Swarms of insects that look similar to ladybugs are taking over some neighbourhoods in Toronto and the rest of Southern Ontario.

Large clusters of the insects, which are believed to be Asian Ladybird beetles, have been spotted in areas including Leslieville, the Danforth and High Park. They have also been seen as far away as London and the Niagara Peninsula.

The insects can by yellow, orange or red with black spots and a marking that looks like an “M” between their head and their wings.

The insects were introduced to the area to control soybean aphids about 30 years ago and are now the area’s most common ladybug, says entomologist Antonia Guidotti of the Royal Ontario Museum.

She says the ladybirds experienced a population boom in 2001 after Southern Ontario was hit by an aphid infestation. Ladybirds also feed on fruit and other vegetation, and have been known to bite people if they have no other food sources.

They often become more visible in the fall as they search for a warm place to hibernate, says Giudotti.

She suggests using a vacuum to remove them if they become a problem, saying they are most likely trying to enter homes, garages and other sheltered places.