Do Bed Bugs Hibernate?

bed bug sitting on a white surface

If you’re worried about bed bugs and hope that you might at least get a respite while they slumber through the winter, here’s bad news: They don’t hibernate. And while cold can slow them down, it’s doubtful it will get cool enough indoors to make a dent in their savagery because bed bugs benefit from the warmth we create in our living spaces during winter.

The climate we create in our homes by blasting the heat or snuggling up with electric blankets offers bed bugs an eternal summer. That means they are continuously in feast mode as long as the conditions are right.

Key Takeaways

Bed Bug Hibernation: Separating Fact From Frosty Fiction

There’s a fable floating around that freezing temperatures outside can clear your home of bed bugs. It’s a nice thought, but it’s not that simple.

  • Myth: It’s winter, so the bed bugs must be dead. That’s like assuming your in-laws won’t visit because it’s snowing … they’ll find a way.
  • Fact: Even if your home feels like the Arctic, bed bugs can retreat into wall voids and other recessed areas where it’s toasty enough for them to ride out the cold snap.

The Bed Bug Version of Hibernation: Diapause

bed bug on skin
Photo Credit: Mainely Photos / Canva Pro / License

Diapause occurs when bed bugs are exposed to prolonged unfavorable conditions. This state of suspended animation is a survival method, triggered not by the season itself but by the change in temperature and food availability. They can remain in this state for several months, even more than a year, in some documented cases.

But here’s the kicker: diapause can cease as soon as the bed bug’s environment becomes hospitable again. You crank up the heat during the holidays, and these creatures will be back on the merry-go-round of feasting and breeding.

Are Bed Bugs Seasonal?

Like us, they prefer the warmer months. That’s when they reproduce and, unfortunately for us, feed. But because they reside indoors, where the seasons are but a mere suggestion outside the window, bed bugs don’t exhibit as much seasonality as other pests might.

  • Lower limits: They can tough it out in chillier climes, living at temperatures as low as freezing, but they won’t reproduce or feed much. They will die at prolonged exposure to temperatures below 3°F.
  • Upper limits: Crank up the heat to about 120°F, and they’ll be toast, quite literally. That’s why pest control companies love their steamers.

Signs of Winter Bed Bug Activity

closeup of bed bug on a sheet
Photo Credit: Dmitry Bezrukov / Canva Pro / License

Detecting bed bugs in the winter is pretty much the same as in summer. You might be a tad more reluctant to strip down your bed in the cold, which could give these pests a leg up in establishing their winter home. But stay vigilant. Here’s how to know for sure:

Check Your Bed and Bedding

When you’re swapping out your bedding for something more seasonality-appropriate, like that flannel set with the adorable snowflakes, it’s the perfect moment to inspect for bed bugs. A quick glance at your mattress seams, headboard, and bed frame might save you from a bug-infested winter.

Winter Bed Laundry Checks

Nothing beats climbing into a bed with freshly laundered sheets. The laundry process during winter, which hopefully still includes a fiery rendezvous with your dryer on high heat, will kill any bed bugs thinking of snuggling up in your linens. Always be on the lookout for uninvited plus-ones in your laundry basket.

Holiday Guests and Bed Bugs

Bed bugs care less about Grandma’s secret recipes and who won the last snowball fight. They’re only eyeing the array of suitcases and travel bags arriving with your kin. Monitor the sleeping areas where your guests will stay. Bed bugs might just see this as an opportunity to expand.

How to Outlast Bed Bugs Any Time of Year

As we’ve said, bed bugs don’t take a winter hiatus, so your vigilance shouldn’t either. Here are some ways to keep these unwelcome visitors off your holiday invitation list.

Regular Inspections

pro inspecting bed bugs on the bed
Photo Credit: AndreyPopov / Canva Pro / License

If you’re in the know where bed bugs might lounge, you’re already one step ahead.

  • Peek and Poke: Regularly check those beloved hangout spots: mattress seams, baseboards, and electrical outlets. A flashlight and a credit card won’t get you cashback, but they might reveal some freeloading bed bugs.
  • Clean and Contain: Keep your space spick and span, and don’t let the laundry pile up like a winter snowdrift. Bed bugs love the mess because it gives them free rein to hide and seek without the fun part.

Proactive Measures

The best defense is a good offense, as they say. Apply that to bed bugs and make your space as uninviting as possible:

  • Encasements: Slip your mattress and box spring into a cozy encasement to trap any bed bugs and prevent new ones from moving in. 
  • Interceptors: Place bed bug interceptors under the bed posts to keep them away from climbing into your bed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I freeze my belongings to kill bed bugs?

In theory, yes. But it’s not as easy as tossing your stuff into the freezer next to the peas. Bed bugs are resilient, and it requires consistent, deep-freeze temps over a couple of days to ensure they’re truly gone.

Do bed bugs have a peak season?

While bed bugs don’t exactly have a high season for antics, summer moves and vacations often give them plenty of opportunities to hitchhike into homes.

Can bed bugs lay dormant in furniture?

Absolutely! Furniture gives them plenty of nooks to hunker down until conditions improve.

A Warm Ending

If you think your home’s a bug-free zone just because you’re reading this bundled up in your winter gear, think again. Bed bugs will llounge in your luggage, snuggle in your socks, and embed in your electronics waiting for the world to warm up again.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, bed bugs persist. When you’ve reached the limit of your patience (or your itch tolerance), it’s time to call the pros. Pest Gnome can help you connect with experienced pros who can help you say goodbye to bed bugs, any time of the year.

Main Image Credit: Yxyv / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Adrian Nita

Adrian is a former marine navigation officer turned writer with more than 3 years of experience in the field. He loves writing about anything and everything but specializes in covering smart technology and gardening. When he's not writing, Adrian enjoys spending time with his family and friends or hiking in the great outdoors.