A huge nest of Asian hornets as big as a basketball has been found at the back of a garden in Essex.
Inspectors from the Animal and Plant Health Agency found the nest 20 feet up a sycamore tree in the town of Rayleigh.
The British Beekeepers Association said the nest was destroyed and taken away for examination by government scientists.
The discovery came after beekeepers in Rayleigh were warned to be vigilant after three Asian hornets were spotted in the town.
Home owner David Holborn said he was shocked when inspectors knocked at his door and found the nest in the garden.
Speaking on BBC Essex, Mr Holborn said: “It’s quite scary to think it’s been in our garden for probably two months, but there’s been no harm to us.
“They’ve been keeping themselves to themselves.”
The man, who kept the nest in his garden for one extra night before it was destroyed, said he closed the window as a precaution
The nest, measuring 50cm long, was taken to the Fera Science centre in York, a laboratory managed by Capita and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Scientists will now examine it to find out where the insects came from and understand whether Asian hornet queens had already left the nest and flown elsewhere.
Asian hornets were inadvertently brought to France in 2004, most likely in a shipment of goods imported from east Asia, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Since arriving in France, the species has spread rapidly and is now moving into neighbouring countries including the UK.
Experts say it is vital to stop the spread of the insects as they could decimate the UK’s native bee population.
The RSPB urges everyone to be vigilant for Asian hornets and to report any suspected sightings to the relevant authorities.