How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without Food?

How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without Food?

Bed bugs can live from 20 to 400 days without food. The range is quite big because their survival is dependent on the temperature and humidity of where they live. Bed bugs can reach the maximum of 400 days without food in a controlled laboratory environment at low temperatures.

Baby bed bugs, or nymphs, go through five stages of maturity. Older stages of nymphs can survive longer without food than those in the younger stages.

If you want to learn more about how long bed bugs can go without food, then keep on reading.

How long can bed bugs live without food?

The reason why bed bugs can live up to 400 days without food is because they can hold on to any moisture they capture to keep liquids from evaporating from their shell. Their shell has a coat of wax that prevents them from drying out.

Their main source of food, human blood, is very nutritious and so bed bugs can usually live off of one blood meal for months if they need to.

The length of time a bed bug can live without food is dependent on several factors. The main one being the age of the bed bug. A nymph’s body is not as developed as an adult bed bug and will not last nearly as long without food.

Other factors are their habitat and activity levels. Bed bugs in smaller areas, like bedrooms, have less ground to cover when looking for food, so they are likely to survive longer.

Bed bugs prefer the cold, so homes with air conditioning or naturally cold places allow the bed bugs to use less energy and survive for longer without feeding.

How does a bed bug feed?

Bed bugs do not have a mouth that helps them burrow deep into a person’s skin. They have a beak-like proboscis that they use to pierce through the skin and into the nearest blood vessel in order to feed.

Before they start feeding, the bed bug excretes some saliva that has anesthetic qualities to numb the nerves of the skin surrounding their target area. This way, the host will not feel anything while the feeding process is ongoing.

Bed bug saliva also has anticoagulant properties that keeps the blood from clotting so it can keep flowing as they feed.

Do bed bugs only consume blood?

Yes, blood is the only food bed bugs require. It has all of the nutrients they need to survive. They will not and cannot feed on anything else even if they are extremely hungry or thirsty.

Bed bugs need to feed and be fully nourished to molt and shed their shells between nymphal stages until they develop into full maturity. Female bed bugs need to feed so that their eggs are viable, while male bed bugs need to feed to be able to properly impregnate a female.

Because human blood is one of the bed bug’s favorite meals, they have evolved to become attracted to the heat signature human bodies give off and as well as the carbon dioxide we exhale. In the outdoors, in the absence of a human host to feed on, bed bugs will not think twice about feeding off of animals in order to survive.

How often and how long does a bed bug feed?

When the bed bug egg hatches and the nymphal stage begins. A bed bug nymph goes through five stages before it becomes an adult. In between those five nymphal stages, the bug has to take a blood meal in order to undergo a molting process to replace their old exoskeleton in order to grow a bigger one.

Bed bug nymphs take about five minutes to feed, while adult bed bugs take about ten minutes. After which they will retreat to their preferred hiding spot for safety as it starts to digest the blood it has just ingested.

Both adult bed bugs and nymphs feed once every five to ten days, or approximately once a week. So, if you notice a new bed bug bite every morning, that must mean you have quite a sizable bed bug population in your home.

Bed bug population growth

Compared to most pests, bed bugs do not multiply as quickly. Adult female bed bugs only lay between one to five eggs each day.

It will take ten days for the egg to hatch and another five to six weeks for the baby bed bugs to become sexually mature adults.

As a comparison, the common housefly lays about 500 eggs in three days, and female mosquitoes lay dozens of eggs every day.

What makes bed bugs more insidious is that they grow their population quietly but effectively. This is why most people do not know that they have an infestation until the colony has become too big to control.

One female bed bug, if introduced to a new house, can grow its own colony of thousands of bed bugs in a matter of months.

You may not be able to get rid of bed bugs completely even if you can somehow stop them from feeding, but limiting their access to their food source can reduce the infestation’s spread. Nymphs need to feed once a week to continue growing, so if they can be kept from feeding, the colony will fail eventually. Female bed bugs that are unable to feed will also stop laying eggs after a few weeks.


Bed bugs can live between 20 to 400 days without feeding depending on several factors.

Bed bugs live without food longer in colder climates, as well as in smaller places where hosts are nearby.

Baby bed bugs, or nymphs, die much quicker than adult bed bugs when they have to go without food.

When bed bugs are kept away from food, they will die of starvation and the infestation will die down gradually. Female bed bugs who do not feed will eventually be unable to produce eggs.

Image: / Mainely Photos