I freaked out the moment I realized that there were bed bugs that followed me home when I was traveling in a Southeast Asian country. These pests are extremely good at hiding, and I was sure that they latched on somewhere in my hiking backpack. It was almost too late because bed bugs were actually new to me since I had never seen one before. In case you have a similar experience, this article is going to tell you everything you need to know, especially on whether bed bugs live outside.
1. What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are tiny parasitic insects with a reddish-brown color and flat bodies that will swell after feeding. These insects can move and hide quickly so that they can go unnoticed for so long. At home, they hide in the cracks and crevices of beds, bed frames, headboards, and other dark objects around a bed. When the night comes, they come out from their hiding place to feed on human blood. Bed bugs do not spread diseases, but their bites are very itchy and red. In some cases, the bites may also develop into fluid-filled blisters.
2. How Do Bed Bugs Spread?
So how do bed bugs spread? Travel is actually one of the leading causes of bed bug infestations, and I learned that the hard way. Sometimes they are on the luggage that you leave on the floor, or they come from other passengers’ luggage during transportation. These pests can move from one area to another by hitchhiking on items like bedding, boxes, clothing, furniture, luggage, and used items.
The problem with bed bugs is that they may scatter through your entire bedroom or spread to nearby rooms. One female bed bug can lay hundreds of eggs, and it won’t take long for the infestation to begin. If you notice unusual bites on your exposed skin during your sleep, it is possible that there are bed bugs.
3. Do Bed Bugs Live Outside?
Although they prefer to live indoors, bed bugs can live and survive outdoors in various areas like grass or park. Sometimes they would just drop from an object that they latch on to, so they have to live outside. While other times bed bugs find themselves outdoors by being thrown away along with the infested objects. However, bed bugs will look for a way to get inside a home where the conditions are more ideal. Without a proper host and living sites, beg bugs will eventually die.
In another case, bed bugs can live outdoors if there is furniture they can hide in. Usually, the patio or porch with furniture where people spend time relaxing outside. The bed bugs may survive from biting the people and hide in the dark areas of the furniture outdoors. Or worse, they can hang on to people’s clothing and follow them inside the house. They can hide in clutter, cracks in the wall, fences, pergolas, woodpiles, and more.
4. How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Outside?
Surprisingly, bed bugs are quite hardy when it comes to survival as they can live up to 5 months outside. In fact, they can survive during those 5 months without food as well. To survive, they simply hide in small places until the good opportunities are favorable for finding new hosts. Even dry and humid weather conditions do not really change anything with their survival. Their body temperature will just drop in accordance with the outdoor temperature to keep them alive. The extreme temperature can kill them, but it is unlikely in most areas, so they tend to live on.
The only problem that they have when living outdoors without food is that they are able to breed. The females cannot produce eggs without a bloody meal, and the nymphs will not reach adulthood without blood consumption. Immature bed bugs aka nymphs shed their skin 5 times before reaching maturity, and they require blood before each shedding. And without food for a long period of time, they will eventually die, no matter if it is indoors or outdoors.
5. Where Do Bed Bugs Live?
Bed bugs need dark, warm, and secluded places nearby the food source: humans. During the daytime, they hide in your bed crevices or even pillowcases and other sites that you can’t reach. As you turn off the light and get ready to sleep, they will come out from their hiding places and start feeding. Sometimes are right on your bed, but dark bed sheets or too many pillows can prevent you from noticing them.
Generally, bed bugs live in dirty areas or places with high turnovers of nighttime guests like homeless shelters, hospitals, or hotels. These are the common areas where people encounter bed bugs and accidentally bring them home. If that is the case, I also have a few things to share regarding the measures to deal with bed bugs.
6. Things That You Should Know About Bed Bug Bites
As I remember, I suspected bed bugs when I got strange bites on my skin every time I turned off the light. Because they are so fast, they just vanished the moment I turned on the light. And their tiny size makes them hide underneath my blanket or pillow really quick. I am so glad that I noticed them on time by researching the bite marks. So I want to share the essential things you should know about bed bug bites.
Bed bugs usually bite on the exposed skin during your sleep, like your arms, legs, and necks. Sometimes, they also bite the hands, neck, and shoulders, depending on where they can draw the blood from. Some people can feel the bites while others don’t really notice them. Bed bug bites will appear every night, and their bites can be different, including:
- A burning painful sensation
- Raised itchy bump with a clear center
- Small red bumps surrounded by blisters or hives
- Small red bumps or welts in a zigzag pattern or a line
- Red itchy bump with a dark center and lighter swollen surrounding area
In worse cases, some people can develop severe reactions to bed bug bites. They will require medical attention if they experience symptoms like:
- Swollen tongue
- Irregular heartbeat
- Breathing difficulty
Although bed bug bites do not transmit diseases, the marks that they left are very annoying and irritating. The first thing you should do is clean the wound with soap and water. If the bites are itchy, you may apply antihistamines or anti-itch cream that you can find in your local drugstore. The marks or wounds will disappear after a week or two if there are no more bites. In case you experience inflammation or swelling, you should see a doctor because it could be a sign of an allergic reaction.
Knowing how bed bugs travel and settle down in your room, there are several things that you should do. This is to prevent them from biting and causing an infestation, and those include:
- Regularly and thoroughly vacuum upholstered items as well as your mattress and pillows. Do the same with cleaning and washing your bedding items, then use high heat or dry steam setting to dry them.
- When you buy secondhand furniture, leave them outdoor to inspect for bed bugs first. I recommend using bug sprays to kill anything that is hiding in the crevices of the furniture first. This is to ensure that the furniture is clean and safe before you bring it inside the house.
- If you are sure there is an infestation, call professional exterminators immediately. This is to prevent bed bugs from breeding and spreading more than it already is. Remove and wash all the bed sheets, blankets, pillowcases, and other items and dry them in a sunny spot. Then use brightly colored bed sheet and pillowcases so that you can easily spot them if there is any.
- When you travel, keep your luggage on racks and avoid putting them on the beds, floor, or furniture. Also, make sure to check the bed sheet in hotel rooms for signs of bed bugs. Bring bed bug sprays with you so that you can eliminate them on the spot there is any.
- Leave your backpacks and luggage outdoors overnight when you come back from traveling. If the bed bugs hold on to your luggage, they will leave and seek places to hide at night. By leaving your belonging outdoors, the bugs will not get to come into the house.
- Not everyone unpacks after a trip, but you have to do that to avoid bed bugs. You should wash your clothes immediately after you come from a getaway or vacation. In case the bed bugs are hiding somewhere in your clothing, they will die during the wash. Trust me, washing your clothes after a trip is way more convenient than getting bitten or having an infestation.
7. How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs
The only way to prevent bed bug bites is by getting rid of them, but man, it is so hard. Once you know that there are bed bugs, you must take action immediately. This ensures that they don’t have time to breed and cause an infestation in your room or home. There are several things that you can do to get rid of bed bugs, so check them out below.
Everyone has alcohol spray at home these days, and you can use them as a bed bug repellent as well. Spray alcohol or rubbing alcohol on your furniture and mattress can kill some bed bugs, especially the nymphs. This method is only effective when you directly spray it on the bed bugs that walk across your bed. You should also be careful when using alcohol because it is flammable, which can be dangerous.
7.2. Deep Cleaning
You have to make sure that you clean and wash everything in the whole room. Check every crack and crevices, then vacuum everything you can. Remember that vacuuming alone can only help keep their numbers down, not completely getting rid of them. After vacuuming, immediately clean your vacuum outside so that the remaining bugs won’t get to go back inside.
Remove all the pillowcases and sheets, wash them, dry clean them, then put them in hot sunny spots. Do the same with plush toys, seat cushions, and other washable items. At the same time, make sure not to move items from your room to another to avoid spreading. Next, scrub the infected areas like bed frames, headboards, and more with a stiff brush to dislodge the eggs. After scrubbing, you want to vacuum everything again using the most powerful setting. If you have a strong heat steamer, definitely use it too but avoid using it on wall outlets.
7.3. Diatomaceous Earth
This is one of the most effective methods to get rid of bed bugs and other pests with exoskeletons. The thing is that it works by piercing through the bed bugs’ exoskeleton when they walk on the powder. Then it will dehydrate them and kill them eventually, and it also lasts quite long as well. You can spray diatomaceous earth around the perimeter of your room, cracks and crevices, and other places. It does not smell, and it is also safe around children and pets which is a good method to try.
7.4. Essential Oil
One of the natural remedies that some people use to get rid of and repel bed bugs is essential oil. I must tell you that this method is not effective against a big infestation, but you may try if you’d like. The most effective oil options are paraffin oil and silicone oil because they can suffocate bed bugs. You may apply or spray the oil directly on them if you see one, but it requires direct contact to work.
This is an inexpensive method with a fast result that you can also try after the deep cleaning. Using an insecticide can kill bed bugs quickly with direct contact, so you need to spray it thoroughly. The drawback of this method is that it does not kill the eggs of the bed bugs, and it is time-consuming. Since bed bugs come out to feed every 3 to 7 days, you need to use this method more often. However, it is very effective for killing nymphs before they get to reach adulthood and reproduce.
To kill bed bugs, you have to use heat at a temperature of 122 degrees Fahrenheit or 50 degrees Celsius. This is the right temperature that can kill bed bugs and their eggs, but it may take some time. You can speed up the killing process by cranking up the heat up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius. Bed bugs will die immediately at this heat, but make sure not to burn yourself because it is extremely hot.
7.7. Use Professional Exterminating Service
This is the last step if the first two approaches do not work out well for you or if the infestation is serious. Professional exterminators will eliminate bed bugs from your home effectively, with a very low chance of them coming back. Although calling a professional can be a little pricey, at least you know that there won’t be any more bed bugs.
8. FAQs about Bed Bugs:
8.1. Can bed bugs live outside?
Yes, they can. There are many spots outside that bed bugs can hide and live in. However, they will find their ways inside where the living conditions are better, and the food is abundant. So they will try to hold on to your bags or clothing so that they can come into the house with you.
8.2. Where do bed bugs live outside?
This is a good question, and there are so many areas that they can use as hiding spots. Due to the tiny bodies, bed bugs can hide in pretty much anywhere with cracks and crevices. Outdoor furniture in your patio or porch can also be a perfect area for them to squeeze themselves in. Other items like fabric upholstery, rattan furniture, wicker furniture, wooden objects, and more are also ideal for them to hide in.
8.3. How do bed bugs live outdoor?
On top of being very hardy, bed bugs are also very adaptive when it comes to living conditions. Should the temperatures drop or rise, they can adjust their body temperatures to save energy. This is how bed bugs can live for months, even without food in bad conditions outdoors.
8.4. Can you get bed bugs from outside?
Yes, you can. Bed bugs are extremely well-known for their ability to attach to bags, clothes, and shoes. If you are unfortunate enough to walk past them or stand near their outdoor temporary shelters, you might bring one home.
8.5. How far can bed bugs travel outside?
Bed bugs can neither fly nor jump, so they can walk around 20 feet each day when in search of food. In case there are areas that they shelter in, they will stay there and wait for the opportunity to go inside.
8.6. Do bed bugs live in gardens?
Yes, they do. Bed bugs can live in crevices of barns, garages, sheds, and more because their tiny bodies allow for convenient hiding. However, these insects don’t live in flowers, grass, or other plants in the gardens at all. The only time they would go there is because of the possibility of the food source that they can feed on.
8.7. Do bed bugs crawl on walls during the day?
As I have mentioned above, bed bugs prefer to come out to feed at night when you are asleep. So it is unlikely to see them crawling on the walls during the daytime. The only thing that may draw them out in the daytime is heat.
8.8. Can bed bugs live in cars?
Of course, they can. There are actually many favorable areas that provide ideal conditions for bed bugs to hide in. Even worse, bed bugs can infest a car or bus due to the luggage from passengers from infested hotels. And then they will infest your apartment or room when they hitchhike your backpacks as you go back home.
8.9. Do bed bugs live outside in hot weather in summer?
There are a lot of myths circling around regarding the hot temperatures in summer and bed bugs. A bed bug can tolerate up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), and this is not the common temperature outside. So yes, bed bugs can survive outside in hot weather in summer. In case it is too hot for them to live, then they will move from their current outdoor hiding spot to somewhere else.
8.10. What are the natural predators of beg bugs?
Bed bugs are meals and snacks to creatures like cockroaches, lizards, Pharaoh ants, spiders, and more. Masked beg bug hunters are also one of the predators that love to feed on bed bugs. However, it is not advisable to have these creatures in your home just to get rid of the bed bugs. If there is an infestation, contact an exterminator immediately before it is too late because it is not pretty.
Bed bugs are exasperating insects that none of us want to experience, and they are utterly difficult to get rid of. While there are many ways to kill bed bugs, completely eliminating them could be quite daunting. This is why it would be easier for you to contact a professional to ensure proper extermination. No matter if it is indoors or outdoors, coming across these bugs is absolutely a nightmare. So let’s hope that you won’t get to experience any infestation because it is so vexatious.