How Long Can Bed Bugs Live

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 A Host? (A Simple Answer)

When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Learn More

​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 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 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:

Bed bugs are small insects which are 1 to 5 mm sized and not always easy to see with 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:

How Long do Bed Bugs Live Without Food, Host, Air, in Cold & After Spraying

To come up effective means of doing away with bed bugs it is important to understanding how these creepy insects thrive. Here is a discussion on how long they live, without food, a host, air, cold temperatures and after use of sprays.

How long can Bed Bugs Live?

Humans have lived with bed bugs for centuries and for more than 30 years, there have been cries against infestations that never seem to end. They cause discomfort, reduce the quality of life, hard to eliminate and above all, are ugly-looking.

There have been several suggested ways in which bed bugs can be eliminated but most of them hit a snag as return manifests so quickly that your efforts are demeaned. In short, these arthropods have built a formidable irk in people’s lives.

Bed bugs are identified by their biological name,Cimex sppand there are a variety of species with the common ones beingCimex lecturalis, Cimex adjuctusandCimex hemipterus. The latter is more dominant in the tropical belt and are responsible for the vast infestations seen.

Cimex Hemipterus

Before you can go into how long a bed bug lives, it is important to understand how they look as some of these characteristic features are responsible for the adaptation they get against your treatments. Adult bed bugs are about 3/16” long and reddish-brown in color.

They have an oval shaped body are further flattened. You shouldn’t confuse bed bugs with cockroaches, ticks or other household insects with this description.

The life cycle of a bed bug involves about 5 molts. It is within the period between the molts that the bed bug feeds on blood and this is necessary for its survival. Eggs are laid in places that are able to confer security and invisibility so that they hatch successfully.

Just like many other organisms, the female bed bug needs a particular fortified diet so that it can be able to lay viable eggs. This means that it will require a blood-meal.

When the eggs are availed with room temperature, then they can hatch in about 7 days and maturity of the straw-colored, pin-head-sized nymphs takes about a month under conditions of 70-80°F.

This is just the first generation and nearly 5 other subsequent generations are produced in a year.

Bed bugs like hiding in crevices, spaces within wooden structures, holes in walls or mattresses and clothing. Their body is responsible for the easy entry into these areas and this highly increases their chances of survival even given the presence of a sprayed insecticide.

What factors determine their survival?

There are several factors that determine the survival rate of bed bugs. These are discussed in detail as follows:

Flat and small bodies:

Since bed bugs are small-bodied and most importantly flat, they are able to cunningly hide in crevices and cracks in walls and mattresses. They are also rampant behind wallpapers, in tiles and in furry clothes.

This makes them hard to see as they are able to camouflage into your suitcase, bags and furniture among other items in which they are transported to other areas. This makes them one of the best hitchhikers.

They are nocturnal

This means that they mostly come out in the night and when there is darkness. It is quite interesting to note that they don’t necessarily require darkness to start dominating but will do so long as the time is night.

During the day, they are able to retreat in a bid to suggest ceasefire on you then in a capitulating rage forge forth in the night.

Their bites are somewhat anaesthetic

Just as a mosquito or mouse does when they bite you, a bed bug is able to inject some saliva into your skin to prevent itchy pruritic effect brought about by a stimulated hypersensitivity allergic reaction.

In other words, the saliva seems to have a numbing effect and only when the feel has died off, that you start scratching yourself long after the bed bug has already escaped to safety (another part of your skin). This is about 5-10 minutes after the bite.

Bed bug bite

Bed bugs respond to chemotactic signals

It is believed that bed bugs are able to identify with your location in bed due to the exhalation of carbon dioxide you produce. This acts as a chemical to which the bug responds.

This is why you find an army of bed bugs in your blanket in the middle of the night when you have completely cover yourself with your blanket.

Their eggs are small, white and sticky

With these characteristics, the eggs can easily camouflage on light walls or areas by adhering to it and hiding for long until they hatch. This way, the bed bugs can preserve their generations and progeny and respond to the law of procreation.

How long can Bed Bugs live without Food/Feeding on Blood or Eating?

Well, the answer is relative. It depends on some other influential factors such as resistance to the pesticide used and the temperature range to which it is exposed.

This is a really important question to ask yourself when you attempt to use starvation as a method of elimination. Let’s see how it works.

Remember that without inter-digitating attempts to seal other factors of survival which can come into play, starvation technique may not only take long, but may be very ineffective.

When a newly hatched egg produces a nymph, it is require that a blood-meal be provided and if this is not offered, then good thing, the nymphs won’t grow and develop to maturity.

Again, considering that they require a month to grow into adults, this will likely not happen and death would be expected in about 2-3 weeks.

So while doing the ‘how long’ calculation, consider that you are not dealing with one or two pairs of bed-bugs but possibly hundreds.

Before they can exhaust their reproductive ability with diminishing blood-meal stores, it will take more than 8 months to completely starve the whole army.

Again, this is in consideration of the fact that the nymphs can survive few weeks too.

Another considerable factor is that after a blood-meal, a bed bug or nymph goes into hibernation until its next molt or 3-7 days after the last meal.

When you factor in optimal temperature for the survival of the bed bugs, the adults may survive about 2 to 4 months since its metabolism can be reduced to sub-optimal for its survival.

It is quite difficult to determine exactly how long it will take you to starve all your bed bugs.

However, it will take about 5 months to starve a single bed bug and about 2 weeks for a nymph.

According to theScientific America, a bed bug without a meal in warm temperatures, may survive 2 or 3 months and may only be deemed to survive longer (about a year) if temperatures are colder.

How long can bed bugs live without air?

According to the Atlantic Bedbug Inspection, suffocating bed bugs may work but when done right. Their study placed a couple of hundreds of bed bugs in air-tight vials together with their eggs. The results pointed out to a survival length of not more than 5 days. This was done at room temperature.

The fact that this works, doesn’t make it the best when used along but when used as an adjunct with other methods with proven efficacy. In order to do this, you will require:

  1. A large enough air-tight bag that is untearable such as vacuum storage bags and jumbo slider zip bags. Make sure that you have sealed the bags properly to prevent any air from entering during the suffocation period.
  2. You will require to use this method with small items such as your cell phone or other smaller gadgets. When you have sealed these items, let them sit without being moved.

Amidst all this optimism, bed bugs are known to be able to survive for long on very little air and further on, are capable of regulating their metabolism to as slow as to warrant a small amount of air.

Therefore, in order to curb this, you need to completely suck out the air in the bags before sealing them. This has to after you have the items in the bag for they also have air spaces.

If this is done well, bed bugs would not last more than 5 days. The highly proven DDVP stripes or Vikane gas fumigation can improve your results profoundly.

How long can Bed Bugs live in Cold Weather?

Yes, bed bugs have a reduced chance of survival in cold weather. However, it is during this time that they are able to reduce their rate of metabolism hence survive on limited meal presence and air.

In addition, and most unfortunate, it is unlikely that cold weather would last long enough to kill bed bugs.

Since weather is the prevailing conditions in the atmosphere in a particular time of day, this is not long enough. Sunlight, changes in temperature all come in and salvage the bed bugs.

Therefore, the only way that remains viable is cold-freezing your whole room. Again, this is not a good idea as you risk destroying some if not all of the temperature sensitive utilitarian.

As published in theJournal of Economic Entomology,cold can definitely kill a bed bug but not in one hour. It will require freezing for a few couple of days.

Fortunately, in a research study conducted by theUniversity of Minnesota Twin Cities et al, it will require -16° or -17° C to kill a bed bug in two hours.This is regardless of the stage of life or feeding status of the bed bug. Yet another study showed that in temperatures of -16° C, it will take 80 hours.

This is what you will need when you want to use this method:

  1. A set temperature point on a freezer optimally -16° C
  2. A set time
  3. A remote thermometer to ensure that the temperature is well spread through-out the room.

How long do bed bugs live after spraying?

This is one common question posed to pest management professionals (PMPs). How long it will take to kill bed bugs once spraying has been conducted will depend on the way the process has been conducted.

This involves ensuring that all the pertinent steps are followed and all areas with potential of hiding bed bugs are seen and sprayed into. The steps have been vividly stipulated by theMichigan State University Extension.

It has also been found that those who work in good collaboration with the PMPs make the process quite successful and bed bugs are eliminated in shorter periods of time.

One unfortunate happening is when you need to remove some items while the spraying is being done which on return, could habor yet some other bed bugs. Your PMP may suggest that you give the room some space, about a half a day.

It is however important that you continuously monitor the room for any presence of bed bugs after the spraying has been done then inform the PMPs. Some surviving eggs may hatch and you may see more bed bugs even after spraying

At this juncture, you will require to call your PMP and suggestions may point out to possible resistance and therefore multiple methods be instigated. A two week interval would suffice for monitoring and evaluation.

Add Comments: