If you’ve read our previous articles on bed bugs, you’ve learned that they hate heat. People usually use heat treatments to kill bed bugs and it’s proven that this kind of treatment is always deadly.
Using a steamer or hot water is great for killing bed bugs but this begs another question – does cold kill bed bugs? And then another – can you freeze bed bugs and kill them that way?
Can bed bugs survive in cold temperatures? Bed bugs can survive in harsh cold temperatures, as cold as -13 degrees Fahrenheit (°F). That’s a temperature in which humans can die of freezing if not dressed properly. Bed bugs, on the other hand, can pretty much survive in cold temperatures, as long as it’s not colder than -13 °F for a prolonged time.
Now, can you freeze bed bugs to kill them? In short, yes. But this is something that we’ll discuss later.
Before we get to the nitty-gritty of the article, we need to point out one thing. Although bed bugs can be killed by extreme coldness, it’s much more effective to kill them with extreme heat. The heat is much easier to produce than to make -13 °F in your house.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s proceed.
Do Bed Bugs like Heat or Cold?
People think that bed bugs like cold more than they like heat but in general, bed bugs love pleasant temperatures of around 68 °F. Unfortunately, they can’t survive only in extremely harsh conditions, being it cold or hot.
Let’s take a typical room temperature, it’s around 70 °F, so it’s not cold or hot, it’s just pleasant. Since bed bugs hide in your furniture, chances are that inside the furniture, the temperature is even higher. Bed bugs still live there, right? Yes, because it’s cozy, warm (not too hot), and pleasant for them.
What about cold, then? Well, we can apply the same logic. Some rooms in your house probably aren’t that hot and bed bugs are still in there. Some people avoid warming up their rooms to kill bed bugs but unfortunately, this isn’t the solution.
To put it simply, bed bugs love both heat and cold, as long as it’s not too extreme for them.
Can Bed Bugs Freeze?
Yes, bed bugs can be frozen. It’s logical, as every living being can be frozen, even humans. However, we need to mention one interesting study by the University of Minnesota. This study showed that bed bugs can survive in the harshest cold conditions for a short period by hibernating. Yes, bed bugs can hibernate, too! But, when exposed to the extreme cold for more than 80 hours, bed bugs, as well as their eggs start to freeze and eventually die out.
What Cold Temperature Kills Bed Bugs?
Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (°F). Going with that logic, there must be an appropriate temperature for killing bed bugs. Yes, there is and it’s in direct correlation with the time needed to freeze and kill them.
The minimal temperature for freezing bed bugs is much lower, it’s actually -0.4 °F. This temperature is enough to freeze male bed bugs in 4 days or more.
You’ve noticed that we said male bed bugs. What about adult female bed bugs?
Well, female bed bugs are more resilient to the cold and they’ll need -4 °F to freeze in approximately four days. Either way, this is the minimum temperature and if you can go above it, it will kill bed bugs faster. The lower the temperature, the shorter is the time you need to kill them.
Can Bed Bugs Survive Outside in the Winter?
Bed bugs rarely spend their time outside. They are indoor insects because of their constant need to feed off their host, in this case – human. Spending time outdoors is pointless for bed bugs, as they won’t be able to feed.
However, let’s make a scenario in which bed bugs travel outside in the winter in search of a house to infest. In this case, a sub-zero temperature won’t have a huge impact on bed bugs. When exposed to cold, bed bugs will immediately seek shelter (house) and remain dormant.
Outdoor temperatures, even the most extreme ones, won’t kill bed bugs. Even your freezer often can’t reach the required temperature to kill them. This means that bed bugs can survive outside in the winter pretty easily.
However, there’s a caveat to it. Studies showed that their hatching and egg production is reduced upon tying to survive cold temperatures. As we can see, cold temperatures aren’t useless for reducing a bed bug infestation.
Do Bed Bugs Like Cold Rooms?
Now, what about cold rooms in your house, do bed bugs like them? As we said, bed bugs can easily survive these conditions but we can’t say they like cold rooms. If a room is cold and there are places to hide, bed bugs will gladly stay there, especially if there’s a host available.
On the other side, bed bugs also don’t dislike cold rooms. There’s not a single scientific fact that connects bed bugs and cold rooms in terms of preferences. Bed bugs will live normally in cold rooms, just as they will in hot rooms.
Can Fire Extinguisher Kill Bed Bugs?
The common misconception is that fire extinguisher is great for killing bed bugs and that is simply not true. Typical CO2 fire extinguisher produces a giant CO2 snow particle but its blast is uncontrolled, meaning that it will scatter the infestation around, further making the problem even worse. Not to mention that the temperature of CO2 in the fire extinguisher isn’t enough to kill bed bugs or their eggs.
The speed of the fire extinguisher is also too slow, so it has no particular effect. In case you’re thinking about testing this for yourself, we wouldn’t encourage nor recommend that. Leave the fire extinguisher for fire and treat bed bugs differently. More on that in just a few minutes.
Will Freezing Bed Bugs Get Rid of Them?
Yes, freezing bed bugs will get rid of them. As mentioned earlier, freezing bed bugs will kill them but the real challenge is to create a temperature so low, that it could freeze them in a reasonable time period. For example, we mentioned a temperature of -4 °F for freezing bed bugs and their eggs. At this temperature, you’ll need only a couple of days to kill all of them.
However, going with a lower temperature means that bed bugs might not freeze and on top of that, you’ll need more time. Spending a week or more on freezing bed bugs is time-consuming and pointless. So, freezing bed bugs will kill them but if the freezing process lasts more than a few days, then it’s pointless and not worth it.
Cold Treatment for Bed Bugs – Step by Step Instruction
On the contrary to well-known heat treatment, people often use cold treatment for killing bed bugs. Admittedly, both of these are very effective but the best effect is achieved if the professional does it for you. However, the point of this section is cold treatment and before we move to the step-by-step part, we need to talk about a few interesting facts about it.
Cold treatment for bed bugs isn’t a new idea that just came out yesterday. People have been using CO2 for various purposes during the past couple of decades and as we know, every living being can suffocate if left without oxygen for a certain period.
The way carbon dioxide treatment works is simple – it draws the bed bugs out of their hiding place and then suffocates them. Some studies showed that concentrations higher than 30% were enough to kill every bed bug in a particular room at 71°F.
The trick is that CO2 increases the mobility of bed bugs but since the oxygen in the room slowly decreases, they’re unable to survive for more than a day. Even if they stay hidden somewhere in the room, they’ll still die because CO2 will now replace oxygen needed for survival.
With that in mind, this treatment is proven to give some amazing results in almost every condition. But why is it called cold treatment if you are not going to lower down the temperature in the room? Well, let’s find out!
Bed Bugs Carbon Dioxide Treatment: Freezing Bed Bugs with CO2
Method 1 – Using Dry Ice in a Bucket
Step 2 – Leave everything in the room. You mustn’t bring your furniture out because bed bugs are most likely inside.
Step 3 – Pick up your dry ice in a bucket and put it somewhere in the room.
Step 4 – Close the door now and don’t enter the room until the treatment is finished.
Step 5 – Wait for 24 to 48 hours and check the room. Bed bugs should now be out of their hiding spots and dead.
Step 6 – Repeat the process if you suspect that the first treatment wasn’t enough.
Step 7 – Open the windows and let the oxygen fill the room again.
Method 2 – Using Cryonite
Step 1 – Specialists will often use Cryonite to kill bed bugs. If you can get your hands on it, it’s great. But first, inspect nook and crannies in your room.
Step 2 – If there are particular places where bed bugs could hide, these are the places you’ll need to use Cryonite. Mark them somehow, so you don’t forget them.
Step 3 – Since this is a compressed product, spray it inside every hole, crack or surface where bed bugs could hide.
Step 4 – Wait for a few seconds to freeze all the bed bugs. After that, it will convert to ordinary CO2 and kill the remaining bed bugs inside.
Step 5 – Repeat the process until you’re sure that every bed bug is dead.
Step 6 – If you suspect that dangerous levels of CO2 are in the room, open the windows and let the oxygen fill the room.
Bed Bug CO2 Trap – The Bed Bug Beacon
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The bed bug beacon is perhaps one of the most affordable, yet most effective mainstream products for killing bed bugs. This method is not a cold treatment for bed bugs. It takes advantages of the aforementioned CO2 gas and as such, it produces a pure carbon dioxide for two weeks.
The manufacturer also included a free refill, so for an affordable price, you can get a total of four weeks out of this one. One month of emitting CO2 is more than enough to kill every bed bug in infected rooms.
The best thing about this one is that it’s effective not only against bed bugs but also other types of pests. As for the bed bugs, it’s designed to attract both immature and adult bed bugs, killing them as they fall into a pitfall trap. Since this is a natural product, dangerous effects aren’t prominent. There aren’t harmful chemicals and no pesticides, so you can use it however you want.
Remember that this is only a beacon and it attracts bed bugs into a trap. It’s not an exchange for a large amount of CO2 and certainly, it’s not as effective. But, if you want a decent solution for small to medium infestations, you’ll have a blast with this one, and you’ll also blast bed bugs. What more to ask for?
Cold vs Heat Treatment for Bed Bugs – Which Is Better?
We know that bed bugs can die from very high temperatures but can also freeze to death from very low temperatures. High temperatures make bed bugs grow faster and increase their mobility, which begs one question – will bed bugs die faster from cold treatment?
Not really, both of these are as effective as it gets and if we were to compare them, we can say that they’re pretty much the same.
For the heat treatment, we’re looking at temperatures higher than 113 °F since lower than that will not harm bed bugs. For the cold treatment, temperatures under -0.4 °F are enough to kill an entire infestation. Both of these can wipe out an entire infestation but they do it differently.
The heat treatment makes bed bugs die from very high temperatures but doesn’t attract them to the source of the heat. On the other hand, the cold treatment means using CO2 and this gas attracts bed bugs, making them leave the hideout. As for the effectiveness, they achieve the same result but differently, so it’s just a matter of personal preference.
Before we end the article, we just need to mention that heat treatment is more often applied than the cold treatment. This is because not everyone can apply cold treatment whereas, regarding the hot treatment, you only need a steamer.
In either case, we suggest that you hire a professional to do this job, as he will do it better than you, even if you have some experience.
To summarize, cold treatment represents one of the most effective methods for killing bed bugs, alongside with the heat treatment. Although bed bugs can endure harshest conditions, going extreme with both of these will result in their death.
It’s important to mention that the cold treatment is better done by professionals because getting your hands on the equipment is a bit harder, in comparison with equipment needed for heat treatment (steamer).
Still, if you can get dry ice (CO2), it’s great for getting rid of bed bugs in just a single day. Beware that CO2 is dangerous to human health and should be used moderately, so you shouldn’t apply the cold treatment on your own if you’re not properly informed about the downsides.
List of Sources
Frishman A. 2000. Bed Bug basics and control measures. Pest Control 68: 24.
Diseases & Conditions – Bedbugs, Mayo Clinic