How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Outside For?

With the rise in bed bug numbers, many people are wondering if bed bugs can live outside, and if so how that could be used to get rid of them or prevent them from entering the home. Maybe you’re among those who have wondered whether bed bugs will live outdoors, which temperatures might kill them outside, what natural predators exist for these pests, or how long they can go without feeding on human blood.

If you’re looking for answers to those questions, then you’ve come to the right place. Read on to discover more about bed bugs’ outdoor survival skills.


Can Bed Bugs Live Outside

Why Do Bed Bugs Usually Live Indoors?

The reason why bed bugs are often found in buildings is simple. They have adapted to feed almost exclusively on blood from humans, not other animals. They don’t eat anything other than blood, either. Because of that, they build their colonies around the goal of staying as close as possible to their primary host.

Basically, humans stay indoors most of the time, so bed bugs stay indoors most of the time. Being unable to jump or fly makes traveling for food inefficient for these pests.

When Do Bed Bugs Come Out

Bed bugs like to live close to their meals

There is a misconception that bed bugs only live in beds, but that’s not actually the case. There is no internal bed bug mechanism or instinct that makes them choose beds over any other area inside a house, apartment, or other building. Bed bugs choose their locations based solely on access to food.

Humans fairly predictably lay in bed for hours every night, and that makes beds a prime target, but anywhere that humans remain for long periods is fair game for a bed bug colony to take up residence. Interestingly, that also includes outside, given the right circumstances.

Will Bed Bugs Ever Choose To Live Outside?

Bed bugs tend to hide, and their favorite hiding places are in dark areas like cracks and crevices, under cushions, in wooden sideboards, or around clutter. It seems like there are many hiding places outdoors for such a tiny creature, so do bed bugs live outside when they aren’t invading homes?

CC Image courtesy of louento.pix

Unfortunately for those hopeful that their bed bugs will just go outside and leave them alone, it’s unlikely for these insects to live outdoors in large numbers. They have adapted to living with their food source (us), and for now that’s where they will stay given any choice.

That being said, if people are spending large quantities of time outdoors in a particular area, then yes, bed bugs will live outside near their hosts, especially in places where people sleep or stay in one place for extended periods, such as stationary tents and cars.

The outdoors does not tend to affect bed bugs negatively, though they prefer warm areas to those with colder temperatures. That makes campsites particularly susceptible to bed bug infestations.

There is a big caveat to this information, however. Just because bed bugs don’t prefer to live outside, regardless of temperature or location, does not mean they won’t. This is precisely where people tend to mess up when treating their homes for bed bugs. They think that once they’ve treated the building, any bed bugs that were forced outdoors will die or leave.

That’s not true. The unfortunate truth is that bed bugs that are forced outdoors during treatment can and will re-enter the building as soon as they get an opportunity, and that means that if you don’t thoroughly destroy all of them, or you don’t use prevention tactics after treatment, you can get a new infestation after spending lots of time, effort, and money on getting rid of bed bugs.

You may be wondering, though, aren’t there some ways you can kill bed bugs by sending them outdoors? If you do treatments in freezing temperatures or extreme heat, is it less likely that any escaped bugs will survive outside?

How Long Can Bed Bugs Survive Outside?

The answer to those questions posed above is that it depends on several factors, but generally, you’re not going to, for instance, get rid of bed bugs in sheets by hanging the sheets outdoors in freezing temperatures.

Here’s what you need to know about how well and how long bed bugs can survive outdoors.


You may have heard that bed bugs can be killed at high heats, and that is true. One of those most effective ways to get rid of a big bed bug infestation is to request help from a bed bug heat treatment professional, although specialist heat treatment can be very expensive.

Professional Bed Bug Heat Treatment

There are also plenty of DIY heat treatments you can implement for bed bugs, such as using commercial steam cleaners in affected rooms or drying affected clothing and bedding at high temperatures.

If you're looking for a powerful and reliable steamer for use against bed bugs and at a good price, my personal favorite is the PureClean XL Rolling Steam Cleaner. This steamer is heavy-duty, made to last, and produces a great covering of extremely hot pressurized steam - exactly what you want in order to kill bed bugs and their eggs on impact.

This steamer can be used on a wide number of surfaces and objects, including mattresses, carpets, curtains, clothing, box springs, bedding and baseboards.

My favorite way to heat household items to a temperature that is sure to kill all bed bugs and eggs without needing to purchase expensive pest control heat treatment is to use a ZappBug Heater, which is specially designed to kill all stages in the bed bug life cycle.

Simply place infested items into the ZappBug heater and it will automatically reach the all-important bed bug killing temperature, so you can be sure the items come out all-clear.

ZappBug also sell a smaller size, and an extra-large size, which is able to accommodate couches, mattresses and many other large household items.

Unfortunately, it is never going to get hot enough outside to destroy bed bugs. Hanging garments or bedding outside in the sun will not destroy the bugs or their eggs. It is possible to seal items in a plastic bag or container on a very warm, sunny day to destroy the pests, but the internal temperature would need to reach at least 120 degrees for an hour or more. It’s not really worth leaving that up to guesswork.

Some people consider putting bed bug infested items in their closed vehicle, and yes, a vehicle can reach pretty high internal temperatures. Consider, however, that if high enough temperatures are not sustained for a long enough time, you will just end up with a very problematic mobile bed bug infestation.

If heat outdoors is not a deterrent, then, what about freezing cold temperatures?

Unfortunately for anyone currently living in a cold area or season, bed bugs are really good at surviving the cold. In fact, when their body temperature drops, they can survive even longer between meals, up to a year. That means you’re not going to have much luck trying to clean them out of your items by putting them outside in the cold. Even putting them in your freezer is not particularly efficient. It can sometimes take up to 2 weeks to destroy bed bugs and their eggs inside a standard freezer.

Number Of Natural Predators

Bed bugs have several natural predators. These include common insects such as cockroaches and pharaoh ants. There are also a few species of spider that will eat bed bugs. You probably don’t want most of these anywhere near your home, though.

Also, bed bugs multiply so quickly that although predators would catch and devour some of them, many bed bugs would escape and continue feeding and reproducing, unaffected.

Food Availability

In all honesty, the biggest outdoor threat to bed bugs is a lack of food. Unless they find some people that are inactive outdoors, or find a way back inside, they could starve. Know that it will take them quite a while, though, because they’re quite good at fasting between meals, surviving 4 months or more without a meal in most temperatures.


Here’s what you need to know when wondering if bed bugs can live outdoors. The answer is, yes they can. Putting affected items outside is unlikely to help in your treatment plan. Long-term, bed bugs may succumb to extreme temperatures or lack of food, but those extremes are unlikely to be helpful to someone treating an infestation.

My Favorite Bed Bug Treatment Products

My Favorite Bed Bug Treatment Products

Bed Bug Patrol Bed Bug Killer - 100% Natural, Non-Toxic, Environmentally Friendly, Family & Pet Safe 24oz

Bed Bug Patrol Bed Bug Killer - One of the best bed bug sprays that I've yet to personally use. Not only does it have a reported 100% kill rate against live bed bugs in controlled tests, but it's also child and pet friendly. This product can be used against both light and heavy infestations, and most importantly, it's laboratory tested and completely chemical-free.

Studies conducted using the treatment showed an impressive kill rate of 83% within just 30 minutes after application, and 98% within the first four hours, leading on to an eventual mortality rate of 100% over time.

Bed Bug Patrol Bed Bug Killer - 100% Natural, Non-Toxic, Environmentally Friendly, Family & Pet Safe 24oz

Queen (13-16 in. Deep) SureGuard Mattress Encasement - 100% Waterproof, Bed Bug Proof, Hypoallergenic - Premium Zippered Six-Sided Cover - 10 Year Warranty

SureGuard Mattress Encasement - It's thick, durable, and is certain to help stop bed bugs of all sizes from getting to, or from, your mattress.

The protector prevents bed bug transportation by using SureSeal technology, and by using an extremely fine zipper that not even bed bug nymphs can impregnate.

Queen (13-16 in. Deep) SureGuard Mattress Encasement - 100% Waterproof, Bed Bug Proof, Hypoallergenic - Premium Zippered Six-Sided Cover - 10 Year Warranty

Bed Bug Interceptors - 8 Pack | Bed Bug Blocker (Pro) Interceptor Traps (Black) | Eco Friendly Insect Trap for Bed Legs | No Chemicals or Pesticides | Killer, Detector, and Trap for Bed Bugs

In my experience, the best and most effective bed bug traps are usually the ones that are designed to work in the simplest of ways. I've used the Bed Bug Blocker Interceptor Traps extensively and I find they do the job better than any other trap I've tried. You also get a very generous 8 interceptors per pack.

Simply place them directly underneath the bed/table/chair legs you're trying to protect, and watch the bed bugs fall into the traps time and time again with no chance of escape.

K9King Bed Bug Interceptors 4 Pack Bed Bug Trap Black. Design Ensures no Talcum Powder or Additional Products Needed. Sleep Safe with The Bed Bug Traps

The ZappBug Oven 2

ZapBugg Bed Bug Heater - Specially designed to kill all stages in the bed bug life cycle, including eggs, without the need to purchase expensive pest control heat treatment solutions.

Simply place infested items into the ZappBug heater and it will automatically reach the all-important bed bug killing temperature, so you can be sure the items will come out free from all life stages of bed bug once the process is complete.

Small & XL versions are also available.

The ZappBug Oven 2

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Hi there Kevin here we have a couch and love seat and the have out side for about 3days would they still be alive?

    Dan Edwards

    Hi Kevin, bed bugs will unfortunately live long past 3 days outside in most environments.


Great read. Thank you very much. We recently had our neighbor (house, not apartment) put his old bed bug infested mattress outside by the road about 15 feet from our house. It was only there for 5 minutes or so, and we asked him to move it, which he did some 50 feet away at least. In your opinion, do we need to be concerned they’ll make their way to our house? We haven’t been close to that area since. If so, would a diatmatcous earth barrier be effective along our house? Angry and freaking out. Any advice would be appreciated.

    Dan Edwards

    Hey Bryan, it sounds like you should probably be okay going by what you said. They will obviously need to go somewhere, but hopefully they will have dispersed to other areas, died due to sudden environmental changes, or eaten by predators. Unfortunately, I don’t think a DE barrier would be too helpful as it can take a week or two to dehydrate and kill the bed bugs, meaning that if they did cross a DE barrier to reach your house, they would likely still have enough time to reproduce – although like I said, hopefully you’re all good.

    All the best Bryan.

Mike Anderson

Pesticides for other insects can last months. Is there a pasticide that prevents them from entering for a certain amoint of time?

Jacob Johnson

Do bed bugs come from out side tree grass????

Melody Fluitt

Can bed bugs travel through the grass. Like to get to another house.

Steve Guas

I have a pop up camper that i have sitting up and it does not have heat running to it but does have a space heater to keep it semi warm in there cause got a cat that stays in there and every now and then my wife will kick me oout of the bed so i go sleep in the camper and i have been woken up a few times cause felt lime something is crawling on me so i looke and see a few bed bugs but i have killed them and it is snowing where i live and tempature has dropped down to below freezing so my question is why would they still be alive when it is below freezing and the spacer heater doese not make it super hot cause the camper is old and needs alot of work done to it i gotta layer my self up with three blankets just to stay warm even with the space heater for when she kicks me out of the bed? So how are they still alive with tempatures dropling below freezeing ?


Hi. I had a a heat treatment from a very reputable company. They told me my house was not what they considered infested and I caught it early . They said most people prep and just use it as a way to do an extra spring cleaning so I took some things I didn’t want out . My garbage service was supposed to come and dispose of these items but they did not show up the next day . It’s been 4 says and they can’t come they said until 3 more days . I’m terrified they will make there way back . My heat treatment was used with pesticides as well. What’s the chance they will make there way in ? Bugged out and broke . I’m aware of disposal but I thought my waste service would be on time . Any thoughts would be appreciated

Stormy W

Hey I was wondering about clothes we had they have been outside in plastic begs for 3 months in freezing cold weather just wondering if they would still be alive or not I’m worried to bring them into the house and wash them ?



Tina Holden Root

Very informative. Thank you for being detailed.


I have wood bed posts. I’m thinking creatively here, so I’m wondering if there are large rings to fill water with to have around the bedpost. Basically like the cat toy ring with the ball in it, but instead of the ball, water.

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