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Dec 09, 2013 09:35 AM EST

Bed Bugs Survive Freezing Temperatures, Study

Humans require 80 hours of freezing temperature to kill a bed bug.
(Photo : Flickr) Humans require 80 hours of freezing temperature to kill a bed bug.

Bed bugs cannot be destroyed in normal temperatures. Humans must expose bug-infested clothing or other small items to freezing temperatures of -16 degrees Celsius (3.19 Fahrenheit) for a minimum of 80 hours, according to a new entomological study.

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Researchers have found that bed bugs are less vulnerable to freezing temperatures than previously believed. Similar to other insects, bed bugs exercise 'freeze-intolerant' mechanism against the cold by lowering the freezing point of their body fluids.

For this study, the researchers analyzed the super cooling point (SCP) and the lower lethal temperature (LLT) of all life stages of bed bugs.

They found that 100 percent mortality of all life stages in bed bugs is achieved when they are exposed to minus 16 degrees for a minimum of 80 hours. When the bed bugs are exposed to below minus 15 and 20 degrees celcius, it takes 3.5 days and 48 hours respectively, to destroy them.

The entomologists also found that their eggs also protect themselves from freezing injury. During the experiment, certain bedbug eggs survived short-term exposures to -25 degrees Celsius (-13 degrees Fahrenheit).

The researchers suggest people to place bed bug-infested items in plastic bags in a freezer for two to four days to destroy them completely.

The study titled, 'Cold Tolerance of Bed Bugs and Practical Recommendations for Control,' has been published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

Bed bugs, which are characterized by reddish-brown color and about the size and shape of an apple seed, hide inside soft stuff (such as mattresses), carpets, soft toys and inside walls during the day and come out during the night to feed.

Other tips to get rid of bed-bug infestation are:

-          Before getting into bed, lift up mattress and look for black or brown stains from their droppings, cast-off bed bug skins, and the bugs themselves.

-          Avoid placing suitcases or clothing on the floor. Instead, use cupboards and tables.

-          If possible, wash clothes in hot water and vacuum the house once a week.

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