Some studies have indicated that cold might kill bedbugs after as little as one hour of exposure. But new research published in the Journal of Economic Entomology finds that’s not the case. Cold can kill a bedbug, but only after days.
Joelle F. Olson of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and colleagues froze bedbugs at various stages of life, fed and unfed, for varying lengths of time. The bad news was that the bugs didn’t die nearly as quickly as other studies had found (a mere hour or two at -16° or -17° Celsius). In our study, bedbugs survived lower temperatures, with eggs surviving in short-term exposures, to temperatures as low as -25°C, the researchers write. But the bugs are not freeze tolerant, the scientists found, and they can be killed, no matter their stage of life or feeding status. All it takes is 80 hours in temperatures of -16°C.
The finding confirms a standard practice for museum collections and food commodities: Potentially infested items are frozen to kill any hidden insect pests. And it provides a completely safe method of control for regular folk, at least for items they can fit into the freezer. The researchers advise:
Items suspected of infestation should be bagged before placement in the freezer to prevent bedbugs from exiting the items and perishing elsewhere inside the freezer. Bagging an item before placing it in a freezer will also protect it against changes in condensation or damage caused by moisture. Infested items should be placed in the freezer at – 17.8°C (0°F) for a minimum of 3.5 [days], though time may be decreased to 48 [hours] if temperatures average below – 20°C.
This is a recommended practice for library or school books to help prevent a bedbug infestation in your home.
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