If you’re wondering where bed bugs go in winter, if anywhere, you’re about to find out:
All stages of bed bugs (eggs, nymphs, and adults) go into a sort of hibernation called diapause when the temperature drops to 59°F (15°C) or below and/or when there’s no blood to eat. During diapause, they stop growing, hatching, feeding, breeding, and spreading, to save energy to survive.
With all the comforts of modern life, not many bed bugs need to hibernate – houses stay warm and hosts sleep nearby. So most bed bugs are fully active throughout the year, sometimes only calming down a little in the winter months.
In this post, you’ll find out
- The range of temperatures that affect bed bug dormancy
- How long hibernating bed bugs can survive before starving to death
- Where bed bugs go in winter
- The temperatures affecting bed bug dormancy
- How long bed bugs stay dormant
- How to get rid of bed bugs (and 1 thing you should never do)
The temperatures affecting bed bug dormancy
Bed bugs thrive in warm environments. Their favorite temperatures are between 70 and 90 °F (21 and 32 °C).
Bed bugs have well-developed senses that tell them when a room’s average temperature starts getting cooler, so they intuitively know when fall and winter are approaching and they change their behaviors accordingly:
As things cool down to between 59 and 70 °F (15 and 21 °C), things start slowing down in the lives of bed bugs.
They start laying fewer eggs, moving around less, and the eggs start taking longer to hatch, all waiting for spring and warmer times.
Once room temperatures reach 59°F (15°C) or lower, bed bugs stop all activity and enter diapause, a sort of insect hibernation. This is when they stay in their hiding places, out of sight, and conserve energy to survive the cold.
This is also when you are wondering if the bed bugs have gone somewhere for the winter. They are still there in their usual hiding places, they just don’t get out much.
If the temperature continues to drop and reaches freezing point (32°F / 0°C) or below, bed bugs, nymphs, and the eggs start dying. But it can take up to 3 days of this consistently low temperature to kill them all.
You can’t kill bed bugs by making a house cold, but it is possible to kill bed bugs in items that fit in the freezer. Read this article where I explain how to kill bed bugs with cold and other methods.
So bed bugs do “hibernate” or go into hiding in winter if the place they live in gets cold enough. But if the room or climate never drops to 59°F (15°C) or lower for a few days, then bed bugs continue with their usual activities throughout the year.
How long hibernating bed bugs can survive without food
Bed bugs feed on human blood, and, in a pinch, they’ll drink animal blood until they have access to human blood again.
If there’s no blood whatsoever, bed bugs enter diapause as a way to save energy until they can feed.
Bed bugs can survive between 20 and 400 days without feeding before they die of hunger. Young bed bugs can only survive about 20 days without blood. Older bed bugs and adults can go for as long as 400 days without food.
Bed bugs usually come out of hiding to feed about every three days or so.
If they’re in diapause, they remain hidden and in a deep sleep until they get these signals that there’s food nearby:
- They sense body heat from a person or animal
- They smell carbon dioxide being breathed out by a potential host
- They smell sweat
These are all things bed bugs can’t resist, so they wake up from diapause to look for the food source.
Knowing this is a bed bug’s weakness, people often use these smells to draw bed bugs out of hiding. Click here to find out how to get bed bugs out into the open.
Where bed bugs go in winter
Bed bugs don’t go away in winter and they don’t go away on their own and then come back. If winter’s much cooler than summer, bed bugs move around less and spend more time in their hiding places, so you’re less likely to find signs of bed bugs or get bitten.
If it gets cold enough, bed bugs enter diapause until things warm up, before coming out again and resuming their usual activities.
In the US, bed bugs are least active in February, at the end of winter when it’s cold.
Bed bugs are most active in August and September, as fall begins. This is simply because there’s a lot of travel happening at this time of year so bed bugs have more chances to hop onto luggage and spread.
How long bed bugs stay dormant
Most adult bed bugs can hibernate (be in diapause) for about 400 days and live, but such a long hibernation isn’t the norm.
Bed bugs stay dormant for as long as is absolutely necessary. They wake up from diapause when the temperature reaches 59°F (15°C) and above, and/or when there’s a host nearby to feed on. If bed bugs go dormant in the cold winter months, you can be sure they will wake up as soon as spring or summer starts.
Bed bugs don’t want to stay in diapause any longer than is necessary because they risk dying of starvation or being found and killed, so they come out of diapause as soon as they can.
How to get rid of bed bugs in a house
There’s no single solution that’s guaranteed to get rid of bed bugs. If you suspect or know you have bed bugs in the house, it’s best to use several methods to detect and kill them.
Below are some of the best methods and products from Amazon to kill bed bugs in your home:
- If you think you might have bed bugs, put these bed bug traps under the feet of your bed, your couch, or anything you think bed bugs are crawling on. Leave it there for at least a week to give the bugs time to come out of hiding for a blood meal. If there are bed bugs present, there’s a good chance you’ll find some in the traps one morning.
- Studies have found that cimexa powder is even more effective at killing bed bugs than diatomaceous earth, which many people still use. A light dusting around base boards, cracks in floorboards, and bed and furniture legs will kill bed bugs that come out from these hiding places. Whatever you choose to use, be sure to follow the instructions carefully and don’t inhale the dust.
- Don’t take an infested mattress outside. Moving the mattress could spread bed bugs throughout the apartment or house, making the infestation much worse. To save a mattress, wrap it in an encasement and wait for the bugs to die. If you want to get rid of the mattress, wrap it tightly in plastic, mark it as “infested”, and choose one of these ways to safely get rid of it.
- Foggers are NOT good for killing bed bugs. If you have bed bugs, even if it’s just a few, speak to the property manager or call in a pest professional to treat the property. They will probably use a combination of treatments, such as a bed bug spray, vacuuming, and/or a heat treatment to kill the bugs.
- If you think all the bed bugs are gone, put these sticky traps near the furniture where bed bugs were active. Leave the traps there to see if any bed bugs get stuck. If you don’t find any bed bugs and you don’t get bitten for 6 weeks in a row, you know that the area is most likely free from bed bugs.