Bed bugs are famous for causing significant economical damage because of the costs associated with implementing effective control measures.
Subjecting bed bugs to extreme temperatures has been used for decades. And in this guide, we’ll explore the question, does the cold kill bed bugs and how effective is freezing?
By the end of this guide, you’ll have a clear understanding on how you can use freezing as a part of a larger DIY strategy to control bed bugs.
Does The Cold Kill Bed Bugs, Nymphs, And Eggs?
Yes, subjecting bug bugs, infested clothing or items to freezing cold temperatures can kill them.
But, put most any known living into cold enough temperatures and it’ll likely die.
The main question here is, if the cold kills bed bugs, how effective can it be used to control or eliminate a bed bug infestation?
How Cold Does It Need To Be To Kill Bed Bugs?
“In order to achieve 100% mortality, a minimum exposure time of 80 hours at minus 16 degrees Celsius is required for all life stages.”
In one study in The Journal of Economic Entomology, titled Cold Tolerance of Bed Bugs and Practical Recommendations for Control, it was found freezing cold temperatures were less effective as previously suggested.
However, given the adequate amount of time at the right temperature it can be a good means of control.
So, how cold does it need to be to kill bed bugs?
Bed bugs are hardy creatures, and when it comes to freezing them, they like to deploy a “freeze-intolerant” strategy.
As their body temperature drops, Bed bugs attempt to protect themselves by lowering the freezing point of the body fluids.
But, bed bugs, nymphs and eggs all have a freezing point:
Researchers found, in order to achieve 100% mortality, you must expose all stages of life (bed bug eggs, nymphs, bed bugs) to a minimum of -16 degrees celsius for 80 hours.
At -15 degrees celsius, all stages of bed bugs will die after 3.5 days and below -20 celsius will kill bed bugs in 48 hours.
But another study found bed bugs died within one hour when directly exposed to -20 to -16 degrees celsius.
Now, Olson does reference this in the study suggesting the discrepancies in the two studies remains unclear.
One theory is the blood used to feed the bed bugs.
Bed bugs favor human blood (Olson’s study), and these other studies used rabbit and chicken blood. This could have caused some nutritional deficiencies and subsequently made them weaker.
It’s suggested cooling rate may also have an effect on how quickly you can kill bed bugs with cold. The longer it takes to cool the bed bug to the super cooling point may prolong the bed bugs natural abilities to resist the cold.
From this research, we can confidently say, yes the cold does kill bed bugs, nymphs and eggs when subjected to extreme cold (−16°C) for a minimum of 80 hours.
How To Freeze Bed Bugs At Home
Here’s what you’re going to need:
- Bed bug infested item
- Plastic bags to wrap your item
There’s really not much to it. You’re going to want to wrap your belongings in plastic bags to protect it from frost damage. It’s also going to stop the begs trying to escape and shelter in other items in your freezer.
Then you’re going to want to set your freezer to the lowest possible temperature. The colder the better.
At −16°C, it’ll take up to 4 days to kill all the bed bugs, nymphs and eggs.
Is Freezing Bed Bugs The Best Way To Eliminate Or Control An Infestation?
Although freezing bed bugs can be great for single items or slowing them down, it’s not going to be effective against a full infestation.
Remember, the real question behind “does cold kill bed bugs”, is really, “how effective is cold when it comes to eliminating or slowing down a bed bug infestation?”
The answer is no for a few reasons:
Disadvantages of Freezing Bed Bugs
- Freezing takes too long.
- Freezing can easily damage your goofs
- You can only do a few things at a time (items will repeatedly be infested once in rotation with freezing another item)
- It’s not guaranteed to kill them all every time because you’re not in a lab environment. Even just a few survivors could reinfest everything again.
But that’s not to say it’s bad. When used simultaneously with other DIY home bed bug remedies, it can work as a part of a bigger strategy.
But it shouldn’t be your only tactic.
What Can You Do To Control A Bed Bug Infestation?
If freezing isn’t the answer, what can you do to help better protect yourself?
Well, the number one best way to get rid of bed bugs is to hire a professional exterminator.
But that isn’t always viable for most.
So, along with using the freezing method, what else can you do?
There are a number of methods discussed like:
- Using lysol oil to kill bed bugs
- Using tea tree oil kill bed bugs
- Using baking soda to kill bed bugs
- Using bleach to kill bed bugs
- Using alcohol to kill bed bugs
But there are more, simpler methods you can use (along with freezing).
- Vacuum infested areas to trap bed bugs in the bag and dispose
- Steam vacuum clean carpets, curtains.
- Use mattress, box spring, and pillow protection/encasements to trap and detect bed bugs.
- Use bed bug monitors to ensure extermination is complete.
- Use an EPA registered product to fight against bed bugs.
Heat, consequently, the opposite of cold can be just as effective at killing bed bugs.
Anything that can go in the dyer (bedding, clothing, toys, shoes, backpacks) at a minimum of 120°F for 10-30minutes will effectively kill bed bugs.
If you’re concerned about ‘dry-clean only” items like cotton, wool, silk etc. experts at Drycleaning & Laundry Institute say it’ll not harm your items as long as it’s dry before.
And anyway, all of the items you place in the dryer should be done dry for better results.
Anything infected that can’t be frozen, put in a dryer or have insecticides used on can be placed in a plastic bag and left out in the hot sun.
Obviously, temperature control for this one will be more tricky and you’ll need to be checking it with a thermometer to ensure it reaches 120°F. For that, I don’t tend to recommend this as a great option.
Final Words On Freezing Bed Bugs
It’s clear, the cold does kill bed bugs when subjected to extreme freezing temperatures over a sustained period of time.
However, freezing alone is not an effective method of controlling a bed bug infestation or eliminating one.
But it is a great tactic when used simultaneously with the others suggested.