How Long Bed Bugs Survive Cold

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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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 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.

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.

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