COLUMBIA, Mo. - Asian lady beetles, or ladybugs, may seem like a nuisance as they seek warmth in your home, but they can be helpful as predators on other insects.

"They are beneficial because both the immature larval and adult stages feed on aphids, mealy bugs, scales and other soft-bodied insects," said Mary Kroening, University of Missouri horticulturist.

Adults can live up to three years. As winter approaches, the adults seek a protected place to hibernate.

In their native habitat, the insects overwinter in cliffs, so they seek out vertical surfaces such as the walls of light-colored homes that have a south or southwest exposure.

They gather in undisturbed areas such as attics and spaces within walls until March and April, when they move outside in search of food.

"Many homeowners get irritated due to the large numbers that can be present in their homes," Kroening said. However, Asian lady beetles do not feed on wood, clothing or human food and they do not reproduce indoors during the winter.

You can use a vacuum cleaner or dustpan to collect the beetles. If you do vacuum, change the bag soon afterward. Left in the bag, the beetles die and leave a permanent odor in the vacuum bag. Emptying the bag outdoors allows the insects to live and continue their role as predators.