Cellular Automata (CA) is one of the most common techniques used to simulate the urbanization process. CA-based urban models use transition rules to deliver spatial patterns of urban growth and urban dynamics over time. Determining the optimum transition rules of the CA is a critical step because of the heterogeneity and nonlinearities existing among urban growth driving forces. Recently, new CA models integrated with optimization methods based on swarm intelligence algorithms were proposed to overcome this drawback. The Artificial Bee Colony (ABC) algorithm is an advanced meta-heuristic swarm intelligence-based algorithm. Here, we propose a novel CA-based urban change model that uses the ABC algorithm to extract optimum transition rules. We applied the proposed ABC-CA model to simulate future urban growth in Urmia (Iran) with multi-temporal Landsat images from 1997, 2006 and 2015. Validation of the simulation results was made through statistical methods such as overall accuracy, the figure of merit and total operating characteristics (TOC). Additionally, we calibrated the CA model by ant colony optimization (ACO) to assess the performance of our proposed model versus similar swarm intelligence algorithm methods. We showed that the overall accuracy and the figure of merit of the ABC-CA model are 90.1% and 51.7%, which are 2.9% and 8.8% higher than those of the ACO-CA model, respectively. Moreover, the allocation disagreement of the simulation results for the ABC-CA model is 9.9%, which is 2.9% less than that of the ACO-CA model. Finally, the ABC-CA model also outperforms the ACO-CA model with fewer quantity and allocation errors and slightly more hits.