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This winter, the tri-state area has experienced one of its coldest winters in years. Nationally, record cold temperatures & consistent snow falls resulted in airlines cancelling more flights in January and February (2014) than they had at any point in time since the late 1980’s. The sustained cold temperatures which began in December and which have continued through February, have also coincided with a welcome development in the fight against bed bugs – it’s stopped bed bugs dead in their tracks as they’ve attempting to hitchhike to safer, warmer environments.
We’d written in January about how 2013 was the worst year we’d seen yet as far as bed bug infestations go in the tri-state area. We’d consistently found the most active infestations we’d ever seen locally, and at the National Pest Management Association-sponsored Bed Bug Summit (Denver, CO – December 2013), we’d been told the problem has spread nationally to city & states that previously had not experienced bed bug problems on a larger scale.
Then came the cold weather.
In our opinion, the first sustained curtailment we’ve seen of bed bug infestations since 2010 is due to extreme cold temperatures. In New York City, this would be reflected when temperatures are dropping below 19 degrees Fahrenheit. We’d seen contradictory information about cold weather’s effect on bed bugs over the years. We’d read where in freezing cold temperatures that a bed bug might freeze, but then thaw out. We’d also read where temperatures need to reach minus 16 degrees Fahrenheit for 80 hours in order to kill bed bugs. While respecting the research that had been done previously, we were still skeptical. So…
This past January, we decided to wrap a mattress heavily infested with bed bugs and place it outside overnight. The wrapping we used was Saran Wrap, and the temperatures that were sustained that day never rose above 18 degrees Fahrenheit, and reached as low as 9 degrees Fahrenheit that evening. The number of live bed bugs on this mattress that we were able to count was in the neighborhood of 300 bed bugs – all stages (not counting eggs). The mattress placed outside was subjected to cold temperatures for about 17 hours consecutively.
The next day we returned to examine the mattress, and after peeling the Saran Wrap, we did not observe a single bed bug having survived that night’s cold temperatures, even as we attempted to initiate their movement . As we’d previously seen that bed bugs can survive in a jar for 4-5 days without new air being introduced to them, we felt confident that the Saran Wrap was not the cause of their demise, but rather, may have helped to insulate them. Yet the temperature drop was too extreme for the bed bugs, and they all died.
Additionally, on 3 other occasions in late January, we placed live bed bugs in Climb Up Insect Interceptors outside (unwrapped and unprotected) when temperatures overnight dropped below 19 degrees Fahrenheit. In each instance, all of the bed bugs exposed to the cold weather were dead by the next morning.
If there’s one thing those fighting a bed bug infestation can take from what we’ve learned, it’s that extremem cold weather can be used to combat bed bugs. This is obviously beneficial to homeowners, when belongings can be securely placed outside. As always, we recommend wrapping items before moving them within a home, or outside of a home, or if that is not possible, to make sure the route taken to take items outside becomes a part of your service solution. To repeat, the temperature drop we feel will kill bed bugs overnight would be 19 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Obviously, we welcome your opinion on the matter – please call us to further discuss.