You may have heard about different methods to kill bed bugs. However, some of them are not quite as effective as people say. If you go through serious information about bed bugs, professionals usually recommend using plastic bags to store your clothes. That’s probably why people are starting to put their bed sheets and clothes in a plastic bag as a means of bed bug extermination.
Have you tried that method? Is it effective? Let’s see what the evidence says about it.
Can Beg Bugs be starved to death in a bag?
Bed bugs are extremely resistant creatures. They need blood to live, and starving them sounds like a great method to get rid of them. However, it is not that easy.
You may have heard that a cockroach can survive without its head for a very long time. Similarly, you just can’t apply the same rationale in humans and insects. We don’t work the same way, and bed bugs won’t die of starvation after a few days. In fact, they are very resistant and enter a sort of hibernation state that allows them to last for a very long time without dying of starvation.
So, after putting your bed sheets on a plastic bag, bed bugs can last a variable time, from 20 to 400 days, depending on what was the last time they had a feast on you. As you can see, the chances of starving them to death by putting your sheets in a plastic bag is extremely thin. It is highly unlikely that you will get rid of the problem by applying this measure.
So, why are professionals recommending plastic bags? They are meant to be used after you clean and disinfect your clothes and bed sheets, not before. They were never meant to kill bed bugs but keep your bedding free from them.
Oxygen and other survival factors
As mentioned above, killing bed bugs by starvation is highly unlikely. It may take days, months, or more than one year to kill one of them, and they multiplicate in hundreds and thousands. But what about oxygen or temperature resistance? What if you seal plastic bags so that they won’t have enough oxygen and die?
According to previous research about bed bugs survival factors, they cannot live without oxygen. Actually, having no oxygen or a very low concentration can kill bed bugs after 8 hours. It sounds promising, but remember this is only an experimental measure, with an ideal vacuum that removes a significant proportion of air, or maybe all of it. In a practical setting, you will very rarely achieve that level of vacuum-packed sealing. And even if you do, you will be getting rid of a few bed bugs, and there will still be hundreds of them creeping in dark crevasses and cracks in your furniture. So, it is definitely not a recommended extermination method. Using a Vacuum is an effective way to prepare before bed bug treatment however.
But let’s talk about temperature. This is a more convenient extermination method, not to be applied on a plastic bag but directly on your bed sheets, your carpets, and other surfaces. According to experts, bed bugs can survive very hot and very cold environments, but have a higher susceptibility to extreme heat compared to extreme cold. Temperatures to kill bed bugs start at 115 ºF (46 ºC). But at this temperature, you need to maintain the same environment for 10 minutes before they effectively die. Higher temperatures are ideal to kill them almost instantly, and the ideal is 140 ºF (60 ºC). However, you need to be very careful when using heat to exterminate bed bugs, and it is sometimes better to hire a professional if you want a complete extermination using heat.
What can you do to kill bed bugs?
Killing bed bugs is by no means an easy task. They hide very well and are very resistant to be coaxed out. But you can apply a few techniques and substances by yourself, and some of them are completely harmless to humans and pets.
We always recommend using diatomaceous earth. This is an effective method that is also very safe for pets, children, and other animals. It is a natural pesticide that looks like powder. What you need to do is spread the powder in the infected area, and it will dry bed bugs, depriving them from moisture, and killing them without harmful chemicals.
If you want a more aggressive approach and use the safety measures, you could also try with insecticides. They can be very effective to control your plague as long as you choose the right one.
If you’re using one of the methods above, be sure to do this as well:
- Inspect your furniture and walls. Keep in mind that bed bugs can hide in small cracks and crevasses. They are a key area to spread diatomaceous earth or insecticides.
- Clean your house thoroughly, especially dark spots and places you don’t usually reach in your routine cleaning. If you stack magazines, newspaper, or any other item, consider throwing away or giving away what you don’t need to reduce the hiding places for bed bugs.
- Instead of placing your bed in the corner of the room, keep it 4-6 feet separated from the walls. If you have a wooden bed, inspect for cracks or crevices, and clean your bed sheets frequently.
If you are REALLY on a zero budget you can follow this advice from an experienced man in this youtube video
If you think your bed bug problem is considerable and becoming a real issue, it is probably the best moment to get expert help. Bed bugs can survive without starving for months, so if you’re waking up with bites every day that’s probably because your infestation is large and getting out of hand.
Kolb, A., Needham, G. R., Neyman, K. M., & High, W. A. (2009). Bedbugs. Dermatologic therapy, 22(4), 347-352.
Harlan, H. J. (2006). Bed bugs 101: the basics of Cimex lectularius. American Entomologist, 52(2), 99-101.
Benoit, J. B., Lopez‐Martinez, G., Teets, N. M., Phillips, S. A., & Denlinger, D. L. (2009). Responses of the bed bug, Cimex lectularius, to temperature extremes and dehydration: levels of tolerance, rapid cold hardening and expression of heat shock proteins. Medical and veterinary entomology, 23(4), 418-425.