Vespa velutina
Vespa velutina, or Asian hornet, which may or may not come to the UK from FranceDanel Solabarrieta

Asian hornets are not going to kill us all if they make their way over from France, despite some fairly dire warnings of the exact opposite.

Asian hornets, for starters, are no more dangerous than our own home-grown variety. The six people who have been killed by Asian hornets all died from anaphylactic shock, and this death rate is since their arrival from China in 2004.

While dying from a sting is rare, there are about 20 deaths from anaphylactic shock in the UK every year.

Concerns over an invasion of Asian hornets are not new and their potential presence has long been known. Reports of their impeding invasion date back at least four years.

A message on the British Beekeepers Association said the species – Vespa velutina – is an invasive species that arrived in France, where it spread rapidly. The message says: "Although it is not yet present in the UK, it is considered likely to arrive soon.

"The places it is most likely to be found are in southern parts of England (it may be able to cross the channel from France) or goods among which it could be accidentally imported (such as soil with imported pot plants, cut flowers, fruit and timber). Active between April and November (peak August/September)."

It is also worth noting that the species is often confused with the Asian Giant hornet, which is dangerous. The species lives in East Asia and is the world's biggest hornet. It has an unbarbed sting so can sting repeatedly injecting a powerful complex venom that it uses to kill its prey. Every year they kill between 30 and 40 people in Japan.

killer asian hornet nest
An Asian hornet nest in France where the species has been since 2004Fredciel

However, this is not the insect potentially heading to Britain. The Asian hornet is slightly smaller than our native species and its sting is more serious than that of a bee because of their larger size.

A report by the Plymouth Herald a year ago also warned that killer Asian hornets were coming to the UK and an expert said there was little cause for concern.

Andrew Whitehouse, south west manager at Buglife, said: "The Asian hornet is a bit smaller than our native hornet and a lot darker, it is quite a different beast. They are in France, only across the Channel, and it is a flying insect so there is every chance it can come across.

"It is something to be concerned about because it has killed people in continental Europe, but it's not here yet."

A Defra spokesman also told the newspaper: "Asian hornets are smaller than our own native hornets and are no more dangerous. We are aware of the potential impacts they could have on honey bees and have plans in place to eradicate them if they are identified."

They are, however, dangerous to bees. They prey on them and can cause significant losses to bee colonies and other native species. Defra said it has plans in place to destroy any nests if their presence is confirmed.