ABC Blog

Does Heat Kill Bed Bugs?

two bed bugs and a bed bug egg

If you’re dealing with bed bugs in your home, you want to know how to get rid of them, fast. These pests are a frustrating problem that can feel overwhelming to solve. What’s the best way to treat them? Does heat kill bed bugs? The good news is, high temperatures do kill off bed bugs in all stages of the life cycle.

High heat is actually the most effective way to kill off bed bugs. This is partly because these pests are highly resistant to insecticide products. Insecticides don’t even reach bed bugs or their offspring well, because the insects hide in tiny cracks that most products can’t penetrate.

Bed bugs are vulnerable to high temperatures, but how hot does it need to be for them to die off? And what can you do to prevent them from returning?

Sustained temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will kill bed bug eggs and larvae along with adult bed bugs. Unfortunately, just turning up the heat in your home won’t work. It’s not safe, and it won’t create the high-heat conditions needed to kill off pests. A heat treatment to kill bed bugs is something only a licensed pest control specialist can safely administer.

DIY Ways to Kill Bed Bugs

It’s very important to remember that trying to treat bed bugs on your own is almost never successful. When these pests have infested a home, their eggs and larvae could be anywhere. They need to be killed off in all stages of the life cycle to fully treat the infestation. Only a pest control specialist has the knowledge and tools needed to do this safely and effectively.

That being said, there are things you can do yourself to combat bed bugs. If you want to kill off bed bugs in your sheets and blankets, you can use the high-heat method by washing these items in hot water in your washing machine. Next, dry them on your dryer’s hottest setting for at least 45 minutes. This should kill off the bugs in any stage of their life cycle.

Another way to create high-heat conditions to treat bedding or clothing is to seal the items inside a plastic garbage bag. Setting the bag outside in the sun for a few days should kill off the bugs. Take note, though, this only works in the summertime. It needs to be hot and sunny enough outside for the contents of the bag to get really hot for a sustained period of time.

What about when you have a bed bug problem during a cooler season? Cooler temperatures won’t kill off bed bugs, so the plastic bag left outdoors method won’t work. And what about getting rid of bed bugs in other areas besides your sheets or clothing? Not everything that bed bugs infest can be put in the dryer, or closed up inside a plastic bag.

Bed Bugs Require a Whole-House Treatment Approach

This is a good time to note that the name “bed bugs” is actually a misnomer. It suggests these pests are found only in people’s beds, but that’s not true. Bed bugs can infest couches and lots of other different areas in a home. They go wherever people spend lots of time. That might be the bed, since bed bugs are nocturnal. This means they are most active at night. They venture out in darkness and bite people’s skin in order to feed on their blood.

Incidentally, “bite” isn’t exactly the right word for what bed bugs do to humans, either. These pests have sharp, straw-like mouthparts that they use to make a tiny slit in a person’s skin. Then they use the mouthpart, called a proboscis, to suck up the blood.

When people sleep on the couch or in an easy chair, those pieces of furniture can develop bed bug infestations. These pests can also sometimes be found in dresser drawers or bed frames. They might hide during the day behind baseboards or between floorboards. Their tiny eggs and larvae could be hidden in any small spaces in these areas. The mattress is the most common spot to look for bed bugs as well as their larvae and eggs, but it’s certainly not the only place to look.

Since bed bugs might be anywhere inside the house where people spend lots of time, effective bed bug treatments need to be comprehensive. This means the whole house needs to be treated at the same time, preferably by an experienced pest control specialist.

A pro will know where to look for evidence of bed bugs, and what to look for. They can also let you know if you’re actually dealing with some other type of pest, like fleas. If it is definitely a bed bug infestation, heat will be the most effective treatment. A pest control specialist will have special equipment and techniques for safely heating the home to kill off pests.

a bed bug crawling on someone

Do Bed Bugs Bite Everyone?

It can be confusing when you have bed bug bites but someone else in your home or bed does not. Do bed bugs bite everyone? Or do they only bite certain people?

Bed bugs will bite anyone they can reach. Different people just have different reactions to their bites. For most people, these bites are intensely itchy. They might show up in lines on the skin, and the small, red bumps might turn into blisters before they eventually heal.

If you’re sleeping in a bed that has bed bugs and someone else is sleeping next to you, odds are that you’ll both be bitten. You just might have different reactions to the bites. One of you might wind up with red, itchy bumps that turn into small blisters before they finally fade away. The other person might have bites that are less itchy, or that don’t itch at all.

This is why it can seem like not everyone is getting bitten. It’s far more likely that certain people are more sensitive to bed bug bites, and may even have an allergic response to them.

Signs of Bed Bugs

If you aren’t sure if your bed or home has bed bugs, there are some signs to look out for. First, look at your mattress, sofa and other upholstered furniture for tiny black or reddish-brown spots. The black spots could be bed bug feces; these spots often bleed just like a dot of ink would bleed on fabric. Reddish-brown spots could be tiny blood spots that happen as a result of the pests’ feeding sessions. These are some of the early signs of bed bugs.

Finding actual bed bugs, alive or dead, is another sign of an infestation. So is finding their eggs, larvae or shed skins. These are harder to spot, though, since they are so small and pale in color.

A simple way to search for these pests and their offspring is to get a credit card and wrap it in tape, sticky side out. This creates a simple tool that you can use to find bed bugs, larvae, eggs and shed skins. Simply press it into the seams that run along mattresses, sofa cushions and floorboards, and see if it pulls out anything that looks suspicious.

You’ll want to pay extra attention to areas like underneath the cushions of the sofa, where the base of the couch meets the arm. You can also use your sticky tool to search for bed bugs in the corners of bed frames and drawers. If your tape-wrapped credit card pulls out anything that looks like bed bugs, their skins or their offspring, it’s time to contact a pest control professional with experience eliminating these pests.

a white kitchen

How to Prevent Bed Bugs

There are many things you can do to keep bed bugs away from your home. Just keep in mind that an active bed bug infestation is very hard to eliminate on your own. These pests almost always need to be treated by an experienced pest control specialist. Once they are no longer causing problems in your home, you can follow these tips to keep them away in the future.

First, be careful when traveling. Check the beds in hotel rooms by pulling up the sheets and looking closely at the edges of the mattress. You can also pull back the pillowcases to look at the pillow covers underneath. If you see any reddish-brown or black spots, these might be blood spots or bed bug feces. If there’s a heavy infestation in the room, you might even spot bed bugs themselves, or their tiny white eggs or larvae.

Adult bed bugs are small, flat, oval-shaped bugs. They are about the size and medium-brown color of an apple seed. Their larvae are a translucent yellowish-white color and much smaller. Their eggs are the same color as the larvae, and very tiny.

Bed bugs shed their skins multiple times as they grow from larvae into adults, so you might also find these shed skins. Shed skins, eggs, larvae and adult bugs can all be hard to find or to see, but if you know where to look, you might be able to spot them.

Another traveling tip is never to put your luggage directly on the floor. Putting your clothes in the dresser can also be risky, since bed bugs can hide out in drawers. Instead, store suitcases on a luggage rack and hang your clothing in the closet.

At home, be extra careful about bringing secondhand furniture into your home. Traveling and accidentally bringing home bed bugs in your suitcase is probably the top way that bed bugs move from one location to another. But bringing bed bug-infested furniture into the home is a close second. If you buy a used couch or bed at a yard sale or thrift store, give it a very careful inspection before bringing it inside.

Even taking all these precautions may not be enough to prevent a bed bug outbreak in your home. If you start waking up with itchy bites in the morning, or you spot other signs of bed bugs, it’s time to contact a licensed and reputable pest control professional for help.

ABC Can Eliminate the Bed Bugs in Your Home

Dealing with a bed bug problem can cause lots of distress. Instead of prolonging the problem, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our bed bug control specialists can eliminate these pests so you can feel comfortable at home again.

Learn More