How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without A Host? | Surprising Facts & Tips

Written by Thomas Matthews

Bed bug has an impressive ability to live pretty long without a meal. Trying to eliminate bed bugs from your home through their starvation is a bad idea because bed bugs will move from place to place in an attempt to feed. This will in effect cause the bed bugs to spread out and make them even harder to eliminate.

So, how long can bed bugs live without a host? Young bed bugs could die in just a few weeks if there was absolutely no host available from which to draw blood. However, adult bed bugs can live without a host for 20 to 400 days, depending on different factors such as temperature and humidity.

Bed bugs’ survivability depends on several factors. Read on in order to understand more about these factors and bed bugs’ feeding habits, growth span, and weaknesses.

How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without A Host?

A baby bed bug may perish within a few weeks if there was absolutely no host available. An adult bed bug could endure the ideal temperatures and humidity for up to 400 days before starving to death. Once their blood meal supply has been depleted, they will dry out and perish.

Where Do Bed Bugs Hide in an Empty House?

Where Do Bed Bugs Hide in Empty House

Bed bugs can live in an empty house for a long time because of their ability to survive without a host for a long time. They can hide in electrical outlets and in crevices or holes in your walls. They might also potentially hide in the hardwood flooring and uneven floorboards.

Do Bed Bugs Only Feed on Human Hosts?

Although humans are bed bugs’ main hosts, they can eat almost every warm-blooded creature on the globe. They favor human blood primarily because people are simple prey for them to aim for. They find it simpler to bite and take blood from humans than it would from other fuzzy animals like a dog or cats since humans don’t have as much hair and fur on their skin.

Can Bed Bugs Eat Anything Other Than Blood?

The only food that bed bugs can consume is blood. They rely on blood as a source of nutrition and nourishment. It provides them with vitamins and proteins, both of which are necessary for their own growth and their offspring.

They don’t frequently need to consume blood since their waxy coats and bodies are excellent at storing moisture. In fact, this is the main reason why adult bed bugs may go for up to a year without a blood meal.

The Conditions That Affect the Survivability of Bed Bugs

There have been numerous studies that have been conducted to determine exactly how long bed bugs can survive without feeding. These tests were carried out in labs that technically dictate very controlled environments. It should be noted that these extreme environments might not be exact in the real world because bed bugs do migrate in search of food.

A starving bed bug in real-world conditions would have to be located in extreme circumstances; e.g. an abandoned home which also happens to be located in an isolated location where there are no other homes.

The lab results carried out have reported that bed bugs can go without a meal for incomprehensible lengthy periods of time with the longest being 18 months recorded in the year 1914. Other recent studies have recorded that their starvation tests saw the bed bugs expiring after only two months. These tests incorporated the following conditions in their research.

Changes in Temperature

Changes in Temperature

It should be noted that one of the surest ways to eliminate bed bugs is by severely influencing the temperatures in a room. Bed bugs cannot survive in temperatures that are below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and neither can they survive in conditions above 118 °F. This is why some exterminators choose to use heat as their go-to method of eliminating bed bugs.

However, when the temperatures drop, bed bugs go into a state of diapause in an attempt to survive the less-than-conducive temperatures. If the temperatures remain in these bearable conditions, then the hibernating bed bugs can survive because they remain in their dormant state until the temperature changes. It is only when the temperature drops even further that the bed bugs freeze to death.

Bed Bug Developmental Stages

A bed bug goes through several instar stages before fully becoming an adult. These stages are five in total, all of which require feeding and skin shedding before moving on to the next stage. As the bed bug advances from stage to stage, its resilience increases and thus it can live longer without a meal.

Studies have shown that these stages are also affected by temperature. The younger the bed bug is, the less likely is it to survive the harsh conditions sent its way. For a nymph to transform to the next stage, it must feed. If it doesn’t, then the next stage is prolonged or hindered permanently.

The Strain of the Bed Bug

There are different kinds of bed bugs out in the world, over ninety species to be exact. However, only three are interested in human blood. In light of this, it has been discovered that some strains of bed bugs are more resilient than others. This is one of the reasons why bed bug elimination has been so challenging.

The difference in the strain of bed bugs has also been a factor as to why all those starvation studies have given different conclusions about the length of time a bed bug can survive without a meal.

The Amount of Blood

The Amount of Blood

The feeding time of bed bugs is influenced by the size of the bug and the amount of blood it fed previously. This also affects its desire to feed again. If its last meal was a hearty one, then the bug has something to live on longer before starvation sets in.

List of Source

Bed Bugs, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California.
Cimex lectularius Linnaeus (Bed Bugs). University of Florida/IFAS Featured Creatures Web site.
Bacot, A. (1914). The Influence of Temperature, Submersion and Burial on the Survival of Eggs and Larvae of Cimex lectularius. Bulletin of Entomological Research,5(2), 111-117. doi:10.1017/S0007485300033952
Polanco, A. M., Miller, D. M., & Brewster, C. C. (2011). Survivorship During Starvation for Cimex lectularius L. Insects, 2(2), 232–242. doi:10.3390/insects2020232

Thomas Matthews
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