How Long Bed Bug Can Live Without Food
How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without A Host? (A Simple Answer)
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Bed bugs are a very frustrating problem for lots of homeowners especially across many states in the United States.
Their excellent adaptability to a wide range of climates and their rate of reproduction have earned these parasites a notorious reputation throughout the country.
Because they get bitten every night by these nasty and stubborn parasites, a lot of homeowners are drawn into the wrong conclusion that leaving the house for a few days can starve the bed bugs to death or at least force them out of the property in search for a new host.
But does it really work?
The bed bugs’ ability to survive without a host depends on a number of factors. And understanding these critical elements can help you land on the ultimate answer to the question.
How Does A Bed Bug Feed?
Before we can really answer the main question, it is best that we first take into consideration how a bed bug feeds.
As we all now know, bed bugs don’t have a chewing mouth part that help them burrow deep into our skin. Instead, these parasites are equipped with a needle like proboscis which they use to pierce through our skin and into the nearest blood vessel.
Prior to feeding, the bed bug excretes an ample amount of saliva which acts as an anesthetic component. It numbs the nerves of the skin surrounding the target area so that the victim doesn’t feel a thing. The be bug’s saliva also acts as an anticoagulant which helps keep the blood flowing as it feeds.
Is Blood The Only Type Of Meal bed Bugs Prefer?
Yes. Blood is the only type of nourishment bed bugs require and accept. They can’t and will not feed on anything else other than a thirst quenching blood meal.
Bed bugs need blood for them to molt and to develop full sexual maturity. Proteins and other nutrients found in their host’s blood is essential for the development of their eggs.
The following video is a close up documentary on how a bed bug bites and feeds.
A blood meal from a human host is what bed bugs prefer. These nasty buggers are significantly attracted to us because of the heat signature that our bodies give off and the carbon dioxide that we exhale. But in the absence of a human host, bed bugs acquire blood meal from animals nearby.
How Often And How Long Does A Bed Bug Feed?
When an egg hatches, a nymph emerges. This nymph requires at least one blood meal to molt into the higher stage of its life. The nymph undergoes several molting process (less than two months) before it reaches full maturity.
Nymphs usually take about 5 minutes to feed. Adults on the other hand, may take around 10 minutes per feeding session. It then retreats to a safe spot for digestion of the blood meal it has acquired from its host.
Both nymph and adult bed bugs feed only once per week. If you get bitten by these critters every night, it simply means that you have a sizeable bed bug population to deal with.
How Long Can A Bed Bug Survive Without Feeding?
Basically, bed bugs can survive from several months to a full year without a host. But this survivability directly depends on a few factors.
Adult bed bugs can survive longer compared to the younger ones or nymphs. The absence of a host for a blood meal doesn’t hinder the nymphs from developing into full adults.
Rather, it drastically decreases the amount of time needed for nymphs to reach full maturity. Nymphs become adult bed bugs in just about a month resulting to significantly weaker insects.
Temperature of the direct environment also plays a crucial role on how long a bed bugs survives without a host. Under normal room temperature, adult bed bugs can linger for a year. Increased temperature on the other hand, remarkably decreases the total length of time a bed bug can survive without a host.
Read More Bed Bug Answers
Check out our other bed bug guides. Each guide is expertly crafted to help you make sure these pests never bother you again.
How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without Food?
Science can be frustrating. You may have been researching “how long bed bugs can survive without food” for a while now and found 63 different answers. Why are there 63 different answers? Why can’t you just get one answer and be done with this? You may read on a website that they can survive 18 months or more without food and how on Earth is that possible? Let me clarify and provide you the answer you’ve been looking for…..sort of….
The reason there are 63 different answers is because different factors and influences can change how long bed bugs can survive without food. Let’s take age for example. We know that 1st instar or “baby” bed bugs (right after they hatch out of an egg) can’t survive without food as long as adult bed bugs. Seems fairly simple and straightforward as a newborn human couldn’t survive as long as an adult without food. Activity level can also change the time it takes for bed bugs to die in the absence of food. If a bed bug is in a vacant apartment actively searching for food, they can’t survive as long as a bed bug in a jar on a scientist’s desk. As the bug in the vacant apartment wanders around looking for food, it is using energy and, therefore, will succumb sooner than the bug sitting in the jar. Again, using humans as an analogy, if someone is starving in a desert and wandering around looking for food they will succumb to the conditions sooner than if someone is stuck in a cave and can’t move around and use energy as quick as the person wandering. Make sense why there seem to be 63 different answers?
So the answer to the question depends upon why you are asking? If you have a vacant apartment that has bed bugs, and you want to know when it can be rented out, the answer is probably nine months or more. Research has found live bed bugs in vacant apartments six months after they vacated and how long they survive depends upon how active they are, the temperature in the apartment and what stresses they may have been exposed to. Because of all of these factors, there is no way to guarantee how long you should leave an apartment vacant to starve the bed bugs inside. In fact, you may be putting surrounding apartments at a higher risk as the bugs in the infested, vacant apartment are probably going to search for food, and that may increase the chance that a surrounding apartment becomes infested.
In a similar scenario, I have found live bed bugs in summer camps ten months after they were vacated. The difference in this setting is that the cabins were not heated over the winter, and the cold temperatures assisted the bed bugs in surviving longer than normal. How long could they have survived? The world may never know….
Lastly, many ask this question because they have personal belongings they want to seal in bags or in storage and want to know how long they have to leave the items before they can use them again. Unfortunately, this may be the toughest question to answer. You can find reports online that state people have observed bed bugs surviving 18 months or more when placed inside a jar and left in storage. To be honest, 18 months seems a bit long to me but bugs inside a container or bag and unable to search for food could probably survive 9-12 months or maybe much more. A good recommendation for this scenario is to add stresses to the setting to make the situation as difficult as possible on the bugs. Increasing the temperature, adding pesticidal dusts when possible (by label directions) and other treatment options can increase the stress on bed bugs in these situations and decrease the time they can survive.
So the answer to the question is…….don’t rely on starving bed bugs as a treatment option. Too many factors can influence how long they can survive and unless you can survive without an item for 12-18 months or more I would recommend finding a way a way to treat the item.
HOW LONG CAN BED BUGS LIVE WITHOUT FEEDING?
How long can bed bugs live without blood? The answer depends on the age of the bed bug, if it is resistant to certain pesticides and the temperature range it is exposed to. “How long can bed bugs live without feeding before becoming adults?” is the first question to ask yourself.
A newly hatched bed bug is called a nymph. Nymphs go through five stages before becoming mature adults. When a bug molts, it sheds its skin. Immature bed bugs molt five times before reaching maturity and must feed in between every molt. For that reason, nymphs must feed more often. Despite their young age, newly hatched bed bugs can still survive for at least a few weeks without feeding.
But if nymphs can survive weeks without feeding, how long can bed bugs live without blood after maturity? That depends. When living in warm conditions, bed bugs will usually try to feed at regular intervals. Adult bed bugs can survive for about five months without a blood meal.
Once the bed bug settles on a host, it will feed for a few minutes. Length of feeding depends on the stage of development, how much it ate last time and how long it’s been since it last fed. After the bed bug is full, it will leave the host and return to a crack or crevice, typically where other bed bugs are gathered.
Bed bugs usually feed every three to seven days, which means that most of the population is in the digesting state, and not feeding much of the time. However, because bed bug infestations can spread so rapidly, it can often feel like you are waking up with new bites every morning. This can lead to high stress levels and a lack of sleep.
Don’t let bed bugs get the best of you. A pest control specialist can help you kick bed bugs out of your house and keep them out.
Polanco AM, Miller DM, Brewster CC. Survivorship During Starvation for Cimex lectularius L.. Insects. 2011; 2(2):232-242.
EPA Registered Brand.
September 21, 2018 4 Comments
Bed bugs rely exclusively on blood for survival. This fact makes many homeowners believe they can just starve them to death by leaving the house or apartment vacant for a while. These attempts to starve bed bugs are fraught with difficulty and usually fail because bed bugs have the ability to go without food for very long stretches of time. The amount of time they can live without a host varies greatly based on many factors, but can be anywhere from 20 days up to 400 days!
Some of the factors influencing how long bed bugs can live without a blood meal are: age, temperature, humidity, and energy exertion. Young bed bugs (1st instar) cannot survive as long as older bed bugs without a meal. This makes sense if you think of it the same way that young human babies cannot live as long as adults without food. Bed bugs are also sensitive to temperature and humidity. Although they can survive at temperatures up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, their ideal temperature for growth and development is much closer to room temperature, approximately 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit. As the temperature cools, the bed bug will exert less energy and can actually end up living longer than normal without a meal.
Researchers have found that adult bed bugs can live without food in laboratory conditions for over a year (400 days). These optimal conditions typically consist of adult bed bug specimens living in cool temperatures where they use very little energy. These “perfect” conditions are unlikely to occur in the real world, but even in regular homes, they have found bed bugs alive after the home has been vacant for over 6 months. Long story short… it is unwise to try to starve bed bugs as a treatment plan.
There are many treatment options available to help control bed bugs . Many people immediately turn to professional exterminators, but they can cost a small fortune. Few people know that with the proper products and a well-rounded treatment plan, they can do their own bed bug control. PF Harris has a full line of bed bug products to help you get rid of bed bugs. For the best home pest control products , trust PF Harris to help you take back your home.
If you’ve had a treatment and you put all your stuff in bags and it’s been about five months are the bedbugs still on your clothes can you open those bags now
Riley Sizelove says
Thank you for contacting P.F. Harris. We always recommend running clothes through a clothes dryer on high for 25 minutes. Bed bugs will not survive that process and is highly effective. This could be done before or after you bag them. There is no perfect timeline for keeping them bagged. Each situation varies. Thank you, P.F. Harris.
I hired a exterminator. to get rid of them they sprayed my house one time already i have too wait two weeks until they come back out will the second get rid of them.
How long can bed bugs live without feeding?
Bed bugs are tough creatures and they are resistant to hunger. They can live without feeding for a long time and that’a what makes them challenging enemies. So, how long does a bed bug can live without feeding?
Bed bugs information
May be you have bed bugs at your home and may be you have not. First thing you must do is to be sure about bed bugs.
There are a lot of bugs mistaken for bed bugs. We published a post about it earlier: bedbugdetected.com/10-bugs-mistaken-for-bed-bugs
Bed bugs are small insects which are 1 to 5 mm sized and not always easy to see with human eye: bedbugdetected.com/what-do-bed-bugs-look-like-to-the-human-eye
But after a nymph become an adult, it’s always possible to see them with naked eyed while they are walking around.
A bed bug has those basic physical features:
- It is oval-shaped and flatted.
- Reddish-brown in color.
- Close to red after recently fed.
- It has no wings
- It can’t fly
- It can’t jump
- It can move fast when it notices you watching it.
How bed bugs feed?
Bed bugs feed on only blood. They are blood-fed creatures and main food source of bed bugs are mammalians.
So, they feed on bats and human primarily. They can feed on birds or cats or dogs too, but they prefer to feed on these animals only when there are not any human hosts around.
This means that their favorite food is us, human!
How long bed bugs feed?
It depends on conditions, even so, average feeding time of an adult bed bug is 10 to 15 minutes if it is not disturbed.
As a matter of course, a smaller bed bug will feed for a shorter time.
How long does it take for a bed bug to starve to death?
This is also the answer of this question: How long bed bugs live without feeding? There are several answers to this question.
After taking a glance at some studies, the answer will be around 1 YEAR!
What does 1 year mean?
This means that it’s difficult to get rid of bed bugs. you may have no bites for months or you may haven’t seen them for a long time, but they can still be there, near you.
Even after a house left empty for more than a year, new movers can face the same bed bug problem as the previous hosts had.
Can bed bugs live without any hosts?
You must understand that bed bugs do not host on human or other mammalians, unlike fleas. Their hosts are cracks, holes, furniture, clothes or other staff which are near to their food sources.
So, bed bugs do not need to host on human for surviving. What they need is only a secure place close to their feeding sources.
Yes, bed bugs need to feed for surviving too. But unlike most alive, they can deal with hunger for a very long time.
If conditions like temperature or hiding possibilities are suitable for them, bed bugs can live for more than 1 year without feeding.
This doesn’t mean every single bed bug will survive for more than a year without surviving. Environmental conditions will of course, change their resistance. But you must be ready to the worst scenario to get rid of them.
So if you had bed bug problem once and you can’t see them around for a long time, do not relax to forget them.
Always be skeptical and keep searching them around on occasion.
For more information about bed bugs, you can also check these posts: