Can bed bugs survive the winter?
During the winter months, many customers ask us if bed bugs can live through the winter. 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. Bed bugs will remain alive during the winter months because most of their feeding activities happen indoors in heated areas, therefore they will have no problem reproducing and causing a bigger infestation. You definitely shouldn’t count on the winter months to get rid of bed bugs.
Can You Freeze Bed Bugs Using the Cold Weather or the Freezer?
A study at the University of Minnesota found that bed bugs have survived short-term exposure to freezing temperatures of -25°C, but if left in cold temperatures for longer periods, the cold can be effective for killing bed bugs. In this case, your freezer can become a very useful tool during a bed bug infestation for items that fit inside your freezer.
A little side note: When we had bed bugs, we bed bug proofed our whole apartment and any item that could potentially have bed bugs was placed in the freezer. If you use your freezer to decontaminate potential bed bug infested items, here are the rules to follow for an effective extermination:
- Items should be put in plastic bags
- Place item in freezer at -18°C (average freezer temperature) for a minimum of 4 days
- Use a remote thermometer (if you do not have access to a remote thermometer, add another day to the treatment to be safe)
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 centre of the item has reached temperatures of -18°C or more. Only when the centre has reached -18°C or more do you start counting the 4 days. Bagging the contents in plastic bags prevents any bed bugs from escaping and contaminating other items and protects the contents against changes in condensation or damage caused by moisture.
So what can be frozen? Most dry household items, in fact. For the most part, you will want to freeze clothing that has been unprotected, books, shoes, pictures, toys, etc. What should not be frozen? Anything that has considerable value, such as historical artefacts, 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 absolutely 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 continuous -18°C weather. 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 more than 4 days.
What Can I Do Against Bed Bugs During the Winter?
As mentioned earlier, bed bugs can die in the cold when exposed to continuous cold periods, so as Canadians we have the “luxury” of having access to cold spells during the winter months, i.e. an entire week where we expect weather of -20°C or lower. In this case you could put items in plastic bags and leave them outside in a shaded area for the entire week. Although no one has tested this method, by using logic we could reduce our risk of bed bug reproduction and kill most using the cold.
Following this technique, we would highly recommend using bed bug detection devices such as the bed bug surge detector, which informs you whether the cold treatment has worked. The surge bed bug detector provides 90 days of continuous active bed bug detection and can be refilled for an additional 90 days.
For example, if you were to put your bed frame outside for a week during -20°C weather and bring it back in, you could use the bed bug surge detector to draw out any remaining bed bugs. You could even add a layer of protection and place bed bug interceptors underneath the legs of the bed to prevent any bed bugs still hiding inside your home from contaminating your mattress.
Another solution to kill bed bugs can be to use heat instead of cold. Heat kills 100% of bed bugs. The ZappBug Oven 2 is one of our most popular heaters, but we also have different models depending on your budget.
Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any other questions.