Traveling bedbugs
August 9, 2006 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Can bedbugs survive an airplane flight if they hitch a ride in your (checked) luggage?

I got into a conversation with my mom the other day about backpacking in Europe, and how some of the hostels I slept in had bedbugs. Now, I live in NYC, which is going through a crazy bedbug epidemic that I have so far (thankfully) avoided. But it has made me super vigilant and paranoid about the bugs infesting my apartment.

So my question is: if I stay in hostels abroad and make sure that the clothes I wear on the plane home have no bedbugs on them, what are the chances that any of the little suckers who might have snuck into my suitcase/duffle would survive the pressure/temperature changes of flying in the belly of the plane?

Just something I've always wondered. Thanks!
posted by np312 to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
Absolutely they'll survive. The cargo hold is pressurized and temperature-regulated to the same level as the main cabin. It's good enough to ship pets in. Think about it... otherwise everyone's toiletries and spray canisters would explode in their luggage.
posted by hodyoaten at 9:24 AM on August 9, 2006

What hodyoaten said. In just about all planes the cargo hold and cabin are part of the same pressurized container.
posted by cillit bang at 9:38 AM on August 9, 2006

Bedbugs can survive much worse than travel in checked luggage. The best thing to do is wash your clothes in really hot water and vacuum out your suitcase as soon as you get home (and throw out the vacuum bag immediately).

But really I think what really keeps anyone from getting them is sheer dumb luck. It could really happen to anyone.
posted by lampoil at 9:42 AM on August 9, 2006

Once you return, if you fear you have bedbugs, you need to isolate everything you took on your trip. Do not bring it into the house where bedbugs can jump onto furniture (they hide in crevices) or the carpet or the window treatments.

I'd advise taking everything to a laundromat and washing it all in hot water before even going back to your apartment. And as for the bag ... vacuuming is unlikely to work. There are tons of websites with more info on how to eliminate bedbugs, but it all gets a million times worse once they get into your house.

And yes, they can definitely survive airplane rides. Their eggs are even heartier.
posted by brina at 10:09 AM on August 9, 2006

Damn this thread to hell. I'm never leaving the house again.
posted by xmutex at 10:33 AM on August 9, 2006 [2 favorites]

Try a google search using "bedbugs freeze" or "bed bugs freeze." Apparently, cold is a lot more effective than heat in getting rid of these insects. But sources differ on how long it takes for freezing to kill them. One site says you need two weeks at below 32 degrees F. Another says four hours at below 25. A home freezer is supposed to be 0 degrees F: nice and chilly. Worth a try, if the items are thoroughly sealed. I know bedbugs aren't interested in ice cream, but ew.
posted by wryly at 10:35 AM on August 9, 2006

Have whoever is meeting you at the airport bring a can of RID, the anti-headlice spray. Upon landing, thoroughly spray the exterior of the bag down and then hustle it all to the laundromat, washing everything in the hottest water possible, bag included. I know this sounds kind of paranoid, but trust me, you really really really do not want to risk an infestation.
posted by Sara Anne at 10:41 AM on August 9, 2006

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