How Cold Can Bed Bugs Survive

Can Bed Bugs Live In The Cold?

Bed Bugs and Temperature

With the ability to adapt to cooler temperatures, bed bugs can thrive in a number of conditions. The hitchhiking pests are not choosy when it comes to where they hide or who they feed on. As long as blood meals are available, a bed bug will persist.

Can Bed Bugs Live in the Cold?

Ancestors of the human bed bug lived in caves, feeding on the blood of bats. This adapted the insects to cooler temperatures and also extended their life span. Therefore, it is not uncommon to find them infesting homes even in the middle of winter.

Freezing Bed Bugs

While bed bugs can live in cold habitats in nature, freezing infested items at extreme temperatures is sometimes used as a control method. Several tips can make this technique more successful:

  • Always use a freezer when removing bed bugs from homes. Do not rely on outside weather conditions, as they are subject to change.
  • Most home items can be frozen safely, but refrain from freezing electronics, antiques, and valuables.
  • Items must be left inside a freezer set to zero degrees Fahrenheit or lower for at least four days.

Removing Bed Bug Infestations

Bed bugs can live in the cold to a certain extent, but they’re no match for a standard kitchen freezer. Unfortunately, this method isn’t always ideal. Not only is it impractical for large or fragile objects, but many people don’t want the hassle of storing their belongings in the freezer for days at a time.

In addition, without an entire home treatment, any items frozen to remove the pests may simply become re-infested. Temperature-related control can help in the fight against bed bugs, but the professionals at Orkin have the experience and expertise to ensure effective removal.

Bed bugs can survive freezing temperatures, but cold can still kill them

Exposing bed bug-infested clothing or other small items to freezing temperatures may be a viable control option for people at risk of bed bug infestations. However, a new study has found that bed bugs may be less susceptible to freezing temperatures than previously reported.

In an article in theJournal of Economic Entomologycalled "Cold Tolerance of Bed Bugs and Practical Recommendations for Control," the authors describe how exposing bed bugs to freezing temperatures affects them, and they provide practical recommendations for management of potentially infested items.

Bed bugs, like many other insects, use a "freeze-intolerant" strategy against the cold, meaning they attempt to protect themselves from freeze injury by lowering the freezing point of their body fluids. For this study, the researchers evaluated the supercooling point (SCP) and the lower lethal temperature (LLT) for all life stages of bed bugs, as well as their potential to feed after exposure to sublethal temperatures.

The authors found that in order to achieve 100% mortality, a minimum exposure time of 80 hours at minus 16 degrees Celsius is required for all life stages. Temperatures below minus 15 degrees Celsius are sufficient to control all life stages of bed bugs after 3.5 days, while temperatures below minus 20 degrees Celsius require only 48 hours. They also observed bed bug eggs surviving in short-term exposures to temperatures as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius.

Homeowners can place bed bug-infested items in a freezer to destroy them. However, the authors recommend that the items be placed in plastic bags and that they remain in the freezer for 2-4 days, depending on the freezer’s temperature.

Just How Cold Does It Have to Be to Kill Bed Bugs?

Most people have heard about the freezing treatment to kill bed bugs. Naturally, a question foremost on their mind is:just how cold should it be to kill bed bugs? If you are planning to use such freezing treatment to get rid of bedbugs, then read on for important information.

Latest research on bedbug freeze treatment

Recent studies have shown that bedbugs are no longer susceptible to cold treatment. The freezing method is simply not as effective as it once was in killing these critters. The same research has proven that the blood sucking parasites have become immune and developed a high tolerance to cold. Also the experiment showed that bedbugs eventually succumb to extreme cold, it takes several days to see results. Bedbugs are actually known to have developed high cold-tolerance by lowering their bodily fluid-freezing points. This freeze intolerant strategy helps them survive in extreme cold conditions.

The bed bug or Cimex Lectularius had disappeared for many decades but has made a comeback recently. Bedbugs are now known to infiltrate student hostels, hotels and motels, cinema halls, public transport systems, airlines, buses and even schools, assisted living facilities and hospitals. Many news reports have stated that several famous cinema halls in major cities like New York etc have actually been shut down thanks to bedbugs. Bedbugs feed on human and animal blood. They insert sharp proboscis in the mammal’s skin to suck the blood and this leaves red welts and itchy bumps on the victim’s bodies.

Bedbugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of.

People often use bedbug bombs, foggers, sprays and powders only to have the bugs back within a few days of this treatment. In the past, freezing treatment was known to have worked well but the new study published in theJournal of Economic Entomologyhas proven otherwise.

This aforementioned study was conducted in theUniversity of Minnesotawhere researchers froze the bedbugs in varying life stages. They also tested the effect of cold on fed and unfed bedbugs. They exposed the adult, eggs, nymphs and larvae of bedbugs to extreme cold temperatures of -5 deg Celsius for varying lengths of time. They further reduced the temperature to -16 deg Celsius and they found that the adult bugs survived at this temperature as well. The eggs of the bugs survived in short term exposure to even lower temperatures of -25 degrees C. The study ultimately proved that the adult bedbugscould be killed by cold only through exposure to temperatures of -16 degC or lower for a period ofatleast 80 hours.

This is the main reason why many museums and food facilities use standard practices of freezing possibly infested items to cold temperatures before displaying them.This safe method can also be used by homeowners dealing with bedbugs provided they have large freezers that can accommodate all infested items.

How to use cold treatment to effectively kill bed bugs? Just how cold should it be to ensure killing all bedbugs?

If you suspect any items of being infested, make sure you place them in a sturdy Ziploc®/freezer bags. This will ensure that the bugs do not die off elsewhere in the freezer. Also, bagging delicate items before freezing them will ensure that they do not get damaged thanks to changes in condensation or moisture. Make sure that you place all infested items in freezers having temperatures of at least -17.8 deg C for a period of 4 days.If the freezer is at a temperature of minus 20 deg C, then you can reducethe period to 48 hours. That is how long it takes to get rid of all bed bugs.

The aforementioned study also studied the effect of such supercooling on the feeding habits of bed bugs. The study then concluded that 100% of the bugs could be killed with minimum exposure of 80 hours at -16deg Celsius.

Bedbugs do not carry any diseases but simply having an infestation is socially unacceptable. So while the cold temperature can be effective in killing them one has to make the following considerations:

  • Items that are not freezable need to be exposed to other means of supercooling. If you live in very cold place, you might consider putting infested furniture outdoors for a few days, where possible.
  • Be sure to check if the air temperature where the bugs are located is indeed the same as the external temperature of at least -16 deg C.
  • If the sun is shining, the little warmth can be enough to raise the temperature of the furniture in question and the freezing treatment may be rendered ineffective.

Cold or freezing treatment is usually enough for treating bedbug infested fabrics but for other items it is best to use other techniques of killing bed bugs described on this website.

Can You Freeze Bed Bugs?

“Don’t let the bed bugs bite” is a familiar bedtime phrase, usually meant in a playful context. Unfortunately, bed bugs are on the rise in the United States. These irritating pests are surprisingly hardy and can survive in extreme conditions, including freezing temperatures.

Can bed bugs live in the cold?

Yes. Bed bugs have a high cold tolerance. They can remain active at temperatures as low as 46 degrees Fahrenheit, and they can survive at even lower temperatures. They’re able to lower the freezing point of their bodily fluids, allowing them to live in the cold for a few days. Research published in the Journal of Economic Entomology found that some bed bugs survived short exposure to temperatures as low as -13 degrees F. However, if they’re exposed to extreme cold (below 0° F) for several days, they will die.

Can bed bugs freeze?

Yes. The Journal of Economic Entomology study found that bed bugs freeze when exposed to 3.2 degrees F for 80 hours. It’s a function of time and temperature. The lower the temperature, the shorter period of time it takes to freeze a bed bug. For example, at 32 degrees F, it could take weeks. At 30 below 0 F it could be minutes. Terminix’s RapidFreeze treatment instantly takes the bed bugs to minus 60 to 80 degrees below 0 F and kills them instantly.

Will freezing bed bugs get rid of them?

Yes. Freezing bed bugs can kill them. However, you have to use a very low temperature (0 degrees F or colder) for at least four days for cold treatment to work. Your freezer may not even be cold enough. The center of the item, such as bedding, being frozen must reach 0 degrees F. Use a remote thermometer to measure the temperature of the items you’re freezing. Begin counting the four days as soon as the center reaches 0 degrees F.

Is freezing bed bugs the best way to get rid of them?

Yes and no. You can try to freeze bed bugs, but the best way to control bed bugs is through Integrated Pest Management—a combination of prevention, monitoring and treatment. Some bed bugs have become resistant to common pesticides, meaning many bed bug sprays are no longer effective. Heat and steam, using professional equipment, can also be used to treat bed bugs.

Many professionals do freeze bed bugs effectively, but in a much different way. They use specialized equipment that generates tiny particles of "snow" from carbon dioxide, the same material that puts the "fizz" in soft drinks. For bed bugs, these tiny ice crystals are deadly. The "snow" leaves no harmful residue on clothing, bedding or other sensitive items, so thorough treatment can be performed.

Contact Terminix today and ask about our specialized cold treatment. Our RapidFreeze method puts bed bugs on ice.

Can bed bugs live in cold weather?

The temperatures of winter can drop to bone-chilling levels. Surely enduring the brutal cold would pay off in reduced bed bug populations, right?Not necessarily.These persistent pests are more resilient than you may think. They have found ways to adapt to unfavorable conditions, making them even more difficult to get rid of. Luckily, Ehrlich Pest Specialists are ready to fight them off in any season. We are taking a deeper look into what winter means for bed bug infestations.

Do bed bugs like heat or cold?

Because bed bugs feed on the blood of humans and animals, they like to be, as a beloved mermaid once said, “where the people are.” Bed bugs prefer temperatures around 70-80℉, and it is in this temperature range that they are able to most successfully (and quickly) reproduce and progress through growth stages. Both extreme heat and cold can be used to kill bed bugs, but the temperatures must be intense to have an effect.

Does cold kill bed bugs?

Cold temperatures can kill bed bugs if they are severe and prolonged enough. If bed bugs are exposed to temperatures at or below 0℉ for a period of approximately four days, they will die. According to an article from the Yale University School of Public Health , female adult bed bugs are even hardier than the rest. Female adult bed bugs have a supercooling point, the temperature at which the bug will freeze, of around -20℃ or -4℉. Though bed bugs can survive at low temperatures, the article also states that development may be halted at temperatures below 50℉, meaning bed bugs may remain in nymphal stages until the environment is warmer.

Can bed bugs survive the cold?

Bed bugs spend their time indoors if they can help it. Therefore, outdoor temperatures may not always have a significant impact on them. If they are exposed to cold temperatures, they will go dormant to conserve energy.

Even extreme cold will likely not kill bed bugs right away. Home freezers often do not reach temperatures severe enough to kill bed bugs quickly, so freezing time will probably need to be extended. Additionally, internal temperatures of these freezers may fluctuate, especially with frequent opening and closing. Deep-freezing at temperatures below -30℃ or -22℉ for three to four days is most effective in killing bed bugs when it comes to cold treatments.

Even if bed bugs do survive cold temperatures, studies have found egg production and hatching success to be reduced. That being the case, cold temperatures are not completely useless when it comes to eradicating a bed bug population.

Do bed bugs hibernate in the winter?

Bed bugs do not hide away in a cave for months like bears do, but they can enter a state of semi-hibernation, calleddiapause.Diapause is an interval of energy conservation and slowed metabolism that enables bed bugs to go dormant, surviving without feeding for months. Bed bugs may enter diapause at temperatures below 61℉ in an effort to endure suboptimal conditions until said conditions improve. Even in this state, extreme cold can kill bed bugs if temperatures dip low enough.

Bed bugs like to be warm and cozy too!

Winter calls for flannel sheets and cuddling up by the fire. Unfortunately, bed bugs like the warmth too. All of the extra blankets and thick sheets only give bed bugs more places to hide. Not to mention, when it’s so cold outside, humans generally prefer to stay inside. With their human hosts posting up in a climate-controlled environment for the winter months, bed bugs have extended access to a delicious blood meal.

Additionally, studies have shown that bed bugs have a preference for certain colors over others, particularly red and black. As two of the primary colors of flannel, red and black show up quite a bit in the colder seasons. Whether it is clothing, blankets, or home decor, red and black often align with winter trends.

Bed bugs don’t have an offseason. If you suspect that you have a bed bug problem, call Ehrlich right away. Our pest specialists are bed bug experts and they can get rid of your bed bug infestation for good.

Learn more about bed bugs in our Essential Guide to Bed Bugs !

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