When summer rolls around and schools all over the country unload young people pent up with cabin fever, throngs of those kids release their energy at camps of various ilk.; everything from a few tents in the woods to elaborate spreads of log cabins.
But what happens when a camp facility is attacked by a horde of bed bugs? If this sounds like just a bad ‘B’ horror movie, think again. Bed bug infestations are unfortunately commonplace among group settings, and can be in your own home as well, and the nasty little nuisances can cause irritating rashes or allergic reactions. Not only that, they tend to be very tough to eliminate.
Introduction to bed bugs
Bed bugs are irritating, creepy insects like ticks—picture an apple seed of reddish-brown color but flat and oval-shaped. Equipped with “mouths” loaded with tools for piercing, most bed bug species are content to feed on plants but other variations, true to their name, take a liking to living in beds, furniture, clothing, and other such items.
Even worse, true bed bugs adapted their mouthparts for feeding on human blood and they do it so sneakily, victims rarely know they are attached. Without wings for travel, these bugs jump aboard people, animals, or random items that are regularly moved such as luggage. They also love to hide out in furniture where they while away the day, mostly occupied with breeding, and then emerge at night to feed on unsuspecting victims.
Bed bugs lay tremendous numbers of eggs, which are capable of lingering in a dormant state for months and after the bugs take up residence in a place they spread like the flu through a kindergarten class. They hide out in mattresses, bed frames, cracks in walls, drawers and baseboards, sleeping bags and clothing. So, how do you get rid of the tiny, troublesome creatures? Among the many proven methods—washing clothing in hot water, drying at hot temps, and professional extermination—some people swear by sealing an infested item in plastic and killing the bugs off that way. Indeed, trapping the bugs in covers or encasements made from plastic, vinyl or cloth is a sound strategy.
How long can bed bugs live in a plastic bag?
If you discover mattresses in your home or group setting filled with bed bugs, one of the best solutions is placing the entire mattress in a protective cover. Trapped inside, the bugs eventually starve to death. But this is by no means a quick fix. In fact, EPA experts recommend infested items remained encased in covers for a minimum of a full year.
Bed bugs are like any other living thing that needs oxygen to breathe, along with adequate food and water to continue living. Plastic bags can kill people and most any bug by rapidly removing oxygen but even so, suffocating bed bugs in this manner is challenging. With their tiny size, bed bugs don’t need much air to breathe and just enough air can be in a sealed bag to keep them kicking for months.
While lack of air certainly is a good start to eliminating bed bugs, trapped inside they will starve to death before suffocating. They eat nothing else other than blood and the larvae need it to in order to shed their original bodies and become “grown up” bugs. Adult bugs continue to require blood to breed as well.
It’s not all about soft goods
While it generally works well to trap bed bugs in plastic bags, the bugs hide in many other places beside clothing and bedding. The seams of a stuffed animal are excellent hideouts, or joints of a picture frame, or miniature slots in a computer keyboard.
Sealing items like these in plastic bags and placing in a freezer will kill off bed bugs but you need to keep the items in a freezer at 0 degree F or lower for up to five days to ensure all the bugs are dead. Other items that can be frozen include shoes, picture frames, jewelry, small toys, and small electronics.
Does a plastic bag in the sun kill bed bugs?
People try all manner of tricks to kill bed bugs. One of the most popular is shoving clothing, bedding, luggage, and other things into a black plastic garbage bag and setting it outside in the hot sun, or inside a parked car. While the heat generated inside the bag will indeed kill some of the bugs, this method isn’t 100 percent effective.
But the larger point is you can’t seal your entire home into a plastic bag; the bugs hide in too many other places to make the bag method effective. In addition, bed bugs’ tiny stature allows them to escape through the smallest of openings. If you notice any kind of rip or tear, replace the bag and reseal items within.
ESS Universal manufactures and supplies high-quality, cost-effective commercial grade beds, mattresses, and furniture to camps, hostels, shelters, dorms and more. View our entire line of furniture products including our popular waterproof foam mattress for institutional use, single metal bed frames, single over single bunk beds, single over double bunk beds, and triple bunk beds. Download our catalog for detailed information on our complete product line.