How Long Can Bed Bugs Live In A Plastic Bag?

  • Written By Dan Edwards on January 8, 2018
    Last Updated: December 28, 2020

Bed bugs have a pretty infamous status among homeowners, yet there is still a lot of confusion and misinformation about bed bugs, including how long they can survive and how they behave, among other characteristics.

Many people who have dealt with bed bugs have successfully used plastic bags to quarantine or gather them, so it’s a good idea to know how long bed bugs can survive in such an environment.

If you have bed bugs on your clothes and want to isolate them, or just want to suffocate the little critters, bagging them up may seem like the ideal solution. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that can decide just how long they’re able to live within a sealed bag.

Bed Bug Survival In Sealed Bags: The Factors

There are a few components that determine how long a bed bug will be able to successfully remain alive inside of a plastic bag for. Below are by far the most important factors that will dictate survival rate timescales.

When The Bed Bugs Last Fed

One of the most important factors to consider is how long it has been since the bed bug last had a feed. Bed bugs prefer to eat about once per week. However, “prefer” and “need to” are two very different things.      

While bed bugs may eat about once a week when possible, they by no means need to do so. They will not begin to starve until much longer periods of time have passed. In fact, bed bugs have been known to live for as long as six months or more without feeding.

A well-fed bed bug – CC Image courtesy of AFPMB


Another important consideration when trying to estimate the survivability of bed bugs inside of a sealed plastic bag is the temperature.      

Bed bugs prefer to live in the same type of climate-controlled environment that humans do. However, for bed bugs, it is not just a matter of preference, it’s a requirement. Bed bugs can’t actually survive in environments that are extremely hot or cold. Therefore, you can decrease the life span of bed bugs by placing the plastic bag inside of a very hot or cold environment.

What temperatures are we talking about? Well, bed bugs and their eggs start to die when the temperature surpasses 117 degrees Fahrenheit. For extreme cold, placing the plastic bag in your freezer will do the trick for both the bugs and the eggs. It can take a while for the insects to die, so leave them in there for at least a week for best results.

Air Supply

One final factor that can influence the survivability of entrapped bed bugs is the air supply within the bag. An airtight bag is already very necessary considering how small bed bugs are and how easily they could escape a bag that has even the tiniest of holes.

How Long Do Bed Bugs Live In A Plastic Bag

However, bed bugs do thrive in fresh air, so by manipulating the amount of air in the bag you’re holding the bed bugs in, you can ensure they die much quicker. If possible, vacuum-pack the bag by pulling out excess air, which will severely limit how long the bed bugs can continue to live within the bag.

How To Ensure Bed Bugs Won’t Escape From The Bag

If you are going to store bed bugs in a plastic bag, you have to be very careful about doing so. Bed bugs are tiny, and their eggs are even smaller; often being as small as half the size of a grain of rice.

Furthermore, if you are creating an inhospitable environment within the bag, the bugs will be motivated to find an exit by any means possible. This is especially true if the bugs are starving or if the bag is very hot or cold.

Therefore, you should take all of this into account and take every precaution to ensure that the bed bugs stored in your bag won’t escape. Here are some useful tips to make sure that you are successful in this regard:

First of all, make sure that you use the right kind of bag. Obviously, a regular shopping bag made of thin plastic will not cut it. You need a heavy-duty bag that you won’t need for anything else in the future, and something that won’t tear open with the slightest of touches. Usually, a thick garbage bag will suffice.

Now that you have the right bag, double-bag it just to be sure. If one of your bags happens to have a minuscule hole, you need the backup bag to make sure that the bed bugs can’t get loose. If they do, you may have a second infestation on your hands.

Seal the bags as tightly as possible. This isn’t like taking out the garbage where you can use the provided ties to loosely hold the bag’s opening closed; you need an absolutely sealed bag that not even something very small can get out of. A good test to ensure is the bag is tight enough is to press on the bag to see if the air inside can escape. If the bag swells up and doesn’t deflate, you know it’s airtight and free from any openings.

Once you’ve double-bagged and sealed your homemade bug-killing device, make sure that it’s sufficiently labeled and that anyone who comes across the bags knows what’s inside. The last thing that you need is for a housemate or somebody else to see the bag, get curious, and open it up to see what’s inside.

Lastly, do not keep the bag within your house. There are numerous reasons for this. For one, if the bugs are able to escape, you absolutely do not want them back in your house, especially if they’re able to get into the carpet and crawl away without you noticing.

Your garage or an area of land away from the house may be ideal, especially if it’s very hot or outside.

My Favorite Bed Bug Treatment Products

While getting rid of bed bugs without buying any additional products can be done with very small infestations, I believe that by purchasing just a few additional products, you’ll be so much better equipped, and will be able to stamp out an infestation before it gets worse. Below is my list of essential products.

Bed Bug Patrol Bed Bug Killer Spray Treatment, 24oz Kills Bed Bugs on Contact with Residual Protection, Natural & Non-Toxic, Child & Pet Safe. Recommended for Home, Mattresses & Furniture.

Bed Bug Patrol Bed Bug Killer Spray Treatment, 24oz Kills Bed Bugs on Contact with Residual Protection, Natural & Non-Toxic, Child & Pet Safe. Recommended for Home, Mattresses & Furniture.

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.

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

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

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.

Bed Bug Interceptors – 8 Pack | Bed Bug Blocker (Pro) Interceptor Traps (Black) | Insect Trap, Monitor, and Detector for Bed Legs

Bed Bug Interceptors – 8 Pack | Bed Bug Blocker (Pro) Interceptor Traps (Black) | Insect Trap, Monitor, and Detector for Bed Legs

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.

ZappBug Oven 2

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.

Large and small versions are also available.


If you find yourself dealing with a bed bug infestation, attention to detail is absolutely paramount as you attempt to get rid of the annoying pests for good. Any slip-ups or mistakes can mean that all of your work was for nothing and you will be dealing with yet another infestation.

Considering this, it is of the utmost importance that you use a heavy-duty bag to enclose any bed bugs you find. Use extreme temperatures to kill the bugs and any eggs inside and make sure to store your bags outside of your home in case some of the insects manage to survive and escape.