Bed bugs do not eat anything other than blood. Over several millennia, bed bugs have evolved to only need blood for nourishment. Their mouth parts are designed specifically to only pierce through skin-like membranes and drink blood through a straw-like beak. They do not have lips, teeth, nor jaws that can help bite or chew through solid food.
Bed bug mouth anatomy
Bed bugs do not have a typical mouth like most insects with teeth and jaws. Instead, bed bugs have a straw-like beak at the tip of their heads. This beak is as long as one of their legs, which they will keep tucked in under their body when not in use. Right next to the long beak is a shorter one. This shorter beak is the one that pierces through the host’s skin.
Having a straw for a mouth makes it challenging for bed bugs to eat anything solid even if they wanted to.
How does a bed bug eat?
Bed bugs learn their host’s daily routine and when you go to sleep. They will come crawling out of their hiding place, or harborage, and find their way to an area of your body that is not covered by clothes, such as your legs, arms, shoulders, face, or neck.
When the bed bug has found a nice spot, they will use their shorter beak to break through your skin, with it a little saliva which also acts as an anesthetic so you remain unaware that you are being fed on.
The bed bug will then insert the longer beak into the incision and search for the nearest blood vessel. Once it finds a blood vessel, the saliva also acts as an anticoagulant, keeping the blood from clotting so the bed bug can feed without interruption.
The entire feeding process can last from 10 to 20 minutes. By the time they finish feeding, they will have ballooned to three times their normal size.
After the meal, they will crawl back to their harborage to digest the blood they just consumed.
How often does a bed bug eat?
As long as there is a host nearby at all times, a bed bug will feed every five to ten days.
Bed bugs start feeding as soon as they hatch from the egg. Baby bed bugs, or nymphs, go through five stages of growth before becoming a sexually mature adult bed bug. Before they progress onto the next stage, they need to take in a blood meal to help them grow. Once they become adults, bed bugs still need to feed regularly. Female bed bugs need to be well-fed in order to produce healthy and viable eggs, while male bed bugs also need to feed in order to keep producing healthy sperm.
In case the bed bugs have no hosts nearby, they are able to survive up to a year without feeding. Their bodies are able to retain moisture well, that is why they can go for months without drying out despite being unable to feed.
Bed bugs tend to feed more frequently during warmer months because the heat aids in their digestion. Inversely, they are also able to comfortably survive only feeding once a month during colder months.
Why do bed bugs only eat blood?
How have bed bugs lasted all this time despite only feeding on one particular thing?
This is because they evolved from bat bugs that look very similar to bed bugs except that they feed on bats. They lived in caves and just like bed bugs, only attached to the bats during feeding but would crawl back to their hiding places for safety. When humans started living in caves, the bugs moved over to the humans because they realized they were much easier to feed on compared to bats. Humans have more blood than bats so they can feed more of the population. Humans have far less hair than bats so they will not have to get through fur to bite our skin. Humans also move around less when asleep than bats do. Bats also preen themselves often so they are better at finding bed bugs on their bodies.
Due to all the advantages of feeding on humans compared to bats, these bugs began to feed on humans more than other animals. This continued until we got the bed bugs that we know of today. These bed bugs now prefer human blood over other animals, but they will still feed on other mammals if there are no humans around.
Modern bed bugs only feed on blood because their ancestors also did the same thing. Bat bugs learned to feed on blood because that is all that was available to them.
Do bed bugs eat other bed bugs?
No, as mentioned above, bed bugs only need blood to survive. Blood has all the nutrients and minerals bed bugs need. Their mouths cannot bite other bed bugs even if they wanted to.
They do not feed even on each other’s blood. When bed bugs ingest blood, it turns into hemolpymh. Hemolpymh does not contain any hemoglobin which is the component bed bugs want.
Do bed bugs eat other insects?
No, bed bugs do not eat other insects. They do not have the needed mouth parts to bite or chew solid material. They can only really ingest blood because that is all they need.
Bed bugs do not eat anything other than blood because they do not need to. All a bed bug needs to survive they can get from blood. They prefer human blood, but if there are no human hosts nearby, bed bugs will feed on other mammals.
Bed bugs do not have teeth or a jaw to bite or chew solid food. They have a straw-like beak that they use to pierce through skin and suck the blood through.
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