Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Control Technician
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Is There A Bed Bug Season?
Are bed bugs worse in summer or winter? Do bed bugs hibernate or die in winter? In the pest control industry, we deal with lots of pests that are seasonal. For example, I get 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? What time of year are bed bugs most active? Well, 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 during the heat and higher temperatures in the summer.
Another reason is the level of travel during the summer, and in the winter holiday season 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 and go away in the winter, far from it!
Pest control professionals are called out to treat bed bug infestations all year round.
Do Bed Bugs Bite All Year Round?
Yes, bed bugs can bite all year round. We already know as global travel increases during peak seasons, 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 breaks and bring 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 commonly thought that you don’t get bed bugs in winter.
However, bed bugs are indoor pests that have just as much opportunity to feed during the winter months as we tend to stay indoors in the warmth more.
Do Bed Bugs Hibernate?
Bed bugs are not like other pests that hibernate in the winter when the cold temperatures arrive.
These insects are ectoparasites which means they live on the outside of their host. They like to live near a food source and their favorite hiding spots are in bed frames and on mattress and box spring seams and folds, so they don’t have to crawl too far to feed.
Mattress and box spring encasements should not be taken off once installed as they prevent any bed bugs trapped inside them from escaping. They also stop any new bed bug populations from infesting them.
They also like living in our temperature-controlled homes which allows an infestation to thrive even during winter and be active all year round.
Overall, 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?
Do bed bugs go into hibernation? As mentioned above, bed bugs do not go into what we would call hibernation, but a drop in temperature inside 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 for an extended period of time 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 it is thought that 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 lie dormant until someone else moves in.
What Temperature Do Bed Bugs Like?
As previously said, bed bugs like the same temperatures we do, which is around 70-80°F. This allows all stages of life to thrive and the nymphs to fully mature in about a month, as well as reproduce multiple times a year which means the infestation level increases.
Most people believe that bed bugs die in winter because they see a decrease in their activity. They actually become less mobile in winter if your home becomes cooler so you won’t be bitten as often as they feed less frequently. But they are just hiding away and certainly are not dead!
However, if you maintain a constant warm temperature then they will continue to feed frequently, so you might not notice much difference in bed bug activity between the summer and winter months.
Do Bed Bugs Go Away On Their Own?
Unfortunately, bed bugs do not generally just disappear or die off as long as they have access to blood.
They can, but only if the circumstances are right, which is if they haven’t had a blood meal for around a year which is only usually the case if they are in a property that hasn’t been lived in for that length of time.
Remember, these pests have been around for thousands of years and have worked hard to adapt and survive in human environments. They are an indoor pest and do not go away in winter but will just lay dormant until a food source or warmer temperatures return.
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