Most people have heard about the freezing treatment to kill bed bugs. Naturally, a question foremost on their mind is: just how cold should it be to kill bed bugs? If you are planning to use such freezing treatment to get rid of bedbugs, then read on for important information.
Latest research on bedbug freeze treatment
Recent studies have shown that bedbugs are no longer susceptible to cold treatment. The freezing method is simply not as effective as it once was in killing these critters. The same research has proven that the blood sucking parasites have become immune and developed a high tolerance to cold. Also the experiment showed that bedbugs eventually succumb to extreme cold, it takes several days to see results. Bedbugs are actually known to have developed high cold-tolerance by lowering their bodily fluid-freezing points. This freeze intolerant strategy helps them survive in extreme cold conditions.
The bed bug or Cimex Lectularius had disappeared for many decades but has made a comeback recently. Bedbugs are now known to infiltrate student hostels, hotels and motels, cinema halls, public transport systems, airlines, buses and even schools, assisted living facilities and hospitals. Many news reports have stated that several famous cinema halls in major cities like New York etc have actually been shut down thanks to bedbugs. Bedbugs feed on human and animal blood. They insert sharp proboscis in the mammal’s skin to suck the blood and this leaves red welts and itchy bumps on the victim’s bodies.
Bedbugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of.
People often use bedbug bombs, foggers, sprays and powders only to have the bugs back within a few days of this treatment. In the past, freezing treatment was known to have worked well but the new study published in the Journal of Economic Entomology has proven otherwise.
This aforementioned study was conducted in the University of Minnesota where researchers froze the bedbugs in varying life stages. They also tested the effect of cold on fed and unfed bedbugs. They exposed the adult, eggs, nymphs and larvae of bedbugs to extreme cold temperatures of -5 deg Celsius for varying lengths of time. They further reduced the temperature to -16 deg Celsius and they found that the adult bugs survived at this temperature as well. The eggs of the bugs survived in short term exposure to even lower temperatures of -25 degrees C. The study ultimately proved that the adult bedbugs could be killed by cold only through exposure to temperatures of -16 deg C or lower for a period of at least 80 hours.
This is the main reason why many museums and food facilities use standard practices of freezing possibly infested items to cold temperatures before displaying them.This safe method can also be used by homeowners dealing with bedbugs provided they have large freezers that can accommodate all infested items.
How to use cold treatment to effectively kill bed bugs? Just how cold should it be to ensure killing all bedbugs?
If you suspect any items of being infested, make sure you place them in a sturdy Ziploc®/freezer bags. This will ensure that the bugs do not die off elsewhere in the freezer. Also, bagging delicate items before freezing them will ensure that they do not get damaged thanks to changes in condensation or moisture. Make sure that you place all infested items in freezers having temperatures of at least -17.8 deg C for a period of 4 days.If the freezer is at a temperature of minus 20 deg C, then you can reduce the period to 48 hours. That is how long it takes to get rid of all bed bugs.
The aforementioned study also studied the effect of such supercooling on the feeding habits of bed bugs. The study then concluded that 100% of the bugs could be killed with minimum exposure of 80 hours at -16deg Celsius.
Bedbugs do not carry any diseases but simply having an infestation is socially unacceptable. So while the cold temperature can be effective in killing them one has to make the following considerations:
- Items that are not freezable need to be exposed to other means of supercooling. If you live in very cold place, you might consider putting infested furniture outdoors for a few days, where possible.
- Be sure to check if the air temperature where the bugs are located is indeed the same as the external temperature of at least -16 deg C.
- If the sun is shining, the little warmth can be enough to raise the temperature of the furniture in question and the freezing treatment may be rendered ineffective.
Cold or freezing treatment is usually enough for treating bedbug infested fabrics but for other items it is best to use other techniques of killing bed bugs described on this website.