​​What Do Bed Bugs Eat?

  • Written By Dan Edwards on January 3, 2018
    Last Updated: December 28, 2020

Bed bugs are a real nuisance all over the world. That’s partly because they have a food source almost anywhere they wish to go. To learn more about what bed bugs eat, keep reading.

You’ll be an expert on their dietary habits in no-time.

What Do Bed Bugs Usually Eat?

No matter which species of bed bug you’re wondering about, all of them feed on the same thing – blood. They aren’t too picky about where that blood comes from when it comes down to their survival.

While they’ll take anything they can get, they do prefer warm-blooded mammals. One type of bed bugs that seems to prefer human blood over other sources is called Cimex lectularius.

Bed bugs are attracted to people because of our warmth and the carbon dioxide we emit.

CC Image courtesy of British Pest Control Association

Unlike some other pests that feed on blood like ticks and mosquitoes, bed bugs aren’t known to transmit any diseases to humans while they’re taking our blood, and are very unlikely to make you sick. That’s the sole silver lining to finding out you have a bed bug infestation in your home.

Also unlike a mosquito bite, you won’t feel pain or discomfort when a bed bug bites you. You won’t actually feel the bite happening at all because your new little friend will inject you with an analgesic, which is a pain-killing substance found in a bed bug’s saliva.

But later, after the analgesic wears off, you’ll probably begin to feel the effects of being bitten. Bed bug bites can cause redness and itching.

Bed Bug Bites

Do Bed Bugs Ever Feed on Other Animals?

While humans are the preferred food source for bed bugs, desperate times call for desperate measures. While bed bugs can survive for long periods without food, if they’re hungry enough and you aren’t around, they’re going to look for other food sources.

Those other food sources can include animals, although if there’s a person around, they’ll go for them first. Your pet’s fur or feathers won’t deter the bed bugs. They’ll work their way through that until they get to the skin to draw out some blood.

So if you have pets, such as dogs, cats, rabbits and birds, they could also potentially turn into a food source for your unwelcome house guests.

Do Bed Bugs Bite Dogs

How Often Do Bed Bugs Feed?

This is a tricky question because how often they feed depends, in part, on the temperature.

In warmer temperatures, bed bugs will eat about once a week. Nymphs, also known as baby bed bugs, need to eat in order to grow. They’ll have to bite someone about five or six times before they become a full-fledged adult. They’ll shed their skin and leave behind a casing about five times before they reach adulthood.

But when the weather gets cooler, the rules for feeding change. The bed bugs aren’t as active in colder temperatures and therefore their feeding schedule slows down along with their activity level.

How Much Blood Do Bed Bugs Take in a Single Meal?

The idea of a pest sucking our blood as we sleep is a pretty disturbing idea for most of us. But before you start to become concerned that you’ll be feeling a bit woozy from all the blood loss if your house has bed bugs, you can relax a bit.

A bed bug typically takes about .0055 milliliters of blood per bite, which, to put it in perspective, is less than a drop out of a medicine dropper. Mosquitos, by comparison, can take up to .01 millimeters in a single feeding.

In just a few minutes, bed bugs can drink up to six times their body weight – but remember, they are very small in size. They’ll stay attached to you for about five to 10 minutes and then they’ll leave you alone.

CC Image courtesy of AFPMB

Unless you have a big infestation, you shouldn’t notice any ill effects from how much blood bed bugs take from you. But as an added incentive to take care of any infestations, there have been cases in which people have ended up with severe anemia because of the blood loss they’ve experienced from bed bug bites.

Cases like this are rare, but when it comes to babies and small children, the blood loss can become problematic sooner than it would with adults. It doesn’t take long for an infestation to reach this level, although there would be many signs that would tip you off to an infestation before your health would begin to suffer.

In just 11 weeks of optimal conditions, two bedbugs could create an empire of bugs that could cause a stressful amount of blood loss to a baby. It would take just 15 weeks to cause that same level of harm to an adult.

How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without Feeding?

Adult bed bugs can go months without consuming any blood in cooler temperatures. Nymphs can’t last quite as long without blood – they can only go for about three months without it before dying.

In winter months in cold climates, adult bed bugs can live more than a year without feeding on a host. In a study done in a laboratory in controlled conditions of 10 percent humidity and a temperature of 44 degrees Fahrenheit, they’ve survived a staggering 560 days without consuming any blood.

But in a typical home, even during the winter months, the warmth will be enough for the bed bugs to engage in regular feedings. So if you notice any signs of bed bugs on your sheets or mattress, you can count on the fact that they’re trying to feast on you and the others residing in your household.


Now you know what bed bugs eat and how quickly a severe infestation can get out of hand. You, your family and your pets are all a potential food source for any bed bugs in your home. And if the infestation gets bad, you’re going to be like an all-you-can-eat buffet for those bed bugs.

That’s why it’s crucial to call in the experts if you find any signs of a bed bug infestation in your home.