Can bed bugs live in water? Can they swim?

can water kill bed bugs
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The first thing you’ll want to do upon spotting bed bugs is to wash! Wash yourself, your clothes, your bedding and any soft furnishings, but while it might make you feel clean initially, it won’t necessarily free you of bed bugs.

Can bed bugs live submerged under water?

Bed bugs cannot live submerged in water, but they can float on the surface if light enough. Once they drop beneath the surface of the water, their time spent sucking our blood is limited. Bed bug eggs are much more resilient and can live in water for up to 24 hours!

Providing the temperature is tepid enough, bed bugs eggs can endure water – this is why washing your clothes regularly is not an effective form of bed bug control. Unless the wash is on a high heat, then the bed bugs and their eggs will not be obliterated.

Does water kill bed bugs?

Unlike most insects, bed bugs do not drink water directly in order to survive. Instead they obtain all their fluid intake from us in the form of freshly served blood and from sucking our bodily water.

Water is not a friend of the bed bug and it will kill them if their bodyweight prevents them from floating. Therefore, a bed bug who has not had a feed for a while is much more likely to survive by staying above the waterline, than one who has recently feasted.

There have been a number of studies and experiments undertaken regarding the optimal amount of time that a bed bug can survive underwater for, and it has been suggested that a bed bug is unable to live for any longer than 24 hours when immersed, due to lack of oxygen.

Other factors determining whether water alone will kill a bud bug include surface tension, movement of water and the crucial factor…temperature. Water, when heated to above 117 degrees Fahrenheit will be fatal for bed bugs.

Can bed bugs swim?

Bed bugs are not built for swimming. Their bodies are plump and close to the ground, and this makes it almost impossible for them to propel themselves forwards. Instead these creepy little critters use their six legs with small hooks to catch and crawl along.

What they are good at, however, is floating. As bed bugs are such small parasites, their bodyweight is minimal making them light enough to simple sit on top of the waterline. So long as they do not slip beneath the surface and sink, then they stand a good chance of staying alive.

For this reason, placing the legs of your bed in water is a great way to try and prevent bed bugs from climbing towards you. Washing your clothes regularly in a hot spinning cycle will also ensure that the high temperature and constant turning motion will eventually finish them off.

Can you drown bed bugs?

As mentioned above, you can drown a bed bug, providing they are fully suppressed under the water and cut off from any oxygen supply. However, this could take quite a while to achieve and when it comes to bed bug eggs, we could be talking days.

You should not rely on drowning as an effective method for killing bed bugs and treating infestations, as this solution only target those pests you can see and not the ones that are still lurking in the cracks and crevices of your home.

Can bed bugs survive in the washing machine?

The answer to whether bed bugs can survive in a washing machine is highly dependent on the warmth of the cycle. Whilst washing your clothes or bed linens will kill most of the bed bugs, it is the heat of drying your items that ultimately exterminates them.

Bed bugs and their eggs are able to tolerate water and heat providing their body temperature does not exceed 117 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, if you are planning on using a washing machine in order to cleanse your clothes and bedding of bed bugs for good, then you need to use the hottest setting possible.

We would also advise that your washing cycle lasts for 30 minutes or ideally even longer to ensure that all bed bugs, eggs and larvae are fully submerged.

You should sort your clothes into piles depending on their color and washing instructions and carry them in individual sealed bags to your washing machine. Once emptied into the drum, you should throw away the contaminated carry bags and set your machine on the hottest setting that your garments can tolerate. Once the cycle has finished you should place the clean clothes in a brand-new carrier bag to prevent cross contamination.

Best ways to kill bed bugs

Using hot water to kill bed bugs is not a complete solution for eradicating these pests. Those bed bugs who do not make it into the machine will continue to multiple and the scenario will keep on repeating itself until long term measures are put in place. Instead we recommend that in addition washing your clothes on a high heat you use a number of bed bug treatments such as: –

  • Bed bug sprays
We would recommend staying away from pesticides that are highly poisonous to children and animals and instead use a non-toxic, safe and eco-friendly spray. These specially formulated sprays are easy to apply and will kill bed bugs on contact and for up to two weeks post application. If you want to kill bed bugs in all stages of their life cycle, then we recommend the EcoRaider bed bug spray.
  • Bed bug powders
Just like bed bug sprays, powders are one of the most commonly used methods for pest control. Bed bug powders work by having a residual effect. The powder – when sprinkled – clings to the waxy exoskeleton of the bed bug itself, absorbing the nutrient-rich oils on their skin and causing them to dehydrate and die.

One of the biggest drawbacks to using bed bug powders, however, is that they are only effective on adult bed bugs and will not kill nymphs or eggs. Therefore, powders should not be used as a stand-alone bed bug eradication method. If you are interested in using a bed bug powder, we recommend Diatomaceous Earth which is a natural solution made from soft sedimentary rock.
  • Mattress Encasements

Bed bug mattress encasements can be used if you already have bed bugs and as a preventative tool. These super smooth covers can be placed over the mattress and box springs to prevent bed bugs from getting in or out, whilst starving them of blood in the long run.

Rather than purchase a brand-new mattress the Sleep Defense System is a cheaper solution to a restful nights slumber. If you are interested in mattress encasements and would like to know more, read our review blog here.

  • Steamers and Vacuums

As mentioned above, the best way to eradicate bed bugs is through either heat or steam as these extreme temperatures will not only kill bed bugs on contact but will also destroy all eggs and larvae. Steam cleaners get rid of bed bugs by exposing them to extremely hot temperatures, ultimately killing them outright.

Our steamer of choice is the Vapamour MR-100 which creates enough heat to penetrate through fabric and linen. Vacuuming, on the other hand, allows you to scoop up the bed bugs alive through suction, before sealing and disposing of them accordingly. The best portable vacuum cleaner we believe for targeting bed bugs in the Housemile Anti-Dust Mites UV cleaner.

  • Heat Treatment

Heat treatment for bed bugs works by raising the temperature within the affected areas to such intense temperatures, that the bed bugs either dry out and die or find an escape route to flee the property.

If you are interested in D-I-Y heat treatments, then we recommend ZappBug heaters. These products come in various sizes depending on how chronic your bed bug infestation may be. For top tips on how to carry out this type of treatment effectively, why not read our heat treatment reviews and guide.

In Summary

Whilst water alone will not cleanse your home of dreaded bed bugs, as they can in fact live in water for up to 24 hours; washing your clothes, linen and soft furnishings on a high heat cycle for a long period of time, can help to diminish numbers. And, when used alongside other pest control methods such as bed bug sprays, powders and steamers and cleaners it won’t take long before these persistent pests are banished for good.

For more information on how to identify, detect, prevent and treat bed bugs, please take a look at our comprehensive guide to getting rid of bed bugs for good.

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