​​When Do Bed Bugs Come Out?

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

Without knowing when bed bugs come out, would you know if your home was infested by bed bugs? Here’s a quick quiz.

Yes or no, are bed bugs nocturnal?

Do bed bugs ever come out during the day?

Does light deter bed bugs?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then you may think your house is bed bug-free because you haven’t seen any insects. The truth is you may have bed bugs even if you never catch a bug in action. The good news is you’re about to learn everything you need to know about bed bug activity.

When Do Bed Bugs Normally Come Out?

For the most part, bed bugs seem to be nocturnal, though they’re not true nocturnes, as we’ll discuss in the next section. Most people never see them during the day, however. Additionally, night time is the perfect time for bed bugs to find a sleeping host and have a blood meal.

Being opportunistic and ever seeking a feeding, bed bugs peak window of activity is around 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. when most people have been asleep long enough to be deep in slumber and inactive. They are not hardwired, though, to come out at this particular time, so changing your sleep schedule will not deter bed bugs that may be in your home.

Do Bed Bugs Ever Come Out During The Day?

Although night is the most common time for bed bugs to come out, it is not the only time. They are not truly nocturnal. Bed bugs will come out during the day. In fact, they come out whenever they think they will find a meal, so you can’t count on not getting bitten during day time hours.

CC Image courtesy of louento.pix

It’s a lot like human eating patterns. You tend to be awake and eating during the day, but if you wake up hungry in the night, you’re likely to get a snack if you can. Bed bugs are the same. They’re not going to avoid getting a meal just because it’s a particular time of day.

For the most part, however, bed bugs prefer to hide during the day. Hiding is part of their survival strategy.

Do Bed Bugs Come Out When The Lights Are On At Night?

Hiding during our active hours is how bed bugs keep from being spotted and exterminated. Because of that, they tend to prefer darkness and shadowed spaces. That preference won’t keep them from coming out to feed if necessary, though. Both hiding in the dark and feeding on blood are survival traits for them, but feeding takes precedence.

CC Image courtesy of British Pest Control Association

What that means for you is that if you work at night and sleep during the day, or if you leave lights on at night, the bed bugs will still come out looking for a meal. They will change their preferred day and night habits if they know they will find a still human where there is light.

Most of the time, the bugs will avoid light. You may even prevent bites for a few nights by turning lights on where you sleep, but eventually the bugs will get hungry enough to come out looking for food, regardless of how bright the room is. They are even more likely to come out when lights are on if you have a particularly large infestation with many individual insects requiring a feeding.

Bed bugs’ usual preference for dark areas is also why they tend to form colonies in large, dark places where many people congregate, such as movie theaters.

However, if bed bugs have managed to infest a place where there is only human activity during the day, such as your car, then they will definitely feed whenever the opportunity arises – even if that is in broad daylight.

How Long Do Bed Bugs Come Out To Feed For?

Individual bugs don’t take very long to complete a meal. They typically find the nearest exposed skin that they can, and they don’t spend a lot of time looking for any particular area to attach themselves to a host. Their survival depends upon feeding and getting back to a hiding spot unnoticed, so they tend not to waste time.

Once they find a spot of exposed skin, the bed bug will pierce the skin to obtain blood. Unlike some other biting insects, though, the bed bug sometimes needs to re-pierce the skin several times in order to get enough blood to be full – usually by following a straight line pattern across the skin.

Bed Bug Bites

After biting the host as many times as required, they have enough blood to return to hiding. The whole process takes less than 10 minutes, on average. This is why it’s so easy to be bitten during the night with no signs of bed bugs afterwards; because they will have already fled back to their safe-havens around the room long before you wake up to see them.

The go back into hiding quickly to avoid detection not only from you, but also from natural predators.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you only have a 10-minute window during which bed bugs are active. That is the time it takes for each individual to feed. The feeding times are staggered between individuals from the colony, so that multiple bugs may be feeding on the same host at once, but other bugs come out to feed at different times.

This means that if you regularly fall asleep downstairs in the early evening, it’s quite possible you’re being bitten on the coach without even knowing it if you have a breakaway colony of bugs that have left the bedroom.

Bed Bug Bites

Before that image completely creeps you out, understand that the whole colony is not going to need a feeding on the same night. You will not be covered in bed bugs, but multiple individuals may feed on the same host each night. Because individual bed bugs are on different feeding schedules, with each bug taking a meal about once per week, you, or others in your household, are likely to have new bites every night if you have a serious infestation.

How long will bed bugs stick around

Once you have bed bugs established in your home, it’s unlikely that they’re going anywhere else on their own. They will continue to feed on human hosts for as long as you live in the home. Female bed bugs can lay as many as 12 eggs per day, and they can lay 250 or more eggs in a lifetime. That ensures a constant population of bed bugs once a few (or even just one fertilized female) make a place their home.

Bed Bug Eggs
CC Image courtesy of AFPMB

How To Catch Bed Bugs When They Come Out

Fortunately, if you do have bed bugs, there are ways to confirm their presence, even if they hide during the day.

Cover your bed with white sheets

Bed bugs will leave signs of their presence, including bloodstains, molted skins, and fecal matter near where they’ve been eating. If, however, you have dark or patterned bedsheets, it can be difficult to see these signs. Using white sheets allows you to see the small, dark spots left behind by bed bugs.

Bed Bug Stains
Blood stains from where a bed bug gets squashed shortly after feeding – CC Image courtesy of louento.pix

Lay tape perimeters

Placing double-sided tape around the areas where you suspect bed bug activity can help you to catch a few. Good areas to place the tape are around the edges of the bed, especially the posts, at the bottom edge of the mattress, along baseboards, and near the headboard of the bed. Bugs that crawl across the tape will stick to it, and crawling is bed bugs only means of locomotion.

Bed bug traps/interceptors

You can also purchase or make bed bug glue traps. These glue boards will catch bed bugs in much the same way as tape, except that instead of placing them around your sleeping area (or wherever you suspect bed bug activity), you place a device that transmits carbon dioxide into the air as bait, such as a pan filled with boiling hot water, and wait for the bugs to crawl towards the source. This is because bed bugs detect their meals (humans) via exhaled carbon dioxide.

Additionally, intercepters can be placed underneath bed legs, so that when the bugs try to crawl up the frame, they slip into the traps and can’t get out.

In my experience, the best and most effective bed bug traps are usually the ones that are designed to work in the simplest of ways. I’ve used the Bed Bug Blocker Interceptor Traps extensively and I find they do the job better than any other trap I’ve tried. You also get a very generous 8 interceptors per pack. Place them directly underneath the bed/table/chair legs you’re trying to protect, and watch the bed bugs fall into the traps time and time again with no chance of escape.

Use these methods to determine whether you have an infestation before treatment, and after treatment to make sure none have returned. Also, make sure that any bed bugs you catch on tape or glue traps are sealed in two bags, not just one, before disposing of them.


Although bed bugs have somewhat predictable patterns, they are not completely deterred by specific times of day or bright lights. One of the best ways to find out if you have an infestation is to set up bed bug surveillance methods, like using white sheets and employing sticky traps. Then you can move on to treating your home and preventing the return of these pests.

If you’ve found just one bed bug and no others, you may be extremely lucky and have no more to find, but it’s still advisable to be vigilant and conduct a thorough search nonetheless.