“Good night and sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Good intentions, perhaps, by parents far and wide but somewhat disconcerting for a young kid to hear right before the lights go out. Bugs in my bed? What’s that all about?
What is a bed bug?
Bed bugs resemble ticks in appearance and have similar feeding habits in that they live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bed bugs are flat, oval-shaped insects about the size of an apple seed. They don’t fly, but they are fast movers and prolific breeders, laying hundreds of eggs at a time once they find a comfy place in which to make a home. That’s not good news, especially with an array of serious effects from their bites. A bed bug bite can induce skin rashes, allergic reactions, blisters, itching, fever, and even psychological issues.
With winter upon us, does that mean these nasty critters will shrivel up and die? If you’re wondering if bed bugs go dormant in winter, the answer is yes and no.
Do bed bugs go dormant in winter?
In a way, yes. Bed bugs become less active in winter than in other times of the year, resulting in feeding and breeding less frequently. Because of that, you might see an explosion of activity in one month and far less the next. Let’s look closer at what these bugs are up to.
In ideal conditions, bed bugs digest food in two to three days. In colder temperatures, however, it takes them longer to digest food and they also slow down in their efforts to feed and roam around looking for new places to make a home. They still might lay eggs, albeit less of them and it takes longer to hatch. Their eggs require ideal conditions, just like most every other species and cold temps are not their favorite. However, since bed bugs live indoors, conditions are generally in their favor. In a home regulated at the same temperature all year, bed bugs won’t go dormant.
Since bed bugs don’t generate their own body heat, they are dependent on living at specific temperatures so if a room cools to below the typical average indoor temp, the bugs will slow way down and sometimes won’t move at all. Generally speaking, bed bugs are most active across the U.S. in August and least active in February. New infestations of the bugs are less common in winter as well; with much slower speed, they rely on hitching a ride on clothes or other belongings to travel to new places.
Other dormancy factors
Some “unlucky” bed bugs slip into dormancy because they don’t have a host. An empty or abandoned house, for example, doesn’t leave much for the bugs to feast on. A family gone on an extended vacation can be like an empty house but the return of the host will awaken bed bugs.
Bugs hanging out in a guest room, storage container, or mattress have the same challenge of having to survive longer without food and some won’t be able to eat at all and then move into dormancy. In dormant states, bed bugs of course cannot breed and produce eggs but the bugs can survive for one to two years. In fact, the colder it is the longer they can survive and as soon as a host is reintroduced, they will “come back to life” and continue their nefarious ways.
Bed bugs also enter a dormant state during the day because they are afraid of light, which is known as photophobic. In fact, if you have bed bugs in your house you can watch the tiny critters scatter by lifting a mattress or uncovering other places they happen to be living.
These bugs are savvy night feeders, waiting until the wee hours of the morning when their host (you) is in their deepest sleep before moving in to bite. However, if a particular beg bug or group of them aren’t hungry; they won’t bother to emerge at all. After a meal, there is usually a three-day digestion period until the next foray out for another and during this time the bugs hardly move at all, except perhaps to mate if the mood strikes.
Given their propensity for warmth, bed bugs are most active during summer months when temps are pleasant and comfortable for fast food digestion as well as rapid growth to adulthood. Warm temps are also conducive for copious breeding. Bed bugs need to feed in order to breed and females must breed every time she wants to lay an egg.
Summer also typically brings more humid weather which keeps bugs from drying out and provides great conditions for traveling long distances to spread like wildfire. It can, however, be too hot for bed bugs. They begin to die off when the temperature reaches about 93 and higher, which makes egg production, hatching, and molting all much more difficult.
ESS Universal manufactures and supplies high-quality, cost-effective commercial grade beds, mattresses, and furniture to camps, hostels, shelters, dorms and more. View our entire line of furniture products including our popular waterproof foam mattress for institutional use, single metal bed frames, single over single bunk beds, single over double bunk beds, and triple bunk beds. Download our catalog for detailed information on our complete product line.