How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without Food


Bed bugs are the insects that feed on human blood, usually at night. Though bud bugs don’t cause infectious diseases, they impact health like they can cause skin rashes, allergic symptoms, and psychological effects. It is difficult to eliminate bed bugs from home in a single go because they are known to survive without food for several days. That is why people frequently ask “how long can bed bugs live without food?

The Life Cycle of a Common Bed Bug

Before knowing how long can bed bugs live without eating, it is important to know how their feeding works? Let’s have a look at the life cycle of a common bed bug.

A newly hatched bed bug is known as a nymph.  There are five stages through which the nymph goes before becoming a mature adult. The nymph has to molt i.e. to shed its skin before it moves on to the next stage. In total, the nymph has to molt five times before it reaches maturity. And, in between every stage, it needs food. So, how long can newly hatched bed bugs live without food? What do you think? To your surprise, even the newly hatched eggs can survive at least a few weeks without feeding.

Bed bugs: How Long Can They Live without Food

Think, if the newly hatched eggs or baby bed bugs can survive few weeks without a food source, then what about the mature bed bugs? The answer to the question of how long will bed bugs live without food depends upon the age of the bed bugs, pesticides, and the temperature range they are exposed to.  First of all, the duration of their survival increases with every stage they molt. If they are unable to feed for a couple of weeks, they will die.

Now, how long can bed bugs live without food when they have become adults? Once they are fully grown and mature they survive without a food source for up to a year. Moreover, a study revealed that as long as other conditions are stable, bed bugs can even survive for 18 months without eating a meal. Apart from that, temperature conditions are also a factor in determining the survival of bed bugs without a food source. In cold temperatures, their survival rate is greater because they have to use less energy, whereas, in hot temperatures, they require frequent feeding as their bodies consume more energy.

In 2009, a detailed study was done on the bed bugs that reflected “how long can bed bugs live without food in hot weather?” In this study, the researchers studied the baby bed bugs i.e. the nymphs which were fed only once and then allowed to develop into their first stage. They were not fed after that and it was seen that their survival time varied significantly according to the temperature variance. It was discovered that the bed bugs in their first instar-nymph stage only lasted about 28 days on average when the temperature was set to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Besides this, the bed bugs that were kept at 98.6 degrees only lasted for 17 days on average.

Duration Of The Feeding

The duration of the feeding of the bed bugs also determines how long can bed bugs live without food source? A bedbug feeds for a few minutes, once it gets settled on a host.  The stage of the development at which a bed bug is also tells the length of feeding. That is, how much it ate last time and how much it needs to eat now. Most of the population of bed bugs remain in the digesting phase because they usually feed for three to seven days. Besides this, their habitat and activity levels also determine that how long they can survive without eating food. Bed bugs which have colony closer to the bed, don’t have to travel too far for food and thus their energy is not consumed a lot and survive more without food as compared to the bed bugs that have to travel too far for the food source.

How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without Food

Common Myths About Bed Bugs

There are some common myths about bed bugs like:

  1. Bed bugs can fly. But the reality is different i.e. they lack wings and can’t fly.
  2. It is said that bed bugs only bite at night. But it is wrong because they are generally found to be nocturnal i.e. they will eat anytime they are hungry.
  3. It is also believed that bed bugs transmit diseases in humans. They don’t transmit infectious diseases, in fact, they can cause stress, anxiety, and lack of sleep.
  4. It is said that bed bugs reproduce quickly. But that is not so. They reproduce slower as compared to the other insects.

It is wrong to think that bed bugs will survive without feeding no matter whatever the conditions are. At normal room temperature i.e. at 23 degrees Celsius, they are known to survive for two to three months only. If temperature decreases, their survival rate increases as they are cold-blooded.