How long can bed bugs survive without blood? Today, we answer that question by exploring the feeding cycle of bed bugs and how they tolerate different environments.
How Frequently Do Bed Bugs Consume Blood?
There isn’t a definitive answer to that question. On average, though, bed bugs feed once every 5-10 days. However, female bed bugs consume more blood after mating to produce more eggs. So you might think they’re blood-hungry creatures, right? Well, think again.
How Long Do Bed Bugs Live Without Feeding?
Since they mainly feed on blood, some people think leaving the house for a few days is enough to deprive bed bugs of their food source, killing them completely. That’s oversimplifying it, though. Here’s a not-so-fun fact: Bed bugs can live without blood for long.
You see, when they can’t find food, bed bugs enter a state of semi-hibernation. It’s a dormant state that allows them to save energy by slowing their metabolism. So they can survive longer.
While most will die after a few months, some can last up to a year. That doesn’t mean their physique won’t change, though. A malnourished bed bug will be thin with reddish-brown skin. If baby bed bugs (nymphs) don’t consume enough blood, their skin turns pale yellow.
What Factors Influence Bed Bugs’ Lifespan?
Blood availability isn’t the only factor that affects bed bugs’ lifespan. The surrounding environment also plays a crucial role in determining how long they can live.
- Stress. Like humans, bed bugs live longer when they’re not frequently dealing with stress. That means living in an ideal environment with proper temperatures and enough food sources. However, in a tension-incentive environment, where they need to stay alert, they exert more effort to survive, shortening their lifespan.
- Temperature. Temperature is the most influential factor in bed bugs’ survival. They thrive in moderately warm environments, about -8°C. That’s why they’re more active during the summer. Remember that they can survive in lower or higher temperatures, but their life won’t be ideal.
To eliminate bed bugs, you need extreme temperatures, whether warm or cold. It’s hard for them to survive below -17°C or above 45°C unless they take cover in a protected location. So, if your clothes or bedding are infested, you can put them in the freezer for 3-4 days, although a few of them can still survive.
- Humidity. Like temperature, bed bugs like moderately high humidity, ranging between 75-100%. If the humidity levels are too low or too high, they won’t function properly and will eventually die.
- Age. Bed bugs at different stages of life have different starvation tolerance levels. Since their bodies haven’t fully developed yet, nymphs require more blood to grow into the next stage of their life cycle. So they have less chance of surviving starvation than adult bed bugs. A nymph can only last weeks if an adult bed bug can last months.
- Predators. You can probably tell that bed bugs aren’t the strongest insects out there. Although most people don’t like spiders, centipedes, and dust mites, they can help get rid of bed bugs. While spiders and centipedes feed on adult bed bugs, dust mites can target nymphs and bed bug eggs.
- Other Bed Bugs. Like humans, bed bugs survive longer when they move in large groups. Believe it or not, they can communicate by releasing pheromones to lead each other to safe hiding places, increasing their chance of survival. Some people believe that if bed bugs in large groups don’t find any food source for too long, they eat each other. That’s a common misconception. If bed bugs are cannibals, they will die out quickly. The fact they’re increasing in number should prove they only feed on blood.
How Long Can Bed Bugs Last Without a Human Host?
Unfortunately, bed bugs can live indefinitely without a human host. You see, out of 90 types of bed bugs, only three prefer to consume human blood. However, even those three can survive without a human host.
Yes, human blood is vital for them to lay healthy eggs. However, if it’s unavailable, bed bugs will resort to sucking the blood of cats, birds, or rodents to survive.
On average, bed bugs can survive for months without food. Some can even last a year. However, other external factors can also influence their lifespan. Whether it’s temperature, age, or humidity, a stress-inducing environment where bed bugs exert too much energy to survive will shorten their lifespan.
Rather than waiting for bed bugs to die out of starvation, it’s advisable to use professional bed bug treatment for swift and thorough eradication of the infestation.