In the midst of all the stress and uncertainty in the world right now, we hold hope that warm summer months will still see the exodus of energy-infused children, families, and individuals out into sunny days.
Summer is also the traditional time for summer camps and related events. Unfortunately, it is also a favorite time for bed bugs; ugly little creatures with a penchant for hiding out until the moment is right to latch on to an unsuspecting human.
Bed bugs are similar to ticks, their equally loathsome relative, with mouth parts adapted to pierce skin and inflict an itchy red rash or spark an allergic reaction.
Bed bugs are tiny, about the size of an apple seed, but they are very difficult to eliminate. They don’t like sunlight and spend daylight hours away in dark, cozy places like beds, clothing, floorboards, backpacks, and other getaway locations.
With nothing better to do during the day, they breed prolifically, laying thousands of eggs. Those that don’t hatch are perfectly content to settle into dormancy for many months, presenting a nearly endless cycle of nastiness. How to get rid of these vile creatures?
The temperature myths
Very hot or very cold; works every time. Or does it? While some people swear by subjecting bed bugs to extreme temperature on one end of the spectrum or the other, it’s not that easy.
In fact, one common myth is sealing the bugs in a plastic bag will do the trick. Sure, they slowly run out of oxygen and will eventually starve to death but must remain sealed for at least a year. That’s a long time to have a bag full of gross lying around.
Washing infested items in very hot water and drying at hot temperatures can also work but that doesn’t solve the problem of a whole-house infestation.
What about cold? Will tossing a sealed bag o’ bugs into a snow bank kill them? The fact is that only very extreme hot or cold temps are reliable methods.
The heat treatment for bed bugs
Bed bugs like to be warm but they have their limits. Subjecting the bugs to temps of 113 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 90 minutes will kill them.
Boost the temperature to 118 and they perish in less than 30 minutes.
Their eggs, however, are even more resistant to heat and require more than 120 degrees before succumbing. Similarly, you can “bake” infested clothing and other items in the oven to kill bed bugs. However, this method takes up to five hours and you don’t want a rouge bug to one day creep into your casserole.
Specialized heat enclosures and similar systems work well but you need the equipment and expertise. This approach is best left to professionals.
Freeze out bed bugs
Bed bugs don’t like cold, but it has to be really cold to ensure certain death. At least four days at 0 degrees or colder is what it takes.
If you don’t live in a region with those kinds of temps, you can seal the bugs or infested item in a bag and place it in a freezer for the four-day internment. The lower the temp, the quicker they will expire.
If you choose the freezer option be sure not to put items in there that are sensitive to condensation or cold. Many experts employ frozen carbon dioxide treatments, at 60 to 80 below 0, to kill the bugs instantly.
Keep in mind that a whole-house infestation is not a viable stage for extreme hot or cold control approaches. Naturally, you don’t want to open all the windows and doors in the middle of winter in northern Minnesota or seal your Florida bungalow in the midst of paint-peeling humidity.
Other helpful resources
- How Long Can Bed Bugs Live in a Plastic Bag?
- Do Bed Bugs Go Dormant in Winter?
- Bed Bugs vs. Ticks: The Differences Between Ticks & Bed Bugs
- 4 Early Signs of Bed Bugs on Mattresses
- Do Bed Bugs Hide in Metal Bed Frames?
- How to Find Bed Bugs During the Day
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.