Insect Infestations

Can Bed Bugs Live Outdoors? How Do They Survive Outside the House?

People wonder if bed bugs can travel or live outside, say, after an infestation, if these bloodsucking critters can survive in various conditions.

Read on for we will explore everything there is to know about these blood-sucking crawlies’ outdoor survival skills. In this post, we refute some of the popular and less popular myths while fixing a few misconceptions so that you know what’s right. Let’s get straight to the point!

So, can bed bugs live outside?

Bed bugs don’t fancy low temperatures. Overall, bed bugs have close to nonexistent chances of survival in the outdoors, but if you have outdoor furniture and spend more time there, they can easily thrive. There are even some cases of car upholstery infestations.

So, if you have a bed bug treatment scheduled or are thinking of getting one, keep in mind that some of the insects will flee your home and relocate themselves outside. If you don’t make sure that you thoroughly kill all of them, the ones that get away will most likely re-enter your property, and the whole infestation nightmare will start all over again.

Where do bed bugs usually live outside?

Whether inside or outside the bed bugs’ behaviour is pretty much the same. Their main goal is to find a place to hide, which is as close as possible to a blood source. Therefore, they’ll be looking to get into the crevices of walls, patios, pergolas, rattan furniture, wooden furniture, sheds, etc.

A common concern is whether bed bugs can infest lawns. In fact, it is possible for bed bugs to travel through the grass, even from a neighbour’s house for instance. However, their main goal most likely would be to get indoors and as close to their food source as possible. Once inside, they will also be able to thrive in a sheltered environment.

How long can bed bugs survive outdoors?

Generally, there are three main factors that determine how long bed bugs can live outside before they perish – temperature, food and weather.

Temperature

This factor plays a major role in the bed bugs’ survival outdoors, so let’s explore it in more detail.

Can bed bugs survive in the heat?

In terms of heat resistance and temperature, bed bugs don’t do good in hot environments around 50°C or more. That’s why the best way to exterminate bed bugs is via professional heat treatments. According to lab studies, it takes 54.8°C or more for eggs and larvae to die. The methodology has proven to be the most efficient way to get rid of bed bugs right now, with a success rate of almost 100%.

Still, you have plenty of DIY heat treatments available to try yourself. Many try commercial steam cleaners and boiling temperatures to wash infested clothes, sheets, and even stuffed toys. Keep in mind that moving your possessions outside on a hot summer day, won’t get rid of an infestation.

Even if you put, let’s say an infested sweater, in a plastic bag and leave it for several days under direct sunlight, there’s no guarantee that all bugs will die.

An absurd yet popular myth is that the heat of a vehicle would be enough to kill bed bugs. The truth is, bed bugs are survivors and there are many places to survive within a car. Temperatures lower than 50°C can contribute to the opposite – the insect will breed and bite like there is no tomorrow.

Can bed bugs live in the cold?

Yes, but for a limited period of time. If you think you can freeze bed bugs to death, you’ll fail. Not only can they survive extreme cold, but low temperatures also slow their metabolism. And we aren’t talking about just a couple of months survival, but up to a whole year. So, don’t bother placing any infested items you might have in a freezer for it is pointless.

In fact, bed bugs can carry their daily routine even at temperatures as low as 8°C and can stay alive at even lower ones. However, the Journal of Economic Entomology found that some bed bugs are able to live through negative temperatures as low as -10 °C. But on the positive side, bed bugs will freeze in -16 °C, if exposed for only 80 hours. The lower the temperature, the less time it will take for the bug to die but anything below -16 °C is long-fetched.

Learn about the techniques professional pest control specialists use in London.

Weather conditions

While bed bugs can find a way to survive in heat and cold weather, they may not do so well in water. Since they live mainly in crevices of wood furniture, patios and the like, rain may pose a serious threat by washing them out of there.

So if you’ve been wondering whether bed bugs can survive outside on a rainy day or are exposed to multiple rainy days, then rest assured that they will not last long.

Food

As mentioned, easy access to food is a major factor in how long bed bugs can survive outdoors. Although strongly dependent on food, these little crawlies can be quite resilient.

In fact, bed bugs deprived of food can survive up to 4 months. On the positive side, the younger ones may perish a lot faster when deprived of food. The adult bed bugs, however, will have no trouble withstanding longer periods of time without feeding.

How far can bed bugs travel outside?

Bed bugs can’t fly, hop, skip or jump, but they have well-developed hitchhiking abilities. You can invite them to your house, by bringing in old furniture or clothes washed in a laundry facility. They are lazy. Once they find an environment that provides food, shelter and a comfortable temperature, they will stay.

On the other hand, research has shown that in some cases, bed bugs will travel back and forth from their shelter to their food source. The distance may be as much as 15 metres or more, for a period of 24 hours.

Also, they can move from room to room or from one apartment to another other, in order to find their ideal living conditions.

On that note, if you find an infested item or piece of furniture, don’t move it around before covering it in plastic wrapping.

What are the natural enemies of bed bugs?

Many people use ladybugs as damage control against tiny insects and ants that eat the plants in their gardens and they might work for such a purpose. However, there is no confirmed information on whether ladybugs eat bed bugs or not. Even if they do, it’s not practical to have a bunch of red critters flying around your bedroom and leaving yellow spots on your pillows, is it?

However, there are several other species that are considered natural enemies of bed bugs and can help in the fight against them. Still, we strongly advise you to take the fight outdoors, as introducing any of these to your house will possibly leave you with another infestation on your hands.

Common predators of bed bugs

  • Argentine ants;
  • Hemipteran predator;
  • Pharaoh ants;
  • European imported fire ant;
  • Delicate assassin bug;
  • Masked bed bug hunter;
  • Tropical fire ant;
  • Pseudoscorpion;
  • Wind scorpion;
  • Pyemotes mites.

Do spiders eat bed bugs?

There are two main species of spiders that eat bed bugs – the cobweb spider and the running crab spider. If you have noticed an increasing number of spiders around your house lately, read our post on how to get rid of spiders to see what steps to take.

Do lizards eat bed bugs?

Yes, several types of lizards consume bed bugs. But if you’re considering using a lizard for pest control, we strongly advise you to revise your strategy. Lizards need specific living conditions, that include a certain temperature, a special light source, and particular humidity levels, all of which are difficult and costly to maintain.

Frequently asked questions about bed bugs to explore…

Where do bed bugs come from in the first place?

Bed bugs are notorious for their hitchhiking habits enjoy travelling by bag, bed sheets, sweaters, pillows, basically anything made from fabric. People tend to travel more during the summer months, thus increasing the chances of transporting the pest from their hotel room to their living room.

Also, due to their size and hiding abilities, bed bugs are hard to detect, which automatically eliminates the possibility to spot them, while packing belongings. Another easy-to-miss sign is the bite marks. People tend to dismiss them as mosquito bites when in reality bed bug larvae are the ones to blame.

Why do bed bugs usually live indoors?

Bed bugs have evolved to feed mainly on human blood. In most cases, bed bugs will wander outside only if thrown on the street with infested furnishing. Bed bugs have a slaughterous thirst for blood and need to stay close to a food source. They also reproduce fast, so if you spot one get a bed bug treatment as soon as possible.

Do bed bugs only live in beds?

Bed bugs are not bound to live in beds  They can live anywhere. However, we humans are very predictable in our habits, and bed bugs have adapted to our daily schedule. We sleep 8 hours in the same bed or watch 2 hours of TV on the same sofa. So, the bed bugs observe us, plan their approach and eventually decide to bring their entire family with them. That’s why they would spread throughout an entire property and even beyond.

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Are bed bugs a summer pest?

Overall, bed bugs are active throughout the whole year, however, many professional pest control companies report a noticeable growth in the number of calls during the summer. This doesn’t mean that bed bugs hibernate during the colder months to wake bloodthirsty.

Can bed bugs infest your car?

Yes. But it doesn’t happen often. Bed bugs tend to use cars for the sole purpose to migrate. Funny as it sounds, they will take a free ride to find a new home, but won’t stick around to mate and feed in your car.

A common way to get bed bugs in your vehicle is by bringing them inside with your suitcase or bag. In case you suspect that you are hosting bed bugs, we advise you to check your belongings before putting them in your car.

If you see any signs of the pests’ presence, you can spray the outside of your suitcase with a special contact product made for luggage and mattresses.

Make sure to wait for the spray to completely dry out before you put anything inside. If you are 100% sure you have bed bugs in your car, clean the inside of the vehicle and remove any clutter. Then, proceed to apply a pheromone bed bug trap, which will attract and imprison the pest within 24 hours.

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Final remarks

Bed bugs compete successfully with roaches in terms of exhibiting master survival skills in various types of dire conditions. They will go out of their way to survive outdoors until the pests get a chance to find a host in a cosy dwelling.

On that note, if you ever suspect that bed bugs have put a mark on your property, both indoors or outdoors, just get a professional bed bug exterminator to deal with the problem.

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Image source: mibus7 / Shutterstock.com

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