Abstract The Artificial Bee Colony (ABC) algorithm is inspired by the behavior of honey bees. The algorithm is one of the Swarm Intelligence algorithms explored in recent literature. ABC is an optimization technique, which is used in finding the best solution from all feasible solutions. However, ABC can sometimes be slow to converge. In order to improve the algorithm performance, we present a modified method for solution update of the onlooker bees in this paper. In our method, the best feasible solutions found so far are shared globally among the entire population. Thus, the new candidate solutions are more likely to be close to the current best solution. In other words, we bias the solution direction toward the best-so-far position. Moreover, in each iteration, we adjust the radius of the search for new candidates using a larger radius earlier in the search process and then reduce the radius as the process comes closer to converging. Finally, we use a more robust calculation to determine and compare the quality of alternative solutions. We empirically assess the performance of our proposed method on two sets of problems: numerical benchmark functions and image registration applications. The results demonstrate that the proposed method is able to produce higher quality solutions with faster convergence than either the original ABC or the current state-of-the-art ABC-based algorithm.