TERRIFIED shoppers were forced to run for cover from a huge swarm of wasps in Bolton town centre.

The swarm was spotted near the traffic lights in Ashburner Street and Black Horse Street, between 12.30pm and 12.45pm on Monday.

Onlookers were shocked to see hundreds of the insects swarming in the middle of the road – but after less than half an hour they had disappeared.

Great Lever teenager Levi Ross had been shopping in Bolton when he noticed the swarm, which he said “took up half of the road”.

The 18-year-old said: “People were screaming and running for cover in the opposite direction and cars at the traffic lights were winding up their windows.

“There were millions of wasps and they were all moving in a swarm. It took up half the road."

Kelly Hursr spotted the swarm after she came out of the Hoot Credit Union in Ashburner Street.

She said: “There were hundreds, and people were running through them with their hoods up.

“Quite a few of the wasps split off and headed towards the job centre and a small group of girls ran away screaming.

“After about 20 minutes they were all completely gone, it was as if they had never even been there.”

Another onlooker, Phil Jackson, said he was “not too worried” – despite being in the thick of the swarm.

He added: "The seemed to come from the top of the Hoot offices. As I took a picture, one of them landed on my little finger.”

A member of staff at Hoot, who did not wish to be named, said: “At first we thought there was a nest on our roof but it looked like they came over the roof from somewhere else after being disturbed.”

Bolton School Boys Division physics teacher Roger McMinn, who runs the school’s beekeeping club, said the insects could have been engaged in a ‘food swarm’.

He said: “Wasps do not usually swarm but they can go on a food swarm in their hundreds if they find a source of food.

“This is where a scout wasp finds a food source and then leads the other wasps to it.

“They were definitely not honey bees – a honey bee swarm would be in a tighter ball of 20,000 to 30,000 insects.

“But the large numbers of wasps could also have been caused if there was a nest nearby which was disturbed.

“This is the season for wasps and for honey bees. I would advise people to stay away from wasps.

“But a honey bee swarm is a natural part of the reproductive cycle and the bees are the least dangerous when they are in a swarm. While it looks terrifying, it is harmless.”

Did you see the swarm, or take pictures of it? Email The Bolton News on newsdesk@theboltonnews.co.uk