When we think of bed bugs, we usually think about tiny bugs that we can squash with our feet and continue with our lives. But, bed bugs, although being so small and incapable of inflicting any severe damage, are very hard to kill. Why? Because it’s very hard to find them, as they spend most of their life in the shelter, resting, mating, and reproducing.
Many people go into panic mode when they realize that they have a bed bug infestation in their home, not knowing that bed bugs can be killed easily if you know how to do it. One of the most popular, if not the most popular way is to use extreme temperatures – both high and low. This is the way how professional exterminators kill bed bugs.
But what temperature kills bed bugs? When it comes to high temperatures, more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.778°C) starts to damage bed bugs, whereas 113°F (45°C) can kill bed bugs in 90 minutes and 118°F (47.778°C) can kill them in 20 minutes. As for the low temperatures, -13°F kills both adults and bed bug eggs in about several days. As you can see, the extreme temperature conditions can make a bed bug’s life a living hell, which is why professional exterminators use this method to completely eradicate bed bugs out of your house.
In this article, we are going to talk about the relationship between bed bugs and various temperatures, as well as give you a temperature chart where you can see what temperatures are good/bad for them.
We think it’s going to be an interesting read for those who fight bed bug infestations in their homes. Our suggestion is to take your time to read this article because you never know when you’re going to need this knowledge. Without further ado, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the topic.
Do Cold Temperatures Kill Bed Bugs?
Generally speaking, yes cold temperatures do kill bed bugs. But, as we all know, bed bugs are one of the most resilient insects on the planet, being capable of enduring the harshest conditions.
Furthermore, bed bugs can also live without food for a whole year – yes, 365 days! So, even if you block their access to food (your blood), they will be in your house, lurking from nooks and crannies, waiting to gain access.
If you live in a country with a colder climate, bed bugs will behave the same and the temperature will not have an impact on their lifespan or lifestyle, for that matter. They will still sleep in your bed, mattress, clothes, etc. Even if you don’t heat your place and it’s a minus outside, bed bugs will live comfortably.
Extreme temperature conditions, however, have a drastic impact on bed bugs. If we compare this impact with the impact on people, the mechanisms in which the cold temperature inflicts damage to the body is the same. The fluids in the body and organs begin to freeze, thus making the blood flow slower, and slower, until the bed bug freezes to death.
• What Cold Temperature Kills Bed Bugs?
There’s a temperature threshold that must be satisfied for killing bed bugs and that is -13 degrees Fahrenheit (-25 degrees Celsius). Even a single degree above this temperature will NOT kill bed bugs, regardless of the duration of the exposure. Here’s the study that backs this up.
This study says that the temperature of -12 degrees Fahrenheit wasn’t able to kill bed bugs, even after a whole week of continuous exposure. On the contrary, the temperature of -13 degrees Fahrenheit achieved 100% mortality.
• Can Bed Bugs Live in Cold Temperatures?
As mentioned above, bed bugs can live in cold temperatures, just as they can live in hot temperatures. As long as it’s not a temperature extreme, their abilities to feed and mate won’t be impaired. Even if they somehow finished outside of your house, in the snow, they would still find a way to enter someone’s house and will regain strength when they warm up.
Of course, as is the case with every living being, bed bugs prefer warm (not hot, warm!) temperatures to function normally. Still, if it’s cold in your house, this will not prevent them from drinking blood and mating.
What High Temperature Kills Bed Bugs and Their Eggs?
All of the principles we mentioned for killing bed bugs with a cold temperature can also apply here. In case you’ve not read the article from the start, let’s quickly go over the main principle. The main principle says that if the temperature isn’t at least on par with the required threshold, the bed bugs won’t die. In the previous case, it was -13 degrees Fahrenheit ( -25°C).
In this case, it’s above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.77°C) for bed bugs to lose the ability to function properly. While 100 degrees Fahrenheit can’t kill bed bugs directly, it can still kill them but much slower. This temperature kills bed bugs indirectly, by slowly impairing their basic functions, such as feeding or mating, making the infestation smaller.
As we start to climb and reach the first threshold of 113°F (45°C), we can relatively quickly dispatch bed bugs – in about 90 minutes. The second and the recommended threshold is 118 °F (47.77°C), for eliminating bed bugs in only 20 minutes. Also, the temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit can only kill adults and not eggs, which is why we recommend going above it.
Bed bug eggs are always more resilient to both heat and cold treatment. This is why 118 °F (47.77°C) for 20 minutes kills ONLY adults. If you want to kill both bed bug eggs and adults, conducting the treatment for 90 minutes at the aforementioned temperature is recommended.
What Temperature of the Steam Is Necessary to Kill Bed Bugs?
You’ve probably heard about using a steamer to kill bed bugs. If so, that is because this method is very good at eliminating a large portion of bed bug infestation and for localized elimination. By using the steam, you can kill bed bugs in every stage of development – eggs, nymphs, and adults. Beware that you need to buy a steamer with at least 1 gallon of capacity and a steam volume control.
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For effective elimination of bed bugs, you need a surface temperature of at least 160°F ( 71.11°C), to a maximum of 180°F (82.22°C). This temperature is enough to kill bed bugs up to 3/4 inches into fabric surfaces and 2-3/8 inches into cracks and crevices.
At What Temperature Do Bed Bugs Freeze?
Bed bugs freeze at the temperature we’ve mentioned above – anything below -13°F (-25°C). Interestingly, bed bugs can also freeze at the temperature above -13 degrees Fahrenheit but it would take a lot of time to freeze them, which is why we said that you can’t kill bed bugs if that threshold isn’t met.
It’s pointless waiting for God knows how much, just to freeze a portion of bed bugs. If you don’t want to go under -13°F for some reason, we don’t know how much it will take you to freeze bed bugs. As for -13 Fahrenheit or less, we’ve given you numbers above.
What Temperature Kills Bed Bugs Instantly?
Bed bugs can’t be killed instantly at any temperature, being it high or low. When we think about it better, it’s quite logical. Even if it’s very cold, you won’t be able to freeze to death at the same moment you experience the temperature unless it’s -100 degrees Celsius, which is unattainable. The same principle applies to bed bugs, which can take more or less time to die, depending on how low or how high the temperature is.
Both cold and hot temperatures can kill bed bugs in almost the same period, whereas the heat treatment is a bit faster.
Caveats of Using High Temperatures for Killing Bed Bugs
While the heat treatment is the most effective way of getting rid of bed bugs and will save you a lot of time, there’s something that heat treatment won’t save you – cash. Whether you buy a heater, rent it or pay someone to do the treatment for you, you’re looking at a minimum of $1000 cost for eliminating a bed bug infestation. Some services will offer you a flat fee, while some will charge you by the hour. Although it looks like a cost-effective method, heat treatment is very expensive for an average household.
Aside from the cost of this treatment, many people are worried about the safety of their property and family. During the heat treatment, the temperatures are extreme, and these temperatures can have a drastic effect on the health of humans and pets. This means that during the treatment, all house members should be out of the house, which once again, makes things a bit more complicated, especially if you don’t have anywhere to go. In this case, you must rent a room, which can cost you even more.
Because of the temperature extremes, the homeowner must properly prepare their home before the treatment commences. This includes removing any foods that may spoil or storing them in the fridge. The same applies to foods that can melt. Every flammable that you have in the house should also be removed. These include gasoline and propane or any other flammable that you have, including alcohol!
The stuff that has been brought outside should also be checked for bed bugs before bringing it inside, to make sure that the bed bugs never return. Even a single egg in your house can produce an infestation.
Caveats of Using Low Temperatures for Killing Bed Bugs
The main caveat with the cold treatment is that it isn’t meant for eliminating the whole infestation, which puts it beneath the heat treatment in terms of effectiveness. On top of that, the required low temperature must be maintained all the time, to make the treatment effective. Otherwise, you’ll negate the progress and you’ll have to start from the beginning.
Let’s be real – you can’t keep -13 degrees Fahrenheit (-25°C) at your home all the time. You can’t even reach the temperature this low, except if you’re from Siberia and you don’t have any kind of heating in your home. Even then, it’s impossible and you can’t survive this temperature. In the ideal case, if all of this was possible, you would spend a lot of money trying to repair your electronics, getting new clothes, and more. Very low temperatures can destroy your electronics and clothes.
For that reason, if you opt for cold treatment, it’s better to localize it. In this case, you’re probably going to use a standard freezer but the thing is, these freezers can’t reach -13 degrees Fahrenheit. They can go as low as 0°F (-17.78°C), which is enough to kill adult bed bugs in a few days or a week but eggs will most likely survive. If you want to be sure that every bed bug is dead, you’ll need help from the professionals and that can cost you a lot, almost the same as the heat treatment.
Bed Bug Temperature Chart | High and Low
|Bed Bug Stage||Temperature – High, Low||Duration|
|Adult bed bugs||113°F | 118 °F , -13 °F||90 min | 20 min, 4 days|
|Bed bug nymphs||113°F |118°F, -13°F||90 min | 20 min, 4 days|
|Bed bug eggs||118°F, -13°F||90 min, 4 days|
Above is the bed bug elimination chart that shows the required temperatures for killing bed bugs. Adult bed bugs and bed bug nymphs take an equal amount of time for killing. As we can see, 113°F at 90 min, 118°F at 20min, and -13°F for 4 days is applicable for both nymphs and adults. On the contrary, bed bug eggs require 118°F at 90min and -13°F for 4 days to get eliminated. Of course, if you manage to get higher or lower temperatures, you’ll kill bed bugs faster.
What about temperatures between the two thresholds? Interestingly, temperatures between 60°F and 80°F will make bed bugs grow slower and temperatures between 25°F and 60°F will result in death in weeks or months. Temperatures below -13°F kill adult bed bugs in a day or two, with bed bugs dying a day or two after that, which is a total of 4 days.
To summarize, when trying to eliminate bed bugs using heat or cold treatment, you should aim for a temperature range of 113°F to 118°F and is you are going for low temperatures then -13°F or below, respectively. The higher or lower the temperature is, the faster bed bugs will die. Since many of us don’t have the required equipment for fulfilling the temperature conditions, we suggest that you call the professionals to finish the job, if the infestation has progressed.
It may seem like rocket science but it isn’t. Bed bugs are easy to kill with one of these treatments and it’s only a matter of proper equipment. If you can afford these treatments, you’ll get rid of bed bugs in a few days and continue to enjoy your life without them.
List of Sources
Bed Bug Control: Heat and Cold, The Ohio State University
Understanding Bed Bug Treatments, University of Minnesota
Miller D., Using Heat to Kill Bed Bugs, Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech
Using Steamers to Control Bed Bugs, University of Minnesota