Does freezing bedbugs kill them?
Bedbugs will die if the temperature gets cold enough. However, there are two very important things to keep in mind:
- The bedbugs must remain below a certain temperature for a long enough time in order to die. If the temperature goes up even for a short time, they may not die.
- Not all home freezers are set to a temperature cold enough to kill bedbugs.
At what temperature do bed bugs die?
The University of Minnesota Department of Entomology indicates that bedbugs must be exposed to temperatures below -18 degrees Celsius (0 degrees Fahrenheit). Remember, ice freezes at 32°F (0°C) – so just because food in your freezer is actually frozen, does not mean that it is necessarily below 0°F.
The EPA suggests that you always use a thermometer to accurately check the temperature.
-United Stated Environmental Protection Agency: Top Ten Tips to Prevent or Control Bed Bugs
Can bed bugs live in the freezer?
Bedbugs can live in the freezer, even at 0°F, for up to 4 days. At temperatures of -16° C, the time for bedbugs to die was closer to 3 days, and at –20° C, closer to two days. Be sure to leave anything that you want treated in the freezer for at least that long, perhaps much longer if it is bulky. Bedbug eggs in particular have been noted to survive short-term exposures to temperatures as low as -25 degrees Celsius (-13 degrees Fahrenheit)!
|Temperature (Celcius)||Temperature (Fahrenheit)||Time to kill bedbugs||Time to kill bedbug eggs|
|-16° C||3.2° F||4 days||n/a|
|–17.8° C||0° F||3.5 days||n/a|
|–20° C||-4° F||2 days||n/a|
|–25° C||-13° F||1.5 days||4 days|
Source: Science News
You are welcome to throw certain items in the freezer to kill bedbugs that may be living on them. Bag them first so that you don’t get carcasses all throughout your freezer, and to prevent the items from getting moist from condensation. This is particularly useful for items that you cannot wash, such as delicate clothing, books, shoes, jewelry, etc. You can even freeze some electronics to treat them for bedbugs (check the manufacturer’s datasheet first), but never freeze anything with an LCD screen, as it will likely cause irreparable damage.
When in doubt, don’t freeze it, particularly if it is an irreplaceable or especially valuable item.
We don’t recommend leaving items outside in the winter to kill bedbugs. Even if it is very cold where you live, it is unlikely that it will remain below 0°F consistently for up to 4 days. If the temperature gets below zero even for a short time, it may not be enough to kill the bedbugs. If they don’t die, they are very likely to migrate back towards your house, where it is warm and they can feed.
This is true for the car as well. Particularly if the car is parked in the sun, it is very likely to warm up to temperatures slightly hotter than the air outside. Bedbugs are also very effective at burrowing into small warm places deeper within the car. We have a whole article on how to effectively kill bedbugs in your car.
We definitely don’t recommend trying to cool down your house or apartment in order to kill bedbugs. If the temperature inside gets (and stays) cold enough to kill bedbugs, you are very likely to have burst pipes and other much more pressing issues.
Some professional exterminators do utilize specialized cold treatments to get rid of bedbugs. However, it is a much more complicated process than just opening the windows in the winter. They often use carbon dioxide to create tiny snow-like particles that blast bedbugs. That said, heat treatments are much more common for most professionals. If you want to learn more about treating for bedbugs on your own, check out our guide to killing bedbugs yourself.
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