When someone says that their computer or smartphone has a bug, they usually do not mean bed bugs. The bad news is that bed bugs can make their home in nearly any electronic device. The good news is that laptops and cell phones are not comfortable housing. They only make their homes in electronics when they do not have other choices.
When bed bugs make their homes in your devices, don’t despair – there are many ways of how to get bed bugs out of electronics. These include neem oil sprays, freezing, heat and no-pest strip treatments. You will also have to treat the rest of your home and your vehicles for bed bugs. If you have bed bugs in devices then you have bed bugs elsewhere.
Why do bed bugs get into electronic devices?
Bed bugs don’t go into electrical devices because they want to watch cat videos on YouTube – they go for a place to hide and rest in between feeding on blood. Electronics are not usually the first places bed bugs go to hide and sleep. They tend to prefer many other places such as:
- The bed (obviously)
- All furniture – even those without cushions
- Purses or wallets
- Briefcases or other kinds of luggage
- Anything with cushions
- Clothes – especially dirty laundry
- Curtains or drapes
- Any holes or tears in wallpaper
- Stuffed animals
- Books, especially the bindings on hardcovers
- Electrical outlets – even behind the covers
- Picture and mirror frames
However, if an electronic device like a clock or a cellphone is handy and has a space where a bed bug can cram itself into, it will. Bed bugs possess nearly flat bodies and so can exploit very tiny crevices, seams and indentations.
What does it mean if you find bed bugs in your electronics?
If you find bed bugs in your laptop, radio or other electronic devices, it means you have bed bugs all over the place. Since electronics are not the preferred hangouts of bed bugs, this usually means that all the preferred places are so full of bed bugs that they need to look for new places to hide. You need to start treating for bed bugs in your whole home right away and not just in your electronics.
When bed bugs are in your electrical devices, it does NOT mean that you are a slob or have an exceptionally filthy home. It’s a common misconception that bed bugs are attracted to dirt – they are not (although they do like dirty laundry). Bed bugs are attracted to carbon dioxide – the air you exhale. They smell that and they know a warm red-blooded meal ticket is close by.
Can you use pesticides to get rid of bed bugs in electric devices?
You should NEVER use any kind of pesticide on your electrical devices. The pesticide will do far more damage to your electronics than the bed bugs will ever do. Powders and sticky sprays will clog the components in your electronics. Pesticides, whether directly or through the smell, can also get you, your kids or your pets sick. Pesticide use is best left to the professionals. Fortunately, there are many other ways to get rid of bed bugs in your electronics than reaching for pesticides.
Chances are that the pesticides will not kill the bedbugs, either. According to acclaimed entomologist Dini M. Miller, modern bed bugs are resistant to many pesticides, including boric acid. Bug bombs or whole home foggers are usually ineffective as well.
How to treat small electronics for bed bugs with cold
Follow these tips from the University of Minnesota to kill bedbugs in most small electronics. Here’s what you need:
- A freezer that can go down to 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C) or colder
- Resealable plastic bags
- Four days
Stick the small electronic in a plastic bag and stick in a freezer set to degrees F (-18 degrees C) or lower and leave it there for four days. The bugs will have ice formed inside of their bodies by then. This is what kills them.
One note of caution – never freeze anything with an LCD screen. The ice will destroy the LCD screen.
After treating the now bug-free electronics, place them in dry resealable plastic bags so that other bedbugs cannot get back inside.
How to get bed bugs out of electronics with heat
Heat treatments for your entire home are available from many professional exterminators as a chemical-free way for how to get bed bugs out of electronics. All electronics should be unplugged or turned off before treatment. Each exterminator will vary on what specific kind of electronics they can treat with heat, so be sure to ask them for recommendations for each device. These temperatures can reach anywhere from 113 degrees F to 135 degrees F.
There are also portable bed bug heaters on the market which resemble large duffel bags. They can reach temperatures up to 120 degrees F for at least a half hour, which is still safe enough for some electronic items and other infested furniture, but may not be safe for more delicate electronics like cell phones. If you are unsure that bed bugs are in your electronics, do not treat them with heat.
Steam heat has been rightly touted as a great way to kill bed bugs but this is for other parts of your home like carpets and furniture. The moisture from steam will do more damage to your electronics than bed bugs will.
How to get bed bugs out of electronics with Nuvam Pro Strips
Another way to kill bed bugs in electronics is by using a palm-sized product that emits chemicals to kill the critters, Nuvam Pro Strips (see on Amazon).
- Nuvam Pro Strips
- A garbage or contractor trash bag at least 2 millimeters thick
- Eye protection if you have sensitive eyes
- A secluded space like a closet that pets and kids cannot get into
Put on the gloves and eye protection. Open a Nuvam Pro Strip and place in a thick trash bag with your electronics. Close the bag so it’s air-tight and stick in a place where kids and pets cannot get into. Leave there for at least ten days to make sure all the bed bugs are killed. When you open the bag up, it needs to air out for a couple of hours.
How to treat electronics for bed bugs with neem oil
Wired magazine and aforementioned entomologist Dini Miller experimented with neem oil spray (see on Amazon) to kill bedbugs in electronics like laptops. Get an old rag, spray it with 40 millimeters (or 3 teaspoons) of the neem oil and place it in a thick plastic bag with the bugged items. Leave it alone for seven days and the bedbugs will die. The mortality rate for neem oil is very high, at nearly 100 percent for adults, larvae and eggs.
There is one big problem with need oil – the smell. It is powerful, to say the least. Always use gloves when working with neem oil or any product made with neem oil. You should test the neem oil to see if you can tolerate it before using generous amounts to get rid of bed bugs in your electrical stuff. The smell can upset some people’s stomachs. It is unknown just how neem oil kills bed bugs – whether they need to touch it or just the smell does them in.
After your stuff has been cleaned out of bed bugs, it needs to go in clean sealable plastic bags until all of the bed bugs in your home are gone. Otherwise, bedbugs living in other parts of your home will find your electronics and colonize them.
Using electronic tape and drowning method
This may sound great for your not-very-valuable electronics like digital clocks or digital scales but what about for really expensive things like iPhones? You could try these tips from the University of Minnesota for how to treat electronics for bed bugs, although they are not guaranteed to kill 100 percent of the bed bugs in your item. It is, however, better than doing nothing.
Get a roll of really sticky tape, an old playing card and a small bowl of rubbing alcohol. Bed bugs can be seen with the naked eye, but you may need a magnifying lens. Use a flashlight to see into the cracks that a credit card can slip into. Those cracks are where the bed bugs hide. Get the bed bugs out with the playing card, scrape them on the tape and then drown them in the rubbing alcohol. Be sure to place cleaned items in a resealable plastic bag.
Removing bed bugs from electronic devices is possible if you follow the steps and advice outlined above. If you discover bed bugs in your electronics then the chances are you have a bigger problem and more likely to be suffering from an infestation. Seek help and advice from a professional pest control exterminator and start to follow the guidelines in outlined in our other ‘how to get rid of bed bug‘ content. There are a range of bed bug products available on the market but care must be taken when using these.