A warning has been issued after the invasive Asian hornet was sighted in Kent for the first time in almost four years.
The British Bee Keepers Association (BBKA) is asking people to stay vigilant after confirming the species has been spotted in the Folkestone area.
The invasive hornet originates from South East Asia and are known to both attack and eat honey bees.
This has left experts concerned as an invasion could damage "the whole nature" of bee hives in the area.
Qualified beekeeper, Sue Kittle, has spoken to KentOnline about the dangers of the species.
"This is an invasive species that can attack and eat our honey bees,"she said.
"It can change the whole nature of the bee hives here."
Ms Kittle has been a beekeeper for over 14 years and is urging people to stay alert.
"We need to track them down and find out if this sighting is the beginning of a nest," she added.
Ms Kittle is part of the Dover and District Beekeeping Association and believes the hornets could have come over from France.
"Last year was a fantastic year for hornets in France. It is possible they hibernated over the winter and have come across the Channel.
"It also could have been stowed away on a lorry, but we don’t know yet," she added.
This is the first sighting of an Asian hornet in the county since a sighting in Ashford back in 2019.
The insect is said to be slightly smaller than a European hornet and can be identified by their yellow legs and orange face.
Ms Kittle, 55, also spoke of the aggressive nature the Asian hornet can have towards humans.
"These hornets are very defensive of their hives and can do what is called a mass attack.
"You should not approach their nests," she said.
The venomous species, which is native to China, was first identified in the UK in 2016.
In 2022, there were two sightings in Essex and Suffolk.
The year before that, two were spotted in Berkshire and Hampshire.
The BBKA confirmed that this is the second reported sighting in the UK so far this year, with the first being in Northumberland.
A spokesperson said: "The British Beekeepers Association is asking everyone to look out for Asian hornets.
"Asian hornet team members in the Kent area have been notified of the positive identification of an Asian hornet in the Folkestone area.
"Vespa velutina is an alien species that could decimate our pollinators if it gets established in this country.
"Honey bees are a particular favourite of the Asian hornet but all pollinators are at risk from this invasive species.
"The public can help by downloading the Asian hornet watch app now as it has photos of Asian hornet and other insects which are commonly confused with the Asian hornet."