How Long Bed Bugs 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 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.

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 Food?

If you’re hoping that staying with friends for a week will take care of your bed bug situation at home by starving the little pests out, you may want to come up with a new extermination plan. Let’s look at how long bed bugs can live without food, so you’ll know what you’re dealing with.

You’ve probably never wanted to be an expert on bed bugs, but if you’re the one facing an infestation, you may want to get to know your enemy better. By the end of this article, you’ll know everything there is to know about a bed bug’s life span and feeding habits.

How Long Do Bed Bugs Live On Average?

Bed bugs are no slouches when it comes to longevity. While you might not think a bug will live very long, bed bugs have a lifespan of a year to 18 months.

That is part of the reason infestations can spiral out of control so quickly. Bed bugs live a relatively long time and they can produce a lot of offspring during that time. The average lady bed bug can produce anywhere from one to seven eggs every day after she has had a meal.

During her lifespan, a female bed bug can lay up to 250 eggs if she is feeding regularly on a human’s blood. Because of all the children they produce who will in turn reproduce, one single female bed bug can lead to a bed bug infestation of over 5,000 bed bugs just in a six-month time frame.

That’s why it’s essential to take any bed bug sighting seriously because, in no time flat, you could have a full-on invasion happening.

Bed bugs have several stages throughout their lives. But under perfect conditions, they go from being an egg to a nymph to an adult in 37 days or so. Nymphs, which are baby bed bugs, shed their skins five times before becoming an adult.

The warmer the weather is, the faster the bed bug will reach maturity.

How Often Do Bed Bugs Usually Feed?

When they can, bed bugs like to be regular feeders. If a food source is available, they like to eat one time every week. And if they’re living in a house, that usually isn’t a problem because their food source will be living there with them. But if you’re on a two-week vacation and your pets are with you, the bed bugs in your house won’t be able to feed as often as they want to.

To get out of the nymph phase, bed bugs must feed. For every time a nymph sheds its skin on its way to adulthood, they need to feed on blood. Without a meal, they won’t shed their skins and reach adulthood.

Although they prefer regular meals, sometimes conditions don’t allow for that to happen.

How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without Feeding?

While bed bugs like their food sources to hang around so they can have unlimited blood meals after dark, they can likely go much longer than you think they can without a meal. Many organisms would die long before a bed bug if they stopped feeding, but a bed bug’s greatest trick might be surviving a long time without a host (so tightly wrapping your infested bedding up in a plastic bag for a few of weeks isn’t going to work, unfortunately).

The colder it is, the longer a bed bug can go without feeding, due to its reduced activity level.

In colder weather, bed bugs can get away with feeding much less than their preferred once a week. If the temperature drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, bed bugs aren’t as active as they are in warmer temperatures, meaning their energy requirements aren’t as high. This also means they’re rather good at surviving outside as well as indoors, even in the cooler months.

In that case, bed bugs can live for several months without feeding on blood as adults. Nymphs, although they won’t grow without feeding, can make it to around three months without a meal.

In the winter, bed bugs can go even longer without feeding. In low humidity conditions and temperatures of 44 degrees Fahrenheit, bed bugs have survived an astounding 560 days with a meal in a laboratory setting.

That means, in cooler conditions, you won’t be able to stay out of your house long enough to kill off those bed bugs by means of starvation. Since they can go so long without having to have blood, you won’t be able to stay away from your house long enough to kill those bugs.

They’ll just slow down their activity level until you’re back in the house and they can feed on you. If you live in an apartment building, they might try to check out your nearest neighbor if they get desperate and there’s no one in your unit for a couple of weeks. But that’s not a good extermination plan – you don’t want to stick your neighbors with your bed bug problem.

Will Bed Bugs Feed On Other Animals If Desperate?

It’s always nice to be wanted – until the one who wants you is a bed bug. But even though we wish we weren’t, the fact is that humans are a bed bug’s preferred food source. They are attracted to the carbon dioxide and warmth you put off.

As we exhale, we put off carbon dioxide. Since we’re fairly big creatures, especially to a bed bug, we put off a lot of it. This is one of the primary reasons bed bugs are drawn to us – because of our carbon dioxide output.

But since bed bugs also thrive in warmer conditions and enjoy heat, they’re drawn to us for that reason as well. That’s especially true while we’re all bundled up in our blankets in our bed. And if there are two people in the bed, that’s even better for bed bugs because the shared body heat will make things even hotter. And that’s irresistible to a bed bug.

Although we’re their favorite snack, bed bugs will hunt out whatever food source is available if times get tough. That includes animals that live in your household like cats, birds, and dogs.

But before you start wringing your hands being worried about your pet’s health, keep in mind that they’re a lot of trouble for bed bugs to feed upon. They have a lot of fur and hair that a bed bug has to work their way through before they are able to get to the skin. They’d rather bypass the pets and go straight for us.

They aren’t as well equipped as other types of pests, like fleas, to deal with your pet’s fur.

If you’re worried because you’ve seen bed bugs on your pet, you can take the cat or dog bed you keep in your house and toss it in your dryer for 30 minutes. Make sure the dryer is on a high heat setting. You can wash the bedding first if you want, particularly if you haven’t washed it for a while. But the heat from the dryer is what’s going to kill the bed bugs, not the water from the washer.

After you’ve washed the bedding, you should make sure you don’t put it back in your bedroom until your bed bug problem is taken care of by an exterminator.

You should also keep it away from any couches or chairs because although bed bugs like to stay within several feet of your bed, they have been known to spread out to hide in the crevices of couches and chairs in living rooms. And if your pet’s bed is nearby, they’ll continue to be a bed bug target – although not as desirable of a one as you are.

Can Bed Bugs Reproduce Without A Meal?

Bed bugs need blood for just about everything they do. They need it to grow. And they need it for reproduction purposes as well.

Before bed bugs can become adults capable of reproducing, they must first have several blood meals. If they don’t eat, they won’t become adults. They’ll stay in the nymph stage until they have five meals.

After they become an adult, the female bed bugs must eat if they want to lay eggs. If you cut off a bed bug’s food supply, they won’t be able to reproduce. This a good method of preventing bed bugs, but is unlikely to work if the infestation is very large.

But again, since bed bugs don’t have to eat regularly, it’s really hard to find a way to cut off their food source.

How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs With DIY Treatment Methods

Hiring pest control professionals can be costly, and while it’s usually the best option, there are some preliminary steps you can take to get rid of bed bugs yourself.

1. Carefully bag and wash all of your bedding and clear any clutter around the room. Bed bugs love to hide in piles of clothes, so remove these and wash them before you start cleaning.

3. Use a high-powered vacuum to clean around the bed to take care of stray bugs and eggs. Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter is vital to ensure bed bugs cannot escape once captured. The Shark Navigator Upright Vacuum easily ticks all of the boxes while remaining lightweight and easily maneuverable.

4. Use a specialist, non-toxic bed bug spray to clean your bed-frame, headboard, and surrounding furniture. Bed Bug Patrol Bed Bug Killer is a completely natural spray that has a reported 100% kill rate against live bed bugs in controlled tests, and most importantly, it’s child and pet-friendly.

5. Pull your bed away from the walls and place bed bug interceptor cups under each leg. These will isolate your bed and help to prevent the spread of bed bugs. Additionally, interceptors can serve as tools to help you track progress. Ideally, the interceptors should contain fewer bed bugs every time you empty them. My favorites are these Bed Bug Blocker Interceptor Traps.

6. Using a bed bug mattress protector to encase your mattress will either help to save it if it’s yet to be infested, or otherwise keep bed bugs trapped in and around it until they eventually die of starvation. My favorite is the SureGuard Mattress Encasement which is thick, strong, and will help to stop bed bugs of all sizes from getting to, or from, your mattress. A SureGuard Box Spring Encasement is also available.

7. If you wish to be extremely thorough, specialist bed bug heaters can be purchased to raise household items to a temperature that is sure to kill all bed bugs and eggs. ZappBug is the most popular option, and is designed to automatically reach the all-important killing temperature to eradicate all stages of the bed bugs life cycle. Large and small versions are also available.

Summary

So now that you know how long bed bugs can live without food, you’ll have a better idea of just how tough and resilient these little pests are. They can survive a lot of harsh conditions, including starvation and cold temperatures. When you factor that with their speed and great hiding skills, it’s no wonder bed bugs can be so hard to eradicate.

If you find yourself with a bed bug problem, before you decide to handle it on your own terms, you should call in the experts. They’re used to dealing with bed bugs and they know just how difficult they can be to fully knock out. And now you know that trying to knock out a bed bug’s food supply won’t work, so you’ll likely gladly cough up the money needed to get rid of them once and for all.

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.

Conclusion

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:

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