Cold Kills Bed Bugs If ...

Surrey and Delta library branches have received the all clear – no evidence of bed bugs was discovered during recent pest control inspections. This heightened awareness follows recent bed bug discoveries in New Westminster, Burnaby and Vancouver library branches.

Cold Has Advantages Over Heat

The New Westminster branch elected to use high-heat steam to treat items that may have been contaminated by bed bugs. According to BCLocalNews, the Delta branch plans to implement freezing as their bed bug eradication method of choice. Cold, like heat is a very reliable method to kill all stages of bed bugs. Cold has an advantage – it is suitable for items that could be damaged by heat, such as the glue bindings in hard-cover books. 

A Word of Caution

The BCLocalNews article, attributes Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL) CEO Rob O'Brennan indicated "30 minutes in the freezer will kill the parasitic pests".  A word of caution, should any homeowners wish to approach their own bed bug problem with a freezing DIY approach – 30 minutes in a frost-free freezer is not a guarantee.

Consider Size/Density, Temperature and Time 

As in any delivery system there are variables of concern to ensure the highest degree of success. In this instance:  the size and density of the suspected item, plus the ability of the freezing mechanism to deliver a constant temperature. If these two variables are not met, time is the third element that must be increased to achieve success. The following except is from recognized bed bug expert, Stephen L. Doggett - A Code of Practice For the Control of Bed bug Infestations in Australia; 4th Edition (draft) September 2011:

“The amount of time in the freezer would be dependent on the size of the item; the larger the item, the longer in the freezer. If the freezer is operating at or around -20C, then two hours at this temperature will kill all stages. However, for the average household freezer, studies have indicated that 10 hours will be required (Naylor & Boase, 2010). Dense items may take several days for the centre to cool sufficiently to kill the bugs and the longer an item is kept frozen, the more likely the bugs will be destroyed. Naylor and Boase suggest around 8 hours of freezing is required per 2.5kg of dry weight of laundry. Many modern freezers are of the ‘frost-free’ type and go through cycles of varying temperatures. As a result, bed bugs will require a much longer time in the freezer to be killed, even up to several days.”

Freezing does work and will kill bed bugs and their eggs - the eggs being the most challenging stage of the bed bug life cycle to eliminate.  Just be sure you increase the total time in the freezer relative to the size/density of the item and the consistency of the target temperature.