IT was the day a Hampshire town was invaded – by a massive swarm of 20,000 bees.

Stunned onlookers described how the air turned black over parts of Romsey when the honeybees flew around residential areas on the lookout for a new home.

Even the police were called as the giant swarm moved south where some settled on homes and the corner of a garage in Anderson Road.

Resident Ian Little, of Footner Close, first spotted them as he drove into his road.

He said: “The air was literally black and it wasn't until I came to a stop that I realised what it was.”

Shocked Mr Little got out of the car and heard an “intense buzz and the slamming of windows”.

Volunteer beekeeper Peter Grimes was called out to deal with the bees, estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000 in number.

He said they could have come from a hollow tree in woodland, outbuildings or someone’s chimney.

Mr Grimes, a member of the Romsey and District Beekeepers Association, was contacted by police to remove them and he used a protective veil over his face and gloves to move many into a temporary swarm box on the roof. He was watched at a distance by local residents.

Mr Grimes explained that once the queen bee enters a temporary hive, the bees release a pheromone signalling the swarm to follow.

When Mr Grimes returned later, they were all inside and he rehomed them in woodland in Exbury.

Mr Grimes said the bees would have been focused on finding a home and because they were largely female and had no young to defend they would not have been aggressive and dangerous to the public.

He said: “People might have been a bit frightened by the swarm moving around initially because there are lots of insects in the air,” he added.

“But if you stand still the bees would be quite happy to swarm around you and not interfere with you.”

Such swarms occur naturally and are triggered by the bee colony running out of space or a lack of foraging.

The Romsey and District Beekeepers Association deals with around two or three incidents a week in Test Valley during the swarming season between April and August.