The European Honey Bee (also known as the Western Honey Bee) is an introduced species to Australia and the most common of the 7-12 species of honey bees in the world. Like all the honey bee species, the European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) is eusocial, creating colonies with a single fertile female (known as the queen bee).

European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) on a Cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis)
European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) on a Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis)

Introduced to Australia by the early European settlers and colonists (thought to be around 1822), the European Honey Bee was used for honey production and used to pollinate plants that was grown by early settlers for food. Today in Australia, they are managed by apiarists in hives. The European Honey Bees have however managed to swarm and escape into bushland, where they have established feral nests. They have now occupied areas across Australia, including the semi-arid regions, eucalypt and rainforests, coastal heaths, farming and grazing land and urban areas. They become a nuisance during summer months when they seek water for themselves and to cool their hive.

Some of the images displayed here are of the European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) collecting pollen from the flowers of another introduced species, the invasive flora Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis).

The impact of these feral bees on our native species is a controversial issue and difficult to quantify. With increase interest in our native species, and encouraged by bee groups and forums, encouraging people to provide appropriate nesting environments for our native bees, it is hope that seeing a native bee in your garden and bushland will be a common thing.

The European Honey Bee require water, especially in the height of summer, when temperatures are soaring. They require water not only for themselves but to take back to the hive. They use water to regulate the temperature of the hive, feed young bees, and dilute stored honey.

It is at these times that the bee may drown whilst trying to collect water, and a reason you often find bees floating around in swimming pools when no other water sources are available.

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Hymenoptera
  • Family: Apidae
  • Genus: Apis
  • Species: A. mellifera
  • Binomial name: Apis mellifera

Footnote & References

  1. Western honey bee, (last visited Nov. 16, 2021).
  2. Honey Bee, Australian Museum,
  3. Feral European Bees, Western Australian Museum,
  4. Introduced Species of Bees in Australia, Aussie Bee,