Everyone has probably heard of or experienced bed bugs living in houses. They usually hide in bedding and mattress seams. However, not many people have come across bed bugs that live in their personal or rental cars. So, what can cause the little pests to hide in your car? More importantly, what can you do to get rid of bed bugs once and for all? Keep on reading to find out.
Is It Possible To Get Bed Bugs in a Car?
Yes. Although rare, car bed bug infestations can happen occasionally. Though their name may suggest otherwise, bed bugs don’t just live in beds inside homes. These pests are notorious for their ability to travel and survive anywhere and everywhere.
Generally, bed bugs can regularly be found in movie theaters, offices, hotel rooms, gyms, airports, and any other common areas, in which humans tend to gather. That’s because bed bugs are generally attracted to our smell, especially when sleeping, and the high carbon dioxide levels we exhale.
So, what made them enter your car? Quite simply, bed bugs travel. So, while you’ve been in one of those infested places, a few bed bugs hitched a ride on your clothing or luggage and made their way into your car. From there, they started to breed and lay eggs inside all the nooks and crannies of your vehicle, and now you’ve got yourself a full-fledged car infestation.
And it’s not just your car. If you can transfer bed bugs to your vehicle, then your house is no exception. Nothing can prevent bed bugs from going there if you have a bed bug infestation in your car. So, keep an eye out for those pests in the house if you find bed bugs in your vehicle, as it’s highly likely your home will have the same bed bug problem.
How To Confirm the Presence of Bed Bugs
To know if you’ve got a bed bug infestation, first, you have to be capable of identifying a bed bug. Bed bugs are oval-shaped insects that have brown, horizontally-striped, flat bodies. However, once they’ve fed on blood, be it from a human or an animal, they become redder in color and lose their previous flatness.
In general, adult bed bugs are said to have the same size and color as an apple seed, while the younger ones are closer to a poppy seed. So, while the naked can easily detect the adults, the smaller ones may pose a challenge.
Nevertheless, to detect either of them, your car has to be clean and clutter-free. So, get rid of any trash or luggage strewn in your vehicle, but be careful not to bring the contaminated items into your home. That way, you’ll be transforming a contained problem into a widespread disaster.
Then, conduct a thorough visual inspection and pay attention to the center console, glove compartment, front and back seat covers, and floor mats. Any place that’s dark and small will have bed bugs hiding in it, so be thorough and don’t miss an inch as bed bugs hide in the most unlikely of places.
If you have trouble seeing the little pests, get some double-sided tape and start attaching it to the seams of the seats in addition to any edges or corners in your car. Each time you pull back the tape, check it closely for small and large bed bugs. Sometimes, you can even find the bugs’ shed exoskeletons.
Other signs you should look for are small bloodstains, dark spots, and brown-black flecks, aka, the bug’s excrement. Moreover, you should check yourself for the characteristic bed bug bites. These look like red bumps or welts, usually in a row or a little cluster. If you find any of the previous signs, then you’ve confirmed the presence of bed bugs in your car, and it’s now time to start getting rid of them.
Ways To Eradicate Bed Bugs From Your Vehicle
So, what can you do to rid yourself and your car of bed bugs? Thankfully, just by doing the following steps, you can safely and effectively eradicate and kill bed bugs as well as their eggs all in one go.
1. Remove Infested Items
You should take any removable item out of your car. This includes clothes, bags, floor mats, seat covers, baby car seats, and tissue boxes. Isolate these items in a plastic bag until you’re ready to start treating them.
2. Clean, Wash, and Steam Everything
Once you’re done with the first step, take those items and wash everything. Shampoo and wash large items in hot water. Place the remaining items in the washing machine, and choose the cycle with the highest heat setting.
Then, put those items in the dryer for 30-60 minutes at the highest setting possible. That’s because bed bugs and their eggs die within an hour in extremely hot temperatures that exceed 125 °F (51 °C).
If you can’t wash or dry certain items in the dryer, place them in black garbage bags and put them in direct sunlight for at least a few hours. The heat produced inside those bags will be enough to kill all bed bugs as long as the weather outside is hot.
This technique is known as solar bagging and can raise the temperature inside the bag by 40-70 °F. So, a temperature of 80 °F or above on any warm day will be sufficient to kill those pests.
Once you’re done with the removable items, turn your attention to the car. Again, steam cleaning is the best way to target all hard-to-reach and clean areas in your car.
So, get a high-pressure steam cleaner that can reach 200 °F and steam everything you lay your eyes on. Bed bugs in car upholstery, spaces under the seats and inside the trunk, and glove compartment can be hard to get rid of, so you need to pay special attention to such places.
If you find yourself unable to control the steam, use a cloth cover over the steamer’s attachment to direct the column of steam better. Make sure to remain in each spot for 30 seconds to ensure all bed bugs have died before you move on to the next.
Alternatively, if you can’t get a steam cleaner, then you can park your car outside in the sun for several hours and cover the windows with dark covers or plastic bags to turn up the heat.
However, this isn’t an option if the temperature outside is below the 90–100 °F range. That’s because the car won’t get hot enough (125°F) for all the bugs hiding away to die. In such instances, your only options will be to either get a portable heater or call a professional and have them steam-clean your car.
3. Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is a whitish powder made of the fossilized remains of aquatic creatures. This powder kills bed bugs and other pests without posing a hazard to humans or animals. Its mechanism of action consists of removing the fats from the bed bugs’ exoskeletons, and once the lipids are gone, the bed bugs eventually die from dehydration.
Just by sprinkling diatomaceous earth into the crevices and the upholstery, you can say goodbye to the bed bug infestation. However, this doesn’t happen instantly. Diatomaceous earth needs a few days to take effect as no creature dies from dehydration in just a few hours.
For the absolute best results, leave this powder in your car for 3 to 7 days. However, remember that you may need to reapply the powder if the first treatment with diatomaceous earth wasn’t 100% effective. This usually occurs if the bed bugs could feed on blood in that period or if the powder got wet for some reason.
4. Thoroughly Vacuum Your Car
A high-efficiency vacuum is a great way to kill any remaining bed bugs after steam cleaning and diatomaceous earth. Not only will it remove all remnants of diatomaceous earth, but it will also dislodge any eggs or adult bed bugs from those places you couldn’t wash or accidentally missed.
First, scrub the car surfaces with a firm brush to loosen any bed bug lifeforms. Then, make sure to pass over everything with the vacuum, from the car doors to the cupholders. After finishing, place the vacuum bag into a sealed plastic bag and immediately throw it away to prevent another infestation.
5. Call Pest Control
You should call pest control if you want to save yourself the trouble of performing the multiple treatments mentioned above or if you’ve failed to treat the bed bugs in your car by yourself properly. While each of the previous steps can effectively kill bed bugs, it has to be done correctly to ensure total eradication.
However, fumigators or pest control services can efficiently take care of the problem. They’ll seal your car and apply the necessary heat and chemical treatments to it. Thankfully, having your car fumigated will kill bed bugs in it and in any luggage or personal belongings you’ve placed in the car all in one go. So, don’t hesitate to call a professional if you’ve run out of energy or options.
How To Stop Bed Bugs From Infesting or Re-Infesting Your Car?
This is possible by cleaning and vacuuming your car regularly. Soiled clothes and trash attract bed bugs. That’s because these things provide proper breeding grounds for them.
So, if you leave trash and place your laundry or gym clothes in your car, bed bugs will make a home for themselves. However, if you clean and vacuum your car on the regular, you’ll be able to avoid any severe bed bug infestations.
Can Bed Bugs Survive in Cold Weathers?
Unfortunately, yes. Bed bugs are highly tolerant to the cold and can even survive for several days in close to freezing temperatures by lowering the freezing point of their bodily fluids. If you’ve heard of people using dry ice to kill bed bugs, it’s not the cold that kills them, but the carbon dioxide emitted. So, please don’t put your money on bed bugs dying inside a cold car unless you want to lose it.
How Fast Can Bed Bugs Reproduce?
While bed bugs can only live from 6 to 12 months, a single bug can lay more than a couple hundred eggs in its lifetime, with every egg hatching in 4-12 days. Then, in as quick as seven weeks, each newly hatched egg will mature into an adult and start laying even more eggs.
Do Bed Bug Bombs Work in Cars?
Unfortunately, no. While bug bombs can kill most insects, they can’t get rid of bed bugs as other methods effectively can. Many people are tempted to use them because of their relatively low price, but they have less than satisfactory results. Car fumigation, heat treatment, and diatomaceous earth are better at killing bed bugs, so stick with these methods for good results.
Can You Get Bed Bugs in Your Car From Someone Sitting in It?
Yes, absolutely. If that person accidentally picks up the pests from an infested place like his home, school building, or office, he can easily transfer it to you and your car. From there, the bed bugs feed on you and other unsuspecting hosts and continue to live in your vehicle till their time is up.
Car infestations by bed bugs are very real and possible. Bed bugs live, thereby hiding in all the dark places and keep breeding without detection. The good news is you can get rid of them quite easily by following the aforementioned procedures. If you can’t make a call about whether you’ve got yourself an infestation, then get professional advice from a pest control service.