Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Control Technician
Is There A Bed Bug Season?
In the pest control industry, we deal with lots of pests that are seasonal. For example, I get lots of calls from people to treat ants in their homes and yards during the summer months, but the calls decline as soon as the weather starts to turn colder.
But what about bed bugs? Is there a bed bug season? According to a study on the Spatial and Temporal Patterns in Cimex lectularius (Hemiptera: Cimicidae) Reporting in Philadelphia, PA, they found “a steep and significant seasonal cycle in bed bug reporting, with peaks in the summer and troughs occurring throughout winter.”
The reasons put forward in the study are that bed bug activity increases and they develop faster due to higher temperatures in the summer. Another reason is the level of travel during the summer, and in the holiday season in winter which greatly increases our chances of coming into contact with bed bugs.
Although the study identifies a peak in bed bug reporting during the summer months, this does not mean they are a seasonal pest, far from it!
Pest control professionals are called out to treat infestations all throughout the year, but why if there seems to be a bed bug season?
Do Bed Bugs Bite All Year Round?
Yes, bed bugs can bite all year round. We already know as global travel throughout the year increases, so does the likelihood of picking up a few bed bugs from hotels and resorts that hitchhike their way back to our homes with us.
Another example of people reporting bed bug bites is when students return home during winter breaks bringing bed bugs back with them in their belongings.
Often during the winter months, people don’t think the rash or marks on their skin are the results of bed bug bites as it’s often thought that they are more of a summer pest.
However, bed bugs have just as much opportunity to feed during winter as we tend to stay indoors in the warmth more.
Do Bed Bugs Hibernate?
Unfortunately, bed bugs are not like other pests that hibernate in the winter when the temperature outside starts to drop.
Bed bugs are ectoparasites which means they live on the outside of their host. They like to live near you mainly hiding in the bed frame and on mattress and box spring seams, so they don’t have to crawl too far for a blood meal.
They also like the benefit of living in our temperature-controlled homes which allows them to thrive and be active all year round, even in winter.
Bed bugs like the same temperature range that we do. Therefore, they do not hibernate as such, as long as they have access to a host for a blood meal and our homes are kept warm.
Do Bed Bugs Go Dormant and How Long For?
As mentioned above, bed bugs do not go into what we would call hibernation, but a drop in temperature in our homes, or not having access to a host can cause them to go into a dormant state.
Most insects including bed bugs have the ability to enter a level of dormancy called diapause if their optimal temperature and humidity ranges change which could negatively affect them.
As the name suggests, during diapause bed bugs can slow down and pause their metabolism and conserve energy until favorable conditions return.
But unlike other insects, the bed bug’s biology is different as it is not woken up due to seasonal changes. Access to a host or an increase in temperature more suitable for them is all that is needed for them to become active again.
During diapause, nymphs and adults are able to live without a blood meal for around 2 to 6 months in favorable temperatures, but bed bugs can survive without a blood meal for a year or longer at 55°F or less.
This makes them an extremely resilient pest, and for people living in apartment buildings, this can be a problem. If one unit is vacated without the infestation being treated, bed bugs will become dormant until someone else moves in, or they will find their way into other units closeby.
What Kind Of Climate Do Bed Bugs Like?
As mentioned above, bed bugs like the same temperatures we do, which is around 70-80°F. This allows them to thrive and fully mature in about a month, as well as reproduce multiple times a year.
But if your home becomes cooler during winter you probably won’t be bitten as often as they feed less frequently, and are actually less mobile in winter.
However, if you maintain a constant warm temperature they will remain active and feed frequently, so you might not notice much difference in bed bug activity between the summer and winter months.
Unfortunately, bed bugs do not go away in winter as they are an indoor pest. If you’ve found an insect in your home and you think it might be a bed bug, check our pictures of bed bugs page to be sure and from there you will need to decide if want to get rid of them yourself, or hire a pest professional to treat them before the infestation grows.