Brutal cold weather gives people ideas! With all this bitter, cold weather lately, people are thinking, “just put the furniture outside for a while”, that will kill the bed bugs.We get questions like, “If I open the window of my room to let the cold in, and I close the door, would the room not get cold enough to “freeze” and kill the bed bugs?” I have even had callers who after reading the Internet place their personal items in their home freezers or ovens in hopes of killing the little suckers.
Regrettably, with bed bugs, these brainy ideas will not work. Sure, if you absolutely knew without any doubt that you had one or two bed bugs in an item, it may. However, the raw truth is people do not know how many bed bugs or eggs could be lurking inside their homes. Without understanding the nature of the bed bug, people tend to treat bed bugs like any other insect.
Having a careful inspection by a bed bug professional is the first thing a person should do if they ever suspect bed bugs. They will ask when you first got the idea you might have bed bugs. When did you first discover bites, do you travel, what is your vocation, life style habits, do you have out of town visitors; do you have school age children? They will investigate the many areas which bed bugs hide in your home, find evidence and design a treatment protocol around their discovery. Many of these questions will help your professional determine where the possible source was from and help to provide re-introduction prevention techniques.
Bed bugs do slow down in cold environments using a mechanism called Diapause. It is how they survive through unfavorable environmental conditions like temperature extremes, reduced food availability and drought. As you will notice in the temperature chart above, bed bugs flourish during warmish temperatures. Opening a window to let the cold in, turning off the heat and barricading the door threshold could not bring the temperature down low enough to “freeze”. That is why bed bugs can stay in seasonally used homes and “wake up” when the winter thaws.
As bed bug understanding and treatment options have advanced over the years, we have found that a bed bugs’ true vulnerability is heat. In addition, heat is easier to achieve within a structure than cold is, but only in a manner that considers everything regarding the client, extent of infestation and structure.
The bed bugs eggs are more heat resistant than adults are. Whether cold or hot, the temperature needs to be above 48°C (120°F) and below 0°C (32°F) for extended periods in order to achieve kill results for all stages of bed bugs.
For you do-it-yourselfers, the chance of achieving a temperature low enough for the length of time needed to bring a bed bug to death is not likely. So don’t waste your time trying to “cool” down the inside of your home by opening windows – all you will get is a rather large heat bill when you attempt to keep the remainder of your home warm enough to live in.
It is no different from turning up your heat source in your home thinking it could possibly reach high enough of a temperature to kill bed bugs. Again, the only thing you will get is a very large utility bill at the end of the month.
Having knowledge of the effects of elevated temperatures on certain structures and environments is essential and comes with immense learning curves. Containing the temperature within the unit or home is of huge concern. The variables are great and as we say, “it all depends” upon how buildings are built, age, materials used in the building, gaps and separations is window, floorboards and door openings, the amount of clutter or furniture items a person may have and so much more.
The most importance aspect of all this is, assessing properly and then identifying lethal temperatures and exposure time to match the environment and size of infestation.
So be careful out there folks and please do not attempt to use these processes yourself. People that have attempted cooling down bed bug infested items never got them to the temperature needed long enough and have re-introduced bed bugs back into their homes. In addition, people heating their own homes have caused fires.
Blog and graphic are the courtesy of Denise Donovan, founder of IBBRA.org