You should always check for the presence of bed bugs in a garage or storage unit. Bed bugs were almost eliminated a few decades ago. But today, they’re harder to kill than ever. That’s in part because of their growing immunity to the pesticides that once worked so effectively.
Bed bugs can survive in a storage unit/garage if you leave something there with bed bugs living in it. After a few days, they will start to explore in search of a host. However, they will eventually die if they never find one. From the garage, it’s possible that they could infest or re-infest the rest of your home.
Even so, it’s easy to contain them. You can use traps and lures to stop them from getting anywhere near you. Or, you could spray them and kill them before they get the chance to find you.
Can Bed Bugs Get in Your Garage?
Bed bugs can get into your garage through one of many ways. They could get into your home from a neighbor, although this is highly unlikely unless you live in a townhouse. Or, they may have infested your bedroom and somehow made their way to the garage.
But it’s far more likely is that somebody left something in there that was infested with bed bugs. Common household items that get infested include:
- Furniture, especially bed frames and bedside cabinets
- Wardrobes and old clothes inside them
If you’ve recently bought pre-owned furniture, then this could be the source of the bed bugs in your home. Or, if you left some things in storage before bringing them back to your garage, then that’s another way you could have got them.
Bed bugs won’t choose to live in a garage, so they’ll only be there if you put them there. They only want to live within six feet or so of your bed, so that they can easily access you to feed at night.
Will Bed Bugs Die in a Hot Garages?
The garage is far less comfortable for bed bugs than any other part of the house. That’s because of the room experiences temperature extremes that you won’t find in your bedroom.
While the AC or heating works to keep your room at a steady temperature all day, the garage isn’t. That means that at night, it gets too cold for bed bugs to be active, and during the height of summer, it gets too hot for them.
A temperature of 122 degrees, at least, is required to kill bed bugs. Lower temperatures can still kill them, but take much longer to do so.
Take the example of a study in the Journal of Economic Entomology. Scientists placed a mattress out in the summer sun, wrapped in black plastic to absorb heat. But temperatures inside the mattress never approached the level required to kill. The same applies to your garage.
That being said, warm temperatures shorten the lifespan of bed bugs. A bed bug at room temperature will live for three or four months. But in hotter conditions, they grow, digest, feed and mate quicker.
They can go from a freshly hatched nymph to a dead bed bug in just two months. So, while the hot temperatures won’t kill them like pesticide can, it will make them die quicker.
How Long Can a Bed Bug Live in the Garage?
Most sources say that bed bugs can survive for a year without feeding. That’s true, but it does only apply to certain conditions. As a rule bed bugs will complete their life cycle, from egg to dead bed bug, in two to three months.
That’s at room temperature. If you raise the temperature, they can hatch, grow up and die in a month or so. It’s at lower temperatures (50 degrees Fahrenheit or so) that they can live for a year without feeding.
However, you’re only assuming that they aren’t feeding. There’s a chance that they are. Some bed bugs are more adept at avoiding traps than others.
The tropical bed bug is capable of climbing out of plastic traps. You’re also avoiding the fact that they might be feeding on something other than you. Bed bugs can feed on pets if they have access to them, so your beloved cat or dog might be making your infestation worse.
How to Get Bed Bugs Out of the Garage
Killing bed bugs have only become more difficult since they started to develop immunity to pesticides. But there are still ways to kill bed bugs and their eggs.
Get Rid of Old Furniture
Old furniture easily finds its way to the garage. Maybe you keep an old heirloom piece in there that you can’t find room for in the home. Or maybe, you’re storing an old mattress there, but you haven’t yet taken it to the dump.
If your old furniture had bed bugs in it, then that’s the reason your garage is infested. So, start by treating or getting rid of your old furniture.
The easiest thing to do is take it to the dump, of course. But if you did want to treat it, it’s simple enough. There are sprays you can buy or make yourself that kill on contact and generally repel.
You could try spraying your furniture and inspecting it again in a few weeks to see if it worked.
Lures and Traps
Lures are especially useful, because a bed bug’s natural exploratory behavior will force it to search for food. If it sees a lure in the garage, it’ll head straight there.
For best results, place the lure between the garage and the rest of your house. That way, if any bed bugs wanted to head into the house to try and find you, they would get stopped along the way.
You can pick up every single bed bug easily using lures, although it might take some time. Not all of the bed bugs will want to feed straight away. Some will still be digesting their meals, and won’t need to feed for a few days, perhaps even a week.
Then, there will be eggs that have to hatch. It will take these eggs a week to two weeks to hatch, and then a day or two for the nymphs to want to find you. Only then might you be free of bed bugs.
Sprays and Powders
You can purchase bed bug sprays in the same places you can find roach sprays and powders, because bed bugs are becoming more and more common, so are their control methods. Common pesticides typically contain permethrin, which kills bed bugs at low concentrations.
However, commercial insecticides aren’t your only choice. You could also use a spray made from essential oils, which work surprisingly well.
Essential oil sprays were shown in the journal Insects to kill on contact and otherwise repel bed bugs. You can either buy readymade essential oil sprays, which may or may not be available in your area, or otherwise make your own. Whichever spray you use, spray it directly in any place you think bed bugs might be living or laying their eggs.
As for pesticide powders for bed bugs, you should consider using diatomaceous earth. This is a kind of powder, like a very fine grit, made from natural materials.
The individual grains are no bigger than a grain of icing sugar, but on a microscopic level, it’s sharp and pointy. When a bed bug walks through diatomaceous earth, it scratches away at its exoskeleton.
Bed bugs are covered with a thin coating that stops moisture evaporating from their body. When it’s scratched away, the bed bug dehydrates and dies.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Storage Units?
Bed bugs live in storage units because people frequently store their furniture, including mattresses, there. The bed bugs don’t want to be there—they haven’t made their own way in.
But once they’ve been there a few days, and they realize that there’s nobody to feed on, they start to explore as far as they can go. They’ll hide in the corner of the room, and get into any grates that they can find. They’ll then spread around the whole facility.
Some storage units do try to prevent this from happening. They’ll use sprays, for example, to try and kill and repel any bed bugs they find.
We advise going to any storage unit you plan to use to inspect it thoroughly before you do, to avoid any potential infestations.
How to Avoid Bed Bugs in a Storage Unit
If you need to use a storage unit for whatever reason, don’t let bed bugs put you off. It’s possible to completely negate the chance that you could catch bed bugs from a storage unit.
The easiest way is to check the storage unit before you use it. Start by checking their reviews—does anybody else complain that they got bed bugs from there?
You should also talk to the owners to learn more about what they do to prevent pests. Aside from that, you should take a proper look around the storage unit before you commit to storing your things there.
But even if you’re sure you’re picking the best storage unit available, there are steps you can take to stop bed bugs infesting your things.
Use Sealed Plastic Bags and Bins
Most people that leave their things in a storage unit will pack them up in boxes, and leave it at that. But when it comes to bed bug control, that’s not good enough.
Bed bugs can easily find a gap or crack in the box and get inside. Worse still, if you leave your things unpacked, then they’re a prime target. The bed bugs will try to find a dark, enclosed crack to hide or lay their eggs.
You can prevent them from targeting your things by using sealed plastic bags or boxes. Bed bugs can’t scratch or scrape their way through plastic, even thin plastic bags.
They don’t have the claws or teeth they need to do so. If you use bags, tape and plastic boxes, there’s no way they can get inside.
If you’re taking a mattress or box spring to a storage unit, no doubt you’re wondering how you could bag that up. Mattress encasements are precisely what you’re looking for.
They fit around a mattress and zip up, leaving no way in or out. It’s possible for bed bugs to live on them, but if they do, they can be easily wiped away.
Spray the Boxes with Pesticide
Before you take your things to the storage unit, treat them with a basic pesticide spray. Pesticides aren’t just for killing bugs, they’re for repelling them too.
Their effects can last for weeks, even months, so one quick spray before you store your things will be enough to protect them.
Pay special attention to any furniture that you can’t bag or box. A large desk, for example, would be difficult to bag—but it’s also the perfect place for a bed bug to hide.
You should take care to spray it from top to bottom, especially the underside and any gaps/joins. This will prevent bed bugs from infesting furniture.
You could spray them repeatedly while they’re at the storage unit, provided that it’s allowed. As we said, permethrin sprays remain effective for weeks.
But if you’re storing your things long-term, you could spray them repeatedly. Talk to the people that run the storage units and ask whether it’s allowed.
Clean Your Things Before You Bring Them Home
Before you take your things out of storage, give them a once-over to make sure you aren’t bringing any bed bugs home with you.
If you put the majority of your things in plastic boxes, wipe down every inch of the outside of each box. This will ensure that you aren’t carrying any bed bugs home, and since you checked every part of each box, it will give you peace of mind too.
You could also consider spraying your things again. If you weren’t allowed to spray in the storage unit, you could spray them after you take them but before you bring everything home.
You could leave everything on the porch, for example, and give the sprays time to take effect. Of course, whether you can do that depends on where you live, but if you can find somewhere to spray them before bringing them home, then you can all but guarantee that you’ll be bed bug-free.