Bed bugs are small, wingless insects. They are found across the world but usually live in sleeping areas, within eight feet of a bed.
Bed bugs feed on blood. They don’t spread disease, but they can cause itchy, red bites all over your body. Some people may not have a reaction to these bites, while others may have a very strong reaction or even an allergy.
During the day, bed bugs hide in sheets, mattress seams, piles of clothes, cracks in walls, bed frames, or other areas that will conceal them, then come out at night to feed. Although they hide in clutter, having bed bugs doesn’t mean your house is unclean.
It’s not common for bed bug infestations to happen in cars.
Bed bugs can get into your car if they get onto your clothes, furniture, bags, or other items that you bring into your car. They are unlikely to crawl that far from a sleeping area by themselves. Because they need to be brought into a car, bed bugs are not usually found in large numbers in cars.
Once bed bugs are in a car, they can stay there for a long time.
Bed bugs feed on the blood of humans and other mammals. Although they do need food to survive, they can go a long time without it. Older nymphs and adult bed bugs can survive up to a year without food.
Younger nymphs can survive somewhere between several days and several months without food. But eventually, they’ll need blood in order to shed their exoskeleton and grow to their next stage of development.
Bed bugs can only live in temperatures above 46 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, they’re unlikely to survive in a car during the winter if you live somewhere cold.
Most species of bed bugs also can’t survive anywhere above 113 degrees Fahrenheit, although there are a few tropical species that can live in higher temperatures.
As long as your car is the right temperature for bed bugs, they can survive in it for a long time.
The easiest way to tell if you have a bed bug infestation in your car is to look for physical signs of an infestation, especially around fabrics or small crevasses where the bugs could hide. These signs include:
- reddish stains, which are bed bugs that have been crushed
- dark spots about the size of a period that may bleed into the fabric (bed bug excrement)
- skin that bed bugs shed as they grow
- small yellow eggs or eggshells
- bed bugs themselves
If you start getting bed bug bites, which are small, red, and itchy, check both your home and car for bed bugs.
Because bed bug infestations in cars are rare, you may be able to get rid of the bed bugs yourself. There are several options you can try before calling in a professional.
Diatomaceous earth is made from the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms. Diatoms’ skeletons are made of a mineral called silica. It’s found in many products, and can be used as a pesticide in its powder form.
Diatomaceous earth absorbs fats and oils from the bed bugs’ exoskeletons. This causes them to dry out and die. In order for it to work, it needs to sit, undisturbed, to have enough time to dry out the bed bugs. Thoroughly wash the inside of your car after using diatomaceous earth.
While diatomaceous earth is safe to use, it can irritate your nose and throat if you breathe it in. Be careful when applying it to your car.
Temperatures over 113 degrees Fahrenheit can kill bed bugs. If you park your car in direct sunlight on a warm day, it may get that hot, but you likely will need help to raise the temperature of your car. Try covering the windows with dark fabric or plastic garbage bags before parking the car in the sun for several hours.
You can also try using a portable heater.
Both wet and dry steam cleaners can help kill bed bugs. They can also get into all the cracks and fabrics in your car where bed bugs might be hiding. When using a steam cleaner, be careful that the airflow isn’t so strong that it scatters the bed bugs instead of killing them.
Car fumigation for bed bugs
Fumigation, especially of a small space like a car, can be dangerous. Never try to use chemical pesticides or fumigation in your car by yourself. If you think you might need your car fumigated, talk to a professional.
The best way to prevent a bed bug infestation is to regularly check for signs of bed bugs. Other ways to help prevent an infestation in your car include:
- Check any secondhand furniture before putting it in your car or home.
- Reduce clutter in your car so that bed bugs have fewer places to hide.
- Vacuum and clean the inside of your car regularly.
- If you take your clothes to a shared laundry facility, transport them to and from the laundry in plastic bags.
- Avoid picking up bed bugs on trips. Inspect your sleeping areas, use a luggage rack at hotels instead of putting your bag on the floor or bed, and inspect your luggage and clothes before leaving to go home.
It’s possible that bed bugs can get into your car on your clothes, luggage, furniture, or other items where they live. But it’s unlikely that bed bugs will find their way to your car by themselves, which means car infestations are rare. If you do find bed bugs in your car, a thorough cleaning should get rid of them.