Published: 00:01, 21 April 2018
| Updated: 09:17, 23 April 2018
A beekeeper from Sellindge has said she's been left 'numb' after around 20 of her hives were destroyed by fire for the second time in a year.
Michaela Tulett's honeybees, who reside on a farm on Barrow Hill just outside of Ashford, were first targeted in June 2017 in what was believed to be an arson attack, but the culprits were never found.
Now the owner of Api-Bees has shared the shocking photos of Tuesday's (April 17) blaze aftermath, in a bid to find out what happened this time.
She said: "The first time I was in complete shock and angry.
"We didn't have any reason for someone to do that to us.
"But this time I was numb... They are live animals.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service said one fire engine attended the scene at a field in Barrow Hill, Sellindge just before 10pm on Tuesday.
Crews left the scene at 10.20pm.
Ms Tulett works with different farmers where the bees are kept on their land.
She continued: "We try to keep the hives away from roads. They tend to be on farms. You can't see the hives from the road.
"It's a senseless act of violence."
There are only around five hives left after the fire, in which an accelerant is believed to have been used to speed the development of the inferno.
She continued: "We're just trying to carry on... I just can't understand it.
"But without evidence, we just don't know."
Ms Tulett is now making arrangements to save the remaining animals: "I've had one person offer me land.
"We still have a few hives on there but we don't want our bees to keep being burnt."
"It's a senseless act of violence." - Michaela Tulett, owner of Api-Bees in Sellindge
A Kent Police spokesman said: "Police are investigating a report of arson in Sellindge.
"Between midnight and 10pm on 17 April a fire was reported in a field near Barrow Hill.
"More than 20 bee hives were reportedly destroyed during the fire.
"Anyone with information regarding the fire is asked to contact Kent Police on 01843 222289 quoting ZY/20298/18.
"Alternatively, contact Kent Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111."
A spokesman for the Kent Wildlife Trust said: “This is an unforgiveable attack on beehives and must be heartbreaking for these dedicated beekeepers.
"Many species of bee have been in decline for some time and already face challenges such as disease, most recently Varroa mite, habitat loss, climate change and pesticides, in particular neonicotinoids.
"These amazing pollinators are vital to the health of our crops and we must do all we can to help increase their numbers.”
Navin Nauth-Misir, Chairman of Ashford Beekeepers, said: "The loss of 20 beehives and the hundreds of thousands of bees within will be a significant blow to the beekeeper.
"On the whole bees are kept on a small scale in the UK with most beekeepers having a few hives.
"Small-scale commercial beekeepers may operate 30 plus hives and to such an operation the loss of 20 hives will be a significant blow.
"Honeybees are an essential part of the pollination process and are a very important contributor to food production... 85% of food crops rely on pollinators such as the honeybee and a conservative estimate of their contribution to UK agriculture is in the region of £200 million per annum.
"Crops such as oil seed rape, top fruits, soft fruits and salad crops rely on pollinating insects. Sunflowers and legumes are far more productive when pollinated by bees.
"Honeybees in the UK are subject to a number of pressures reducing their numbers including the effects of neonicotinoid insecticides and pests such as the Asian hornet which may arrive from the continent, so loss of beehives as a result of an incident like this is extremely unfortunate."
According to the Kent Beekeeper's Association website, a worker honeybee in summer lives only six to eight weeks from the time they hatch as an adult bee.
Before that, it takes just three weeks to develop from an egg.
A hive can contain up to 70,000 bees in midsummer.
In the UK there are approximately 44,000 beekeepers looking after around 240,000 hives, which produce 6000 tones of honey a year.
Each hive is worth around £400 to the agricultural economy.