How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without A Host?

How Long Do Bed Bugs Survive Without A Host?

Many people suffering from a bed bug infestation hold the mistaken belief that you can just starve out the pests. Maybe you can go on a long vacation or live with a relative for a month, and when you get back, your home will be bed bug free because they had no one to suck blood from.

Unfortunately, that’s not really the way it works.

In fact, you’d be surprised to know how long bed bugs can live without a host. That’s what you’ll learn about in this article.

Specifically, you’ll learn whether humans are the only host for bed bugs to feed on or if they have other hosts, as well. You’ll also find out how often bed bugs typically feed. And you’ll even discover how long bed bugs can live without feeding on a host and whether they can reproduce without feeding.

Let’s jump right in and answer the first question about bed bug feeding habits.


When Do Bed Bugs Come Out

CC Image courtesy of British Pest Control Association

Do Bed Bugs Only Feed On Human Hosts?

This one’s a bit tricky. Bed bugs have a strong preference for human hosts, but do they only feed on human hosts? No. The truth is that if no human blood source is available, bed bugs will feed on another host.

Indeed, this is probably how bed bugs survived during the years that they were pushed back out of homes with chemical insecticides. Don’t think you can just blast your home with chemicals to get rid of these pests now, though.

Modern bed bugs have developed resistances to almost all known insecticide agents.

Can bed bugs eat anything other than blood?

You may be wondering, if a bed bug doesn’t necessarily need a human host, can it survive on something other than blood? The answer to that question is no. The only thing a bed bug can use for nourishment is blood. Its mouth and body are specifically equipped for ingesting and processing blood for nutrition.

CC Image courtesy of British Pest Control Association

That’s why you won’t typically find bed bugs in the kitchen or bathroom, unlike ants, cockroaches, or other pests. They have nothing to eat in these rooms. They will not try to swarm the crumbs you left on the kitchen counter.

How Often Do Bed Bugs Usually Feed On A Host?

Unlike some other insects that survive on blood, like fleas, bed bugs tend to feed on any available host. Fleas prefer to feed on only one person. Rather than jumping from host to host, they will stick with the host their colony lives on. Of course, they do eventually spread, as a host becomes overpopulated.

Bed bugs, on the other hand, do not live on their hosts, and so they do not share this attachment. Instead, they live in hiding places like under mattresses and in the crevices around baseboards.

When they come out of hiding (usually at night), they are not looking for a particular person. They are looking for the generalised body heat and the carbon dioxide that we breathe out. This is the way they're able to scope out their prey.

CC Image courtesy of louento.pix

That is how they find a host for feeding.

Most bed bugs feed about once a week. Don’t think that means you’re only going to get bitten once a week though. A full infestation contains thousands of individual insects. Each of those bed bugs needs to feed once per week, which means that you’re likely to get bitten every night by multiple bugs if you have an infestation.

CC Image courtesy of AFPMB

The good news is that bed bugs are not known to have ever transmitted a disease to a human host. The bad news is that you will probably develop some seriously itchy skin.

A lot of people are grossed out by the idea of bed bugs in their home, but a lot of so-called home remedies are actually more dangerous or harmful to your health than bed bug bites. Itchy skin can be treated. It’s important to find bed bug treatments that are both safe and effective, whether you are using a DIY method or hiring a professional pest management company.

How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without Feeding On A Host?

You already know that if no blood is available, there is nothing else a bed bug can eat to survive. What you may not realize is that these pests can live for a really long time without eating. The amount of time depends upon the environment the insect is in, but they can even live outside for considerable lengths of time.

A well-fed bed bug - CC Image courtesy of AFPMB

In cooler temperatures, some bed bugs can survive a year or more without a meal. Living without a host, however, does prevent nymphs from reaching adulthood on their normal schedule. Under normal circumstances, bed bug nymphs become adults within about 5 weeks or so. Without a host, however, they are weaker than fully mature bed bugs, and are more likely to starve to death.

In warmer temperatures, a bed bug will still survive a couple of months without a meal. That means that even if you leave your house for a couple of weeks, the bed bugs will still be there when you get back. Survival times do drop significantly with increased temperatures.

Bed bugs have developed an interesting survival mechanism for preventing starvation. Their bodies go into a type of hibernation, which is why colder temperatures work better at long periods of fasting. Additionally, the bugs generate a “hunger bubble” in their abdomens. This fills up the space where a meal would normally go and helps them to endure hunger.

Will Bed Bugs Feed On Other Animals If Desperate?

Bed bugs are part of a group of similar insects of the genus Cimex. The scientific name for a bed bug is Cimex lectularius. There are other insects in the Cimex genus, such as Cimex adjunctus, the bat bug.

Bat bugs are quite similar to bed bugs, except that, as you may have guessed, they prefer to feed on bats rather than humans. That doesn’t mean you won’t find them in your house. They commonly infest attics where bats have made their home.

bat bug vs bed bug

Each member of this insect genus, like bed bugs and bat bugs, prefers specific types of hosts. Each one, however, will get blood however it can, usually from a mammal. Bed bugs are no exception, if they cannot find a human host, they will seek blood from another mammal to survive.

Can Bed Bugs Reproduce Without A Host To Feed On?

Bed bugs absolutely need to blood meals in order to reproduce. In the absence of a host, bed bugs may survive for quite a while, but they will stop making new eggs. Furthermore, the nymphs require blood meals in order to molt and reach the next stage of development.

Without a host available, the nymphs not only live less time than adult bed bugs, but they will not reach maturity and cannot reproduce.

A funny thing about bed bugs, and several other types of blood feeding insects, is that they often need the blood of a particular type of host in order to reproduce. What that means for bed bugs is that they can survive without a human host, by feeding from an animal, but they cannot lay eggs and create new generations of bed bugs without a human host.

Do Bed Bugs Bite Dogs

In rare cases, this information may be useful. For most people with a bed bug problem, however, the pests will find a way to survive for the long haul. That’s why it’s best to form a multifaceted pest treatment strategy. You need to get rid of the infestation, prevent any new bugs from entering the home, and keep past infestations from coming back via unhatched eggs that weren’t destroyed.


Now you understand that the answer to how long bed bugs can live without a host is not a cut and dry answer. Many factors go into how long they can survive, including temperature and the age of the bugs. What you know for certain, though, is that trying to wait out your bed bugs until they starve is not a viable treatment option.

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