Swarms of killer hornets, which have claimed the lives of six people in France, are on the brink of invading Kent.
The deadly Asian hornet arrived in the continent in 2004 and is spreading towards the south coast.
They can grow up to 3cm and have a highly poisonous sting that can cause death through kidney failure or anaphylactic shock.
The government’s Environmental Audit Commission’s recently released report into invasive species said: “Some invasive species have direct human health effects… the Asian hornet, which might soon arrive here, has killed six people in France.”
Committee chairman Joan Walley MP said: “Identifying potentially invasive species prior to arrival is critical as once organisms like the frightening Asian hornet are here, they can be very difficult to control.”
Kent is at risk as the insects are likely to arrive into the country though shipments, according to the Non-native Species Secretariat (NNSS), which has released a species alert protocol.
The NNSS warned: “The possibility that it could fly across the Channel has not been ruled out.”
It said the “invasive and predatory” killer Asian hornets are “climatically suited” for Britain and might already be here.
Gregg Hitchcock, of the Kent Wildlife Trust, said that the potential impact of the hornets’ was ‘concerning’ and once they become embedded in the ecosystem they could become ‘almost impossible to control’.