Do Bedbugs Die in Winter?

Tara Gleig – Director - Bed Bug Wholesale

Do Bed Bugs Die In Winter? 

I don’t often get scared of spiders, cockroaches or rats, you might even say that I happen to be the pest controller in our family as my husband runs in the other direction at the site of anything with more than 2 arms or legs. I absolutely loath mosquitoes and I am the first to unload a whole can of insect repellent all over my body for the opportunity to not be bitten, but only because I don’t like the itching that follows. Bedbugs, though, are my big exception. I religiously check for them when I travel. And I’ve woken up from nightmares of them crawling across my bed and up my legs when staying in a hotel. If I wake up in the middle of the night in a hotel I always check under my bed with the torch on my phone just in case I can see one. Once you have slept in a bed with a single Bedbug just once your life will be different forever.  

This is not an irrational fear. Recent years have seen a resurgence of Bedbugs, part of this is because of changes in pest management practices and a huge number of people who travel internationally that all seem happy to transport Bedbugs to new locations globally. Now Bedbugs are not disease carriers however an infestation in your own home or hotel can eat away at your mental health as well as your hip pocket.

Bedbugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of. Ultrasonic devices that claim they deter Mosquitos and Bedbugs don’t have any effect whatsoever. I can’t believe I have been silly enough to purchase some of these, installing them in my child’s room to ensure that they would never get bitten by mosquitos. Bug bombs also don’t work as the process here is for the chemicals to end up on the exoskeleton of the Bedbug which is impossible when they are hiding outside of chemical reach. These little low-tech critters are an evolving resistance to a common insecticide that once killed them. (Even if the chemicals work, they can be dangerous to household pets and humans if exposed to them.) High heat can actually be effective, but that’s not always a practical solution. In my experience steam is one of the best Bedbug killers as its direct and instant. This works a treat when you can see them or know where they are hiding. It’s the ones that you can’t see them make it impossible to kill with steam.

Some studies have indicated that the cold might kill Bedbugs after as little as one hour of exposure. But research published in the Journal of Economic Entomology finds that’s not the case. Cold can kill a Bedbug or egg, but only after days of exposure to extremely cold conditions. Approximately 80hrs at a temperature of -16° C is enough to kill Bedbugs and eggs at any stage of their life cycle. Considering we don’t have temperatures like this anywhere on our continent here in Australia you would need a pretty sizeable deep freezer to have any impact controlling Bedbugs with the cold.

Australian Bedbugs like most other insects, possess a behavioural characteristic that allows them to enter into a hibernation-like condition called diapause that enables the insects to go dormant. The purpose of Diapause is to slow down the Bedbugs metabolism, conserve its energy and allow them to resume their normal behaviour when the environmental conditions are again conducive.  In saying this Bedbugs are resilient to the cold temperatures we have in Australia and fully-grown specimens may survive for up to a year without feeding and nymphs up to three months without taking a blood meal.

I am asked regularly if Bedbugs are killed by our cooler temperatures during winter here in Australia and the hard truth of this is that they have not been killed and are not normally in diapause during the winter months, especially when inside, they are just less active in some circumstances and less likely to want a meal if they have been feed recently. They will quite happily hide away for months until the temperature picks back up again which will drive the feeding season. If you have had a Bedbug problem and you think that you have resolved this in the late months of Autumn, it’s likely that you haven’t resolved the issue just yet, your Bedbug collection is just hiding somewhere around the corner waiting for an appropriate time to come and feed again. If you run your central heating or fireplace during the winter months and the climate in your house or hotel is favourable for Bedbugs you will likely not see any change in their activity. It’s important to be vigilant and keep an eye out for Bedbugs all year round even though their activity is not as raging as it is during the hot summer months.