Bed bugs are travelers. Before moving into your mattress or settling down in your nightstand, they may have lived in a hotel, an office, a school or some other place people gather.

bed bugs in car

If you suspect bed bugs have infested your car, you should inspect your vehicle to help ensure these tiny passengers aren't using it to move from place to place. While Terminix does not treat cars that have been plagued by bed bugs, knowing the signs of a bed bug infestation is important if you think they may have made their way into your home, having hitched a ride in your car. If bed bugs have made their way into your home, we can help you take care of the problem.

Are there bed bugs in your car?

The easiest way to tell if you have a bed bug infestation in your car is to look for physical signs of an infestation. These are similar to the signs of bed bugs that you may see in a room inside your home. The most common places you'll see evidence of bed bugs is around the fabric of your seats, under the floor mat, or in the linings and other small crevasses where the insects could hide. Signs to look for include:

Dark spots on the seats or floor mats

Because bed bugs drink blood, brown or red stains may be an indicator of insects in your car that have been crushed. Other signs of bed bugs also include liquid waste and fecal stains, which are found wherever they go. Bed bug fecal spots differ from bloodstains. If you see dark brown or black spots about the size of a period that bleed into the fabric, these may be bed bug excrement.

Shed exoskeletons and eggs

As immature stages of beg bugs grow, they leave parts of themselves behind. They grow with each blood meal, and in doing so, they shed their exoskeletons (or skins) to accommodate their larger size. The shed skins look similar to the bed bug itself but are lighter in color and weight. Bed bug eggs are even smaller and much harder to see but can provide another sign of an infestation. These eggs are pearly white, found in clusters and are about one millimeter long.

Sightings of live bed bugs

Mature bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed (approximately five millimeters, or one-fifth of an inch). They are reddish-brown, wingless and flat, although they swell up like a torpedo after a blood feeding. When that happens, they change to bright red in color, taking days to return to reddish-brown. Younger bed bugs may be translucent in color, and they gradually darken as they get older. Bed bugs also turn red after feeding. Keep in mind that bed bugs are nocturnal, so it may be difficult to actually spot them in your car during the day.

Inspecting a car for bed bugs

To check for bed bugs in your car, take the following steps:

  1. Remove all trash and clutter where bed bugs can hide.
  2. Conduct a thorough visual inspection of all areas of the vehicle, looking for bed bugs along seams in your car seats, under the seats, in the glove compartment and the console, and even in the ceiling panel above the seat.
  3. Use double-sided tape or a lint roller to check the area around your seats, floor mats and rugs. Press the tape or lint roller into all crevices. Pull it back and inspect it to see if any bed bugs are present. Young bed bugs may be especially hard to see, so look closely.

If you do find signs of infestation in your car, you should also look for some of these signals that bed bugs have made their way into your home. If they have, Terminix can help you take care of your bed bug problem.

How do you get rid of bed bugs in your car?

If you've found bed bugs, you need to get rid of them before they bite you or catch a ride into your home. If bed bugs make it into your house, they can re-infest your car by hitching a ride on you or your family back into your vehicle. To help get rid of bed bugs, consider one or more of the following treatment options.

Clean your car thoroughly

Cleaning your car to help remove bed bugs (as manufacturer instructions allow) can be effective, but it will take more than a simple trip to the car wash. Use the following tips:

  1. Remove and shampoo all floor mats, rugs and any seat covers, and leave them out in the sun to dry.
  2. Vacuum the entire car. Pay attention to the cracks, crevices and dark places where bed bugs hide. If your regular handheld vacuum is not up to the task, try using a more powerful HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) model.
  3. Steam-clean your car's interior or have it professionally done.

Although steam cleaning and vacuuming can significantly reduce bed bugs in your car, they may not be sufficient to completely eliminate a bed bug infestation. Continuing to monitor the situation is important to keeping bed bugs out of your car, as many professional exterminators and pest control specialists cannot specifically treat cars for bed bugs. Rather, if bed bugs have hitched a ride in your car and made their way into your home as a result, a pest control specialist can treat for bed bugs.

Use heat

One piece of good news about bed bugs is that they have limited tolerances to heat, making heated air or steam an effective treatment for killing bed bugs. According to researchers at Virginia Tech, bed bugs exposed to 113°F will die if they receive constant exposure to that temperature for 90 minutes or more. Interestingly, bed bug eggs must be exposed to 118°F for 90 minutes to reach 100% mortality. Occasionally, these temperatures occur in the summer when a car is left in the sun on a hot day.

It's important to note that if you do spot a single bed bug in your car, it does not necessarily mean that you have an infestation. However, it's important to monitor the situation so that it does not turn into a much larger problem.

Find and freeze

Bed bugs also don't do well with cold temperatures. However, to kill bed bugs with cold temperatures, extreme cold is needed for an extended period of time. Based on lab studies performed at the University of Minnesota, it takes four days at 0°F to kill bed bugs.

While freezing your car may not be a practical solution, if you find bed bugs inside your vehicle, you can collect them in plastic bags and put them in your freezer. This will kill the bed bugs while preserving them, making it easier for a pest control professional to make an identification and recommend an effective treatment method.

When to get help

Whether they're in your car or your home, bed bugs are a serious problem. Many home infestations of bed bugs can begin with these pests hitching a ride in your car, unbeknownst to you. Knowing the signs of a bed bugs in your car can trigger you to keep a more watchful eye on your home and any problems with these pests as a result.

While Terminix does not treat for bed bugs in vehicles, Terminix can help you tend to a bed bug problem in your home. Our trained pest specialists can properly identify bed bugs and inspect your property, and they know how to properly treat an infestation. If you think your home or car has bed bugs, learn how Terminix®; can help.