How Cold To Kill Bed Bug Eggs

US EPA

Bed Bugs

Top Ten Tips to Prevent or Control Bed Bugs

Related Information

1. Make sure you really have bed bugs, not fleas, ticks or other insects.

You can compare your insect to the pictures on our Identifying bed bugs Web page or show it to your local extension agent.Exit (Extension agents are trained in pest control issues and know your local area.)

2. Don’t panic!

3. Think through your treatment options — Don’’t immediately reach for the spray can.

Be comprehensive in your approach. Try other things first. Integrated pest management (IPM) techniques may reduce the number of bed bugs and limit your contact with pesticides. If pesticides are needed, always follow label directions or hire a professional. There is help available to learn about treatment options. (4 pp, 480 K, About PDF)

4. Reduce the number of hiding places — Clean up the clutter.

A cluttered home provides more places for bed bugs to hide and makes locating and treating them harder. If bed bugs are in your mattress, using special bed bug covers (encasements) on your mattress and box springs makes it harder for bed bugs to get to you while you sleep. Leave the encasements on for a year. Be sure to buy a product that has been tested for bed bugs and is strong enough to last for the full year without tearing.

5. Regularly wash and heat-dry your bed sheets, blankets, bedspreads and any clothing that touches the floor.

This reduces the number of bed bugs. Bed bugs and their eggs can hide in laundry containers/hampers Remember to clean them when you do the laundry.

6. Do-it-yourself freezing may not be a reliable method for bed bug control.

While freezing can kill bed bugs, temperatures must remain very low for a long time. Home freezers may not be cold enough to kill bed bugs; always use a thermometer to accurately check the temperature. Putting things outside in freezing temperatures could kill bed bugs, but there are many factors that can affect the success of this method.

7. Kill bed bugs with heat, but be very careful.

Raising the indoor temperature with the thermostat or space heaters won’t do the job. Special equipment and very high temperatures are necessary for successful heat treatment. Black plastic bags in the sun might work to kill bed bugs in luggage or small items, if the contents become hot enough. Bed bugs die when their body temperatures reaches 45°C (113°F). To kill bed bugs with heat, the room or container must be even hotter to ensure sustained heat reaches the bugs no matter where they are hiding

8. Don’’t pass your bed bugs on to others.

Bed bugs are good hitchhikers. If you throw out a mattress or furniture that has bed bugs in it, you should slash or in some way destroy it so that no one else takes it and gets bed bugs.

9. Reduce the number of bed bugs to reduce bites.

Thorough vacuuming can get rid of some of your bed bugs. Carefully vacuum rugs, floors, upholstered furniture, bed frames, under beds, around bed legs, and all cracks and crevices around the room. Change the bag after each use so the bed bugs can’t escape. Place the used bag in a tightly sealed plastic bag and in an outside garbage bin.

10. Turn to the professionals, if needed.

Hiring an experienced, responsible pest control professional can increase your chance of success in getting rid of bed bugs. If you hire an expert, be sure it’s a company with a good reputation and request that it use an IPM approach. Contact your state pesticide agency for guidance about hiring professional pest control companies. Also, EPA’s Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety provides information about IPM approaches, how to choose a pest control company, safe handling of pesticides, and emergency information.

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To the Cold, Bed Bugs Say ‘Bite Me’

By Tanya Lewis 09 December 2013

Controlling bed bug infestations by freezing the pests may not be as effective as once thought, a new study suggests.

Researchers found the blood-sucking pests have a high cold tolerance, but they will eventually succumb to the cold after several days of exposure. To survive in cold environments, the bugs use "freeze-intolerant" strategies, such as lowering the freezing point of their bodily fluids.

After decades of absence, bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, infiltrating hotels, schools, homes and offices. The pesky insects feed on mammals and birds, usually at night, by injecting a sharp proboscis into the victim’s skin, leaving red, itchy bites. [Bed Bugs: The Life of a Mini-Monster (Infographic)]

In the study, researchers measured the supercooling point (the temperature below the normal freezing point at which supercooled liquids become solid) and lower lethal temperature (the body temperature below which an organism cannot survive) for bed bugs of all life stages, from egg through several nymph forms to adult. The team also studied the bugs’ ability to feed after being exposed to sublethal temperatures.

A minimum exposure of 80 hours at 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 16 degrees Celsius) was needed to kill 100 percent of the bed bugs, the researchers found. They observed some bugs surviving short-term exposures to temperatures as low as minus 13 F (minus 25 C).

However, temperatures below 3.2 F (minus 16 C) could destroy all life stages of the insect after 3.5 days, and temperatures below minus 4 F (minus 20 C) destroy them in just 48 hours, the team reported.

The researchers recommend placing bed bug-infested items in the freezer in plastic bags for two to four days, depending on the freezer’s temperature.

The findings, as well as practical tips for managing infested items, were detailed Dec. 8 in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

Bed bugs don’t carry diseases, but they carry a social stigma and are tough to eradicate. An old European folk remedy involves scattering kidney bean leaves on the floor of a house at night to trap the bugs, which are then swept up and burned in the morning. The technique was documented scientifically in the 1940s. Recently, scientists created synthetic leaf traps that work similarly to the leaves.

Bed bugs reproduce by traumatic insemination: The male punctures the female’s abdomen and injects sperm into the wound. Females can lay more than 200 eggs in a lifetime. The insects hatch and go through five immature "nymph" stages, molting (shedding their skin) between each stage, before reaching their adult form.

After a meal, the pesky bug can grow up to 50 percent of its initial length and 200 percent of its weight.

What Temperature Kills Bed Bugs?

Can Heat or Cold Kill Bed Bugs?

While bed bugs are sensitive to changes in temperature, there are plenty of myths about what temperature kills bed bugs.

The pests cannot be eliminated simply by turning off heaters in winter or sitting infested items outdoors on a sunny summer day. In fact, only extreme temperatures beyond what can be achieved naturally will get rid of them.

Temperature-Related Bed Bug Control

Using freezing cold temperatures to kill bed bugs is one option. Put an infested object, such as bedding or pillows, in a sealed plastic bag, then put it in a freezer at zero degrees Fahrenheit for about four days.

Temperature That Kills Bed Bugs

A similar process can be used with heat. Adult bed bugs die at 119 degrees Fahrenheit, and their heat-resistant eggs require temperatures upwards of 125 degrees. Some infested objects can be safely baked in the oven at these temperatures for three to five hours to get rid of the pests.

Safety should always be considered in deciding whether to treat in this manner.

Frozen carbon dioxide sprays and heat distribution systems exist but require special equipment and expert monitoring.

The Whole-Home Bed Bug Solution

Homeowners can use extreme temperature to kill bed bugs in a limited sense, but DIY heat or cold treatments aren’t a practical solution for house-wide infestations. In addition to letting bed bugs in floorboard cracks and walls escape, this control method won’t work for infested items that aren’t safe in extreme conditions or too big to fit in the freezer or oven.

The pest specialists at Orkin have a wide variety of tools and knowledge at their disposal and are able to assess the situation to find the best bed bug solution for your home.

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.

Will Freezing Temperatures During the Winter Kill Bed Bugs?

Many of our customers are considering leaving their infested belongings out in the cold weather with the intent of killing the bed bugs with the freezing temperature.

We do not recommend this for a couple of reasons:

First, bed bugs are only effectively wiped out at temperatures at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit; when bed bugs encounter temperatures of even a few degrees over 0, they can enter a hibernation that increases their chance of survival. Most states don’t normally even reach 0 degrees, and it’s unlikely that the items themselves will be cooled that low, due to the insulation provided by their construction.

To thoroughly wipe out a group of bugs, especially nymphs and eggs, you’ll need to maintain a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit or less for at least 80 hours. Since even the coldest climates will rise above that during the day, leaving items outside simply won’t work. There’s too much fluctuation in outdoor weather.

While you could theoretically kill bed bugs by putting items in your freezer, it would be a bit impractical. You would need to ensure that your freezer is staying at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and you would need to keep the items in there for at least 80 hours.

A better alternative would be to use a portable bed bug heater, such as the ZappBug Oven or PackTite Portable, which can safely and effectively kill bed bugs in just a few hours.

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