Does UV Light Kill Bed Bugs? (How to Detect and Kill Them)

Welcome them into your home today and your last sleep will be your peaceful sleep. As small as these creatures are, bed bugs can turn every night into a moment of a nightmare when afforded the space.

So yes, you already have these unwelcome guests in your home. You’ve tried a few methods to get rid of them. None seems to bear tangible results. But you aren’t going to retreat any soon. And this time, you are planning to use a UV light on these six-legged critters. Will it bring the difference? Will your UV light kill bed bugs. Read more to find out.

Does UV Light Detect and Kill Bed Bugs?

If you’ve ever had a bug infestation in your home, then you don’t need someone to tell you that bed bugs are good at hiding. You hardly spot one roaming in the open. They are just too good at keeping themselves out of sight. But will UV light make the search easier?

Yes, UV light is one surefire way to simplify your bedbug detection task. UV may not be the most effective way of killing them, however. Nevertheless, the detection part is usually the most difficult. Once you track down your enemies, the rest is easy.

So, how does UV light work? How will it simplify the work for you?

Well, we have that and more coming shortly in our coverage. But just before we get there, understanding the basics about ultraviolet light will help!

You see, there isn’t much difference between regular light and UV light. They are all forms of radiation and come from objects. Actually, the only notable difference between the two is that they have different wavelengths.

Different wavelengths are visible to us in different colors. But higher wavelengths are invisible to the naked eye. That’s the same with UV light. This light has a higher wavelength than what eyes can see.

Nevertheless, when you turn on ultraviolet light (or a backlight), it appears like a dark purple light, just as the name suggests. That’s because dark purple/blue is the highest wavelength a naked eye can see.

And now back to bed bugs – when you use a backlight for detecting bedbugs, the phosphors in bedbugs react with the energy from the UV to emit visible light. A phosphor basically is something luminescent, that is, anything that glows once it absorbs light.

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Do Bed Bugs Stay Away From the Light?

Yes, bed bugs do all it takes to stay away from light. They spend most of the time during the day hiding in dark places. In fact, once you discover their hiding spots, they will find other places to hide. The goal is to keep themselves away from your eyes.

Entomologists (scientists who study insects) will tell you bed bugs are photophobic creatures. That means they have a great fear of light, so they try as much as possible to stay away from it.

Light is the only thing that will make you see bed bugs crawl on your mattress and the walls of your bedroom – and they know that! As a result, these bugs avoid light because they see it as a source of betrayal. That’s why they hide in bed joints and other out-of-sight places in your bed, furniture, and mattress.

But that doesn’t mean sleeping with your lights on is one way to dodge those itchy bites. Not at all! As much as they see light as an implication of danger, bed bugs very well know that life is about taking risks. They will still find their way into your beddings for a bite.

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like Under UV Light?

As pointed out earlier in the article, bed bugs have phosphors, and that’s why it’s possible to see them when using UV light. When you cast UV on these beings, bed bugs will glow with iridescence.

You see, arthropods glow when hit by UV light. That includes grasshoppers, scorpions, bed bugs, and other insects. The reason behind that remains a mystery, even to scientists.

Most see the ability of these insects to bounce back energy as visible light as a remnant trait from their ancestors. You see, the predecessors had to spend more time in the sun, and the only way they could survive that is bouncing off any light that could hit them. Others believe it was a way they used to communicate.

Either way, the ability to absorb energy and disseminate it as visible light is what makes UV light a favorite option for tracking down bed bugs and killing them. You only need to switch the backlight on and bedbugs will shine right in their hiding.

How To Detect and Kill Bed Bugs With UV Lights?

Before you detect bed bugs for killing, you need to know that these stubborn bugs are clever than you probably think. Unless you do it with a proper plan, it’s easy for bed bugs to beat you in speed. And take it from me – it takes an escapee or two to keep giving you sleepless nights.

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So yes, before you do anything else, consider these steps;

  • Get rid of any clutter in your room. That includes clothes, old books, litter, or any other items that could offer a place for bed bugs to hide.
  • Seal off any possible escape routes. Ensure that you find a way to keep bed bugs within the room of infestation. Consider the gap between the door and the floor and any cracks on the walls. These areas make favorite exit points for bed bugs.
  • Pull your bed far from the wall. That will give you ample space and time to deal with bed bugs once you detect them.

You now have your room in order – no clutter, you’ve blocked all escape routes, and your bed is at the center of the room. The next thing is to get down to detecting these stubborn critters.

Here’s how;

  • Put your beddings in a bag and seal them. You are doing this so that you can inspect them later on. Just don’t think about mixing the beddings with other clothes. That can make the bed bugs spread to other clothes making the work even more difficult.
  • Inspect beneath the mattress. Overturn the mattress and inspect the underside carefully with the backlight. Cracks in the bed frame or headboard the other likely hiding area for bed bugs,
  • Inspect other furniture within the room. That’s the only way to ensure that bedbugs don’t spread from other areas back to your bed.

Now, once you get bed bugs, one thing to do is enclose one or two in a jar and pour a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol into the container. You will later take these bed bugs to an entomologist or exterminator. That will help the experts understand what type of bed bugs you had.

So, once you detect bed bugs, how do you kill them with UV light?

Well, it’s undoubtedly true that insects like bedbugs die when exposed to UV-C light. This light does that by mutating the genetic code of the bedbugs, making it unreadable. If an organism can’t read its own DNA, there’s no way it can continue living. That’s what kills bedbugs.

But for that to happen, there are two prerequisites;

  • The bed bugs must stay under the light for at least two hours.
  • The light must be within 0.1 meters

From the two requirements, it’s evident you can’t rely on UV light for killing bed bugs. The light will effectively help you detect them.

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However, for extermination, you can’t rely on UV light – and here’s why;

  • Bed bugs are photophobic, meaning they will escape and hide from the light immediately you turn it on.
  • This process takes time to kill bed bugs. It’s likely bed bugs won’t remain under UV light for long enough.
  • Some bedbugs will remain hidden from the light all through the entire process.

It’s still possible to use the method to kill bed bugs. But you will first need to trap all of them in the jar and then expose it to UV light for long enough for them to die. But that’s a lot of work. Again, it’s almost impossible to capture all bed bugs in your home.

As such, we suggest that you try other effective methods to kill bed bugs once you detect them using UV light. For instance, you may consider using a UV vacuum. Running this cleaner on all the affected areas will help you trap bed bugs. Once you do that, dispose of the vacuum bag and clean the vacuum thoroughly.

You can then clean your bagged beddings and other affected clothing with hot water for about 30-40 minutes. Then run a dryer on them using the highest setting. Heat is an effective way to get rid of bed bugs and their eggs.

How To Prevent Bed Bugs Infestation?

Although it’s possible to get rid of bed bugs, it will definitely take time and effort. For that reason, we highly recommend that you follow all the preventive measures to avoid bed bug infestation.

You can prevent bed bug attacks by keeping your home clean. Always keep your clothes clean and your home free from clutter. It’s also advisable to vacuum-clean your home at least once a week. That may help suck up any hitchhikers before they multiply.

In addition, always inspect secondhand furniture and bed before bringing them home. Actually, if possible, we recommend you stay away from secondhand items that could easily host bedbugs.

Conclusion: Does UV Light Kill Bed Bugs?

While it’s possible to kill bedbugs using UV light, it’s generally not the most appropriate method for the job. UV light is just too slow at killing bed bugs. Again, bed bugs usually hide from the light.

However, for detecting bedbugs, UV light is second to none. As such, you can use UV light for detecting bed bugs but find something else for exterminating them.

About Sarah Walker

Sarah is a homemaker and is passionate about fixing little things in and around her house. She loves to do DIY hacks and keeps on writing about those things in her blog. When she is not writing, she keeps herself busy with her twins Cathy and Mickey.