Intrusion detection is a hot topic in network security. This paper proposes an intrusion detection method based on improved artificial bee colony algorithm with elite-guided search equations (IABC elite) and Backprogation (BP) neural networks. The IABC elite algorithm is based on the depth first search framework and the elite-guided search equations, which enhance the exploitation ability of artificial bee colony algorithm and accelerate the convergence. The IABC elite algorithm is used to optimize the initial weight and threshold value of the BP neural networks, avoiding the BP neural networks falling into a local optimum during the training process and improving the training speed. In this paper, the BP neural networks optimized by IABC elite algorithm is applied to intrusion detection. The simulation on the NSL-KDD dataset shows that the intrusion detection system based on the IABC elite algorithm and the BP neural networks has good classification and high intrusion detection ability.