The giant Asian hornet, or Vespa mandarina, is the world's largest hornet and is native to tropical Eastern Asia. Intensively predatory, it is the top of the insect food chain, and hunts other species of hornets as well as bees.
It grows to 5cm long, and has a 6mm sting containing a venom with eight different chemicals, each with a specific purpose. These range from tissue degeneration and breathing difficulties, to making the sting more painful or attracting other hornets to swarm the victim.
Medically, the venom destroys red blood cells and can cause anaphylactic shock, renal failure and multiple organ failure.
Fatalities are normally caused by allergic reaction, often from multiple stings.
Britain is currently on "high alert" for the invasion of the Asian hornet, the Guardian reports.
The Asian hornet, Vespa velutina, is not the same as giant Asian hornet, the Vespa mandarina, that authorities in China are blaming for the deadly attacks.
Writing in The Guardian, Professor Stephen J Martin from the University of Salford said that the killer hornets could be a result of milder temperatures:
The reasons for this are numerous, but a prolonged period of warm weather in spring and autumn ensures an abundant food supply allowing colonies to grow to large sizes.
More than 99% of queens normally die over winter and spring, so small variations in this mortality rate can lead to massive differences in the numbers of nests each year.
So given the opportunity, a hornet population has a massive potential to expand rapidly, which has happened recently with the accidental introduction of the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) to France and Korea.
Vespa velutina was accidentally introduced to France in 2003, where it has been responsible for a handful of deaths, and it has since spread to Spain, Portugal and Belgium.
Currently Britain is on high alert for its inevitable arrival.
"High alert" means that authorities are keen for people to keep an eye out for the insects, as they could threaten our bees, not that a swarm is expected to land on our shores soon.
Firefighters in China have been working to find and destroy hornet's nests, as a deadly swarm of the insect claimed the lives of 42 people in the fter a deadly swarm of the insect killedas more than 40 people in the Shaanxi region.
The ferocity of the attacks have surprised local authorities and more than a thousand people are being treated in hospitals for their injuries.
Victims have been left with large, deep craters on their skin, and authorities say a further 37 people are in a critical condition in hospital.
Victims of a deadly swarm of hornets in China are being treated in hospital for their injuries.
42 people have died and 1640 are currently being treated in hospital across the Shaanxi province of China.