to the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan to allow our incredible National Parks staff to use aerial shooting as one method to rapidly reduce feral horse numbers. I want to see feral horse numbers urgently reduced in order to save the national park and our native wildlife that live there.

The current approach is not solving the problem. Feral horse numbers have rapidly increased in Kosciuszko National Park to around 18,000, a 30% jump in just the past 2 years. With the population so high, thousands of feral horses need to be removed annually to reduce numbers and stop our National Park becoming a horse paddock. Aerial shooting, undertaken humanely and safely by professionals using standard protocols, is the only way this can happen.

The government’s own management plan for feral horses states that ‘if undertaken in accordance with best practice, aerial shooting can have the lowest negative animal welfare impacts of all lethal control methods’.

This humane and effective practice is already used across Australia to manage hundreds of thousands of feral animals like horses, deer, pigs, and goats.

Trapping and rehoming of feral horses has been used in Kosciuszko National Park for well over a decade but has consistently failed to reduce the population, has delayed meaningful action and is expensive. There are too many feral horses in the Alps and not enough demand for rehoming for it to be relied upon for the reduction of the population.

Fertility control as a management tool is only effective for a small, geographically isolated, and accessible population of feral horses where the management outcome sought is to maintain the population at its current size. It is not a viable option to reduce the large and growing feral horse population in the vast and rugged terrain of Kosciuszko National Park.

Feral horses are trashing and trampling our sensitive alpine ecosystems and streams, causing the decline and extinction of native animals. The federal government’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee has stated that feral horses ‘may be the crucial factor that causes final extinction’ for 12 alpine species.

I recognise the sad reality that urgent and humane measures are necessary to urgently remove the horses or they will destroy the Snowies and the native wildlife that call the mountains home. I support a healthy national park where native species like the Corroboree Frog and Mountain Pygmy Possum can thrive.

Kind regards,
[Your name]
[Your email address]
[Your postcode]


Dear Project Team,

[YOUR PERSONALISED MESSAGE WILL APPEAR HERE.] 

I support the amendment to the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan to allow our incredible National Parks staff to use aerial shooting as one method to rapidly reduce feral horse numbers. I want to see feral horse numbers urgently reduced in order to save the national park and our native wildlife that live there.

The current approach is not solving the problem. Feral horse numbers have rapidly increased in Kosciuszko National Park to around 18,000, a 30% jump in just the past 2 years. With the population so high, thousands of feral horses need to be removed annually to reduce numbers and stop our National Park becoming a horse paddock. Aerial shooting, undertaken humanely and safely by professionals using standard protocols, is the only way this can happen.

The government’s own management plan for feral horses states that ‘if undertaken in accordance with best practice, aerial shooting can have the lowest negative animal welfare impacts of all lethal control methods’.

This humane and effective practice is already used across Australia to manage hundreds of thousands of feral animals like horses, deer, pigs, and goats.

Trapping and rehoming of feral horses has been used in Kosciuszko National Park for well over a decade but has consistently failed to reduce the population, has delayed meaningful action and is expensive. There are too many feral horses in the Alps and not enough demand for rehoming for it to be relied upon for the reduction of the population.

Fertility control as a management tool is only effective for a small, geographically isolated, and accessible population of feral horses where the management outcome sought is to maintain the population at its current size. It is not a viable option to reduce the large and growing feral horse population in the vast and rugged terrain of Kosciuszko National Park.

Feral horses are trashing and trampling our sensitive alpine ecosystems and streams, causing the decline and extinction of native animals. The federal government’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee has stated that feral horses ‘may be the crucial factor that causes final extinction’ for 12 alpine species.

I recognise the sad reality that urgent and humane measures are necessary to urgently remove the horses or they will destroy the Snowies and the native wildlife that call the mountains home. I support a healthy national park where native species like the Corroboree Frog and Mountain Pygmy Possum can thrive.

Kind regards,
[Your name]
[Your email address]
[Your postcode]