Can Bed Bugs Live in Cars | Infestation Risks and Prevention Tips

Written by Thomas Matthews

It’s quite funny to think of bed bugs in a car considering that the name carried by these seemingly disturbing creatures implies that they usually find a home in our beds.

Do we have beds in our cars? Well, probably not but our car seats and mats could potentially attract bed bugs. They could be a home to these bloodsucking creatures.

Can bed bugs live in cars? Bed bugs can live in cars. The interior of our cars can provide a suitable environment for bed bugs to breed as they always have a food source nearby. With the car roof sheltering their heads from harsh weather conditions, and the seats offering suitable housing, it would be strange to think that bed bugs would avoid infesting cars.

Under ambient temperature conditions and little moisture, these bugs can live in the corners, seams, and stitches of our upholstery.

Myths say bed bugs only live in beds but we see bed bugs on wooden furniture, leather seats, and pillows made from polyester or feathers.

Bed bugs really do not care if they have a nice time on a comfortable bed, they just want a juicy meal from any creature they make contact with. Be it a bed or a couch, a pillow or a desk, a steering wheel or a seat belt, all they need is blood for them to be satisfied.

Why Have Bed Bugs Infested Your Car?

Why bed bugs infested your car is an ambiguous question to ask but some of the reasons are:

  • Irregular cleaning of your car especially the cracks and crevices.
  • Poor maintenance of the seat casings.
  • Convenient temperature – lack of extreme cold or heat.
  • You frequently sleep or rest in your car.

How Did Bed Bugs Get in Your Car?

Bed bugs lack wings like some other bugs and will not fly into your car from the window or doors. They travel like hitchhikers on clothes and objects to a destination they feel comfortable enough to lead a good life.

  • If bed bugs exist in the smallest meaningful population in your home it is very possible you carried one of these bloodsuckers to your car.
  • You could harbor bed bugs sourced from someone you gave a lift. He/she just deposited a couple of bugs safely in your car’s custody.

Can Bed Bugs Live on Leather Car Seats?

Can Bed Bugs Live on Leather Car Seats

Bed bugs will live anywhere where human beings spend a lot of time. If your car is a place where you happen to spend a considerable amount of time in, then, do not be surprised if you find a nest in the crevices of your car leather seats.

Leather seats have a smooth finish and thus are not easy to climb but this doesn’t stop bed bugs from traversing on or making a home in them. Most leather furniture has upholstery beneath which makes it an ideal hiding/ living place for bed bugs.

Now on to the reasons why bed bugs may have found a home in your leather car seats:

  • Bed bugs do not feed constantly, in fact, the older the bug, the longer it can go without having fed. So all it needs is a 5-minute snack once every few weeks as you drive then it crawls back to its cushy leather home to digest its meal.
  • Despite their habits of feeding at night, bed bugs also feed during the day when they are really hungry and so you do not need to be sleeping in your car for bed bugs to make a nest in it.

Bottom line is, while the leather seats of your car are not the ideal hiding place but it is quite possible to find a bed bug nest in them. Bed bugs are resilient and thus if you suspect that they have made a nest in your leather car seats, take treatment precautions immediately.

Can Bed Bugs Survive in a Cold Car? (Winter Conditions)

Can Bed Bugs Survive in a Cold Car

Bed bugs are sensitive to extremes of temperatures. Although they do not fancy the scorching heat of summer or the shivering colds of winter, these creatures are survivors and may still lay low till these trying times pass. In other words, they can live in a cold car but the cold conditions will dictate difficulties with their inbreeding.

Can Bed Bugs Damage Car Electronics?

This can be a little tough to explain. Bed bugs love the warmth of their host when they feed. This love does not, however, extend to tolerating the heat given off by car electronics.

In severe bed bug infestations, there may be little spaces in electronics such as near the buttons of stereos, and bed bugs may decide to have a home there in large numbers. This clogging seldom usually won’t cause damage but the possibilities can not be completely ruled out.

It is also pertinent to note that bed bugs like other living things produce biological wastes. After feeding, these bugs digest the blood of the seemingly unfortunate host and excrete dark liquids that are normally seen as dark spots on wooden furniture, boxes, bed sheets or in this case, infested car electronics.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in a Car: A Complete Guide

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in a Car

These bugs could stay in cars for a while without being noticed due to their small numbers. Bed bugs are not insects that are stationary at every stage of their life cycle. They may stay at a spot during one particular stage of their lifecycle (the egg stage) due to their incapacitated or rather underdeveloped abilities to move.

At the adult stage, they are very motile and travel from one corner to another; usually in the dark. They do not travel on their own. They only travel far with the help of humans.

Bed bugs from a mattress can attach to your pants and then get into your car. These bugs could attach (in your books) to the driver’s seat after you’ve done some reading in a bed bug infested library. In severe cases when the infestation becomes noticed, car owners and drivers become uncomfortable and look for different ways to get rid of bed bugs.

Pesticides will primarily kill bed bugs as well as other disturbing bugs depending on the pesticide’s spectrum. Pesticides such as pyrethroids, dichlorvos, and malathion have been historically proven effective in getting rid of bed bugs. These pesticides, however, have reduced effectiveness due to the adaptation and resultant resistance offered by bed bugs.

Pesticides have also negative health impacts on humans in some high concentrations. Non-pesticide approaches will stem from preventive and mechanical methods to control bed bugs. Mechanical methods such as vacuum cleaning could remove bed bugs from car seats, car mats, car casings, and the upholstery in our car interiors.

Methods employed in destroying bed bugs require an indebt understanding in order to prevent health, fire, and environmental hazards.

How to Tell If Your Car Is Infested with Bed Bugs?

How to Tell If Your Car Is Infested with Bedbugs

Inspecting a car for bed bugs is pretty easy. The only difference which makes a ‘car inspection’ more complicated is not enough spaciousness when compared to the bedroom.

A visual inspection is not the easiest but it is an effective way to tell if your car is infested with bed bugs. Black spots, blood stains or smears, and molted exoskeletons are visible to the human eye so if your car has bed bugs you should be able to spot them. The bed bug eggs are also easy to see most times because they are laid in clusters like an irregular and tensed string of beads.

Bed bug eggs are most times found in the rims or corners of objects in the car’s interior as well as the seams or deep stitches of the car seats. The young forms of bed bugs, however, are motile, small, and sometimes hard to see.

Look closely or use paper opaque but brightly colored tape to check areas like the rugs and seats by pressing the tape on these objects and pulling it back for a visual inspection.

Another important inspective measure is a detailed inspection of your skin. Look out for some itchy red welts after or during driving. These marks may not be primarily due to bed bugs so a visual inspection of your car interior is still somewhat needed in order to confirm a bed bug infestation.

Different Ways to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in a Car

Different Ways to Get Rid of Bedbugs in a Car

After a proper inspection of your car has shown that you have bed bugs you should probably try the easiest way out – the pesticide method. Despite the simple nature of this method, it won’t be effective with dirt/garbage in your car.

Dirt will interfere with the pesticide activity and may provide protection or a breeding ground for these bugs when you unlash the killing powers of the pesticide.

Your best first approach to getting rid of bed bugs will, therefore, be to clean the car thoroughly before administrating pesticides. Cleaning out all the debris from the floorboard of your car interior may require vacuum cleaners or just manual cleaning. This cleaning will also help get rid of these bugs from your car upholstery.

Apart from pesticides, heat treatment can be used to kill bed bugs, especially in objects that can be detached from the interior of your car.

The use of diatomaceous earth could also prove useful especially if you have children or pets. Diatomaceous earth is a natural rock talcum powder that kills bed bugs but is safe for humans and pets.

How to Remove Bed Bugs from a Car – Step-by-Step Instructions

Method 1 – Pesticide Control

Step 1 – Clean the car inside out thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris that may interfere with or slow down the activity of the pesticide.

Step 2 – Remove any chemical-sensitive object from the car. The pesticide may destroy these objects or spoil them.

Step 3 – Buy a bed bug spray. We have our list of best sprays that are very effective against bed bugs.

Step 4 – Spray the pesticides on the desired surfaces and inside the corners. Hold the spray at some distance from the surface to ensure you can cover a wider area.

Step 5 – Lock the car doors and the windows to prevent the pesticide from escaping into the external environment.

Method 2 – Mechanical Methods

Step 1 – Clean the car thoroughly to remove dirt and debris. Vacuum to remove any remaining bugs and eggs. Some vacuum cleaners are suitable for this kind of business.

You could purchase Dyson Cyclone V10 Motorhead Lightweight Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner which can help you clean the crevices in your car with ease.

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Step 2 – Dispose of the contents of the dirt recovered in the vacuum cleaning in a dustbin or even in an incinerator.

Step 3 – Encase the leather seats or cotton-containing objects in your car to reduce the possibility of another bed bug infestation.

Method 3 – Diatomaceous Earth

Step 1 – Wear a dust mask to protect your respiratory system from the diatomaceous earth.

Step 2 – Apply diatomaceous earth to the corners of your car interior, on the door, the spaces at the window, under the seats, on the mats, on any gaps or seams of your car upholstery, on the ridges of the seats and around the edges of the carpets.

The methods and products used in getting rid of bed bugs in a car are largely dependent on the safety of the car and its interior upholstery. You do not want to use a pesticide that will damage or deface your expensive and groovy leather seats or use a vacuum cleaner with enough vacuum power to tear your cotton or wool-laced carpets.

The best pesticide products should be effective in killing bed bugs at even low concentrations, safe to a reasonable extent for children and pets, a natural formula that will not pose risks. Vacuum cleaners used for bed bug control should have a wide range of use for it to fit every crevice within the car.

How to Prevent Bed Bugs from Getting into Your Car

How to Prevent Bedbugs from Getting into Your Car

The term ‘prevention’ is an easier regimen in contrast to treatment and fumigation practices. To prevent bed bugs from getting into your car you just have to be careful.

Deal with the bugs at home if you notice any signs of infestations. Bed bugs are not born in cars, they are carried from matrasses, furniture, cracks in walls, and bedsheets. If you notice there are any bed bugs carry out a fumigation practice so that you do not unknowingly give them a free ride to your car.

The elimination of bed bugs in cars is always possible without much damage to the car interior, your children’s health, and pets depending on the control measure taken. Apply some of our methods and you will get rid of them in no time. Best of luck!

List of Sources

Waldvogel M., Alder P. (2009) Tips for Preventing the Spread of Bed bugs, NC State University and NC A&T State University
EPA. (May 2010). Controlling Bed Bugs. Pesticides: Controlling Pests. (26 April 2017)
Cimex lectularius Linnaeus (Bed Bugs), University of Florida/IFAS Featured Creatures Web site

Thomas Matthews
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