Winter is coming and many people have asked me if bed bugs live through the winter months? The answer to this question is a definitive yes! Bed bugs can and will survive through the winter months as long as they have a blood meal. Unlike some mammals that hibernate during the winter months, bed bugs will stay alive since most of its feeding activities happen indoors in heated areas, and therefore will have no problem reproducing causing a bigger infestation. But can you freeze bed bugs outside in the cold or in the freezer?
A study at the University of Minnesota found that bed bugs have survived short-term exposure to freezing temperatures of -25°C. However, that being said, they are not entirely resistant to extended periods of cold. In this case your freezer can become a very useful tool during a bed bug infestation for items that fit inside your freezer. When I had bed bugs and had bed bug proofed my whole apartment, every item that had fallen off a protected bookshelf or sock that fell on the ground was immediately picked up and placed in the freezer. If you use your freezer to decontaminate potential bed bug infested items, there are a few rules to follow.
- Items should be put in plastic bags.
- Place item in freezer at -18°C for a minimum of 3.5 days
- Use a remote thermometer
Following these three steps will ensure that any bed bug or bed bug eggs living in the contaminated item will be frozen to death. The remote thermometer ensures that the center of the item has reached temperatures of -18°C or more. Only when the center has reach -18°C or more do you start counting the 3.5 days. Bagging the contents in plastic bags prevents any bed bugs from escaping and contaminating any other items and protects the contents against changes in condensation or damage caused by moisture.
What can be frozen? Most dry household items can be frozen. For the most part, you will want to freeze clothing that has been in an unprotected, books, shoes, pictures, toys and etc… What should not be frozen? Anything that has considerable value such as historic artifacts, electronics with LCD panels, items containing liquids or any items that cannot be replaced.
Some people ask if they can leave items out in the cold during the winter months. If you want to be absolute certain that there are no more bed bugs in the item, the answer is no. Keeping items outside in the cold is not the best solution to getting rid of bed bugs by freezing since there are fluctuations in the weather throughout the day. Some parts of the day the sun heats up the surrounding area and the item will no longer be subject to -18°C. Therefore consistent and continuous freezing temperatures are essential to kill bed bugs. However, although not proven, keeping your items outside in the cold may deter bed bugs from staying in that item or may even kill if left outside in continuous -18°C weather for over three and a half days.
Suggestions? We always recommend LightsOut bed bug detectors. These are the most efficient products available to prevent bed bug bites at night and a great effort towards eradicating bed bugs in your home. It’s important to remember that the best way to get rid of bed bugs is by cutting off their food supplies and that means not letting them bite you! In such cases, bed bugs will want to migrate or eventually die. Keep the bed bugs from feeding at night with LightsOut!