Woman with magnifying glass detecting bed bugs on mattress, closeup

As a homeowner, renter, or business owner, dealing with bed bugs can be a real headache. But understanding how long bed bugs can live without food is good to know.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the biology and behavior of bed bugs to help you gain a better understanding of their survival capabilities when they do not have blood.

In this article, we will dive into how to identify bed bugs. We’ll also take a closer look at the life cycle of these pests, including their ability to survive without a food source. This knowledge is very helpful in understanding an adult bed bug and young bed bugs’ survival capabilities.

How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without Food

Bed bugs are a notoriously resilient pest, capable of surviving in various conditions. But have you ever wondered how long they can last without food?

The answer may shock you: adult bed bugs can live for a few weeks to around 5 months without feeding on a host. Nymphs must feed more often so if they do not feed, they will eventually die much sooner than an adult.

This means that eliminating them and other pests from your property is even more challenging than you might have thought.

If you’re dealing with a bed bug infestation, it’s important to act quickly and seek professional help. These pests can cause discomfort, irritation, and even sleep deprivation.

In this section, we will explore why bed bugs can endure such long periods without food and provide valuable information on identifying these pests and preventing infestations.

Why Can Bed Bugs Survive So Long Without Feeding?

The primary reason behind the impressive survival skills of bed bugs lies in their biology. These tiny insects possess an extraordinary ability to slow down their metabolism when they cannot find a host to feed on. By doing so, they conserve energy and prolong their lives until they locate a suitable source of nourishment.

  • Adult bed bugs: Adult bed bugs are known for being able to survive anywhere between 20 days up to one year without feeding under optimal conditions (room temperature).
  • Youthful stages: younger nymphs or baby bedbugs may not be as resilient as adults but still manage quite well; some sources suggest that young bedbugs can last around two weeks before succumbing due to lack of nutrition.

Finding Suitable Hiding Places is Key to Their Survival

One reason they can last so long is their uncanny ability at finding the perfect hiding place where they can remain undisturbed for extended periods.

They often seek refuge within mattresses, box springs, furniture, and even electrical outlets.

Now that we understand how long bed bugs can live without food let’s jump into identifying bed bugs and implementing effective prevention strategies to manage bed bugs.

1. Identifying Bed Bugs

Recognizing bed bugs and their signs of infestation is crucial for homeowners, renters, and business owners to effectively address a potential problem before it worsens. By learning how to identify these pests, you can take swift action in preventing or treating an infestation.

Close up of a bed bug on corrugated recycle paper

A. Physical Appearance of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are small, oval-shaped critters with a brownish hue. Adult bed bugs measure about 4-5 millimeters in length and 1-3 millimeters wide. They may appear swollen and darker after feeding on blood.

  • Nymphs: Young bed bugs (nymphs) are smaller than adults but share the same shape; they’re often translucent or light yellow until they feed.
  • Eggs: Bed bug eggs are tiny – around 1mm long – white or cream-colored ovals that can be challenging to spot without magnification.

B. Signs of Infestation

If you suspect a bedbug infestation, there are several telltale signs to look out for:

  1. Bloodstains on bedding: Small red spots on your sheets could indicate crushed bed bugs from when they’ve fed during the night.
  2. Fecal matter: Dark brown or black fecal spots might be present near where the bedbugs hide during daylight hours – typically along mattress seams, headboards, baseboards, etc.
  3. Shed skins: As bed bugs grow, they shed their exoskeletons. You may find these light brown, molted skins near their hiding spots.
  4. Bite marks on skin: Bed bug bites are often small, red welts that itch and appear in clusters or lines. Not all individuals experience the same response to these bites.

If you find just one bed bug, there are going to be many more in the home and you need to start a treatment plan. You have to remove bed bugs from your home immediately by either DIY or hiring an exterminator.

2. Life Cycle of Bed Bugs

Understanding a bed bugs lifecycle is helpful in knowing how to get rid of them. The life cycle consists of several stages, from eggs to adulthood.

bed bug lifecycle


Female bed bugs lay approximately 200-500 eggs throughout their lifetime, which are white and about the size of a pinhead. These eggs hatch within 6-10 days under favorable conditions.

Nymphs (Young Bed Bugs)

Young bed bugs, or nymphs, go through five molting stages before reaching adulthood. They require at least one blood meal between each stage to molt successfully. Nymphs can live for several months without feeding if necessary.

Adult Bed Bugs

Adult bed bugs, which are reddish-brown and roughly the size of an apple seed. They feed on human blood every few days when possible but can also survive a very long time without feeding.

Adult bed bugs have been known to survive for up to 12 months without a blood meal.

  • Eggs: Hatch within 6-10 days under favorable conditions.
  • Nymphs: Can live for several months without feeding if necessary.
  • Adults: Known to survive up to a year without food sometimes.

3. Factors Affecting Bed Bug Survival

Several factors influence how long bed bugs can live without food, including:

  1. Temperature: Bed bugs thrive in temperatures between 70°F and 80°F (21°C-27°C). Colder or hotter temperatures can slow down their metabolism and prolong their ability to survive without feeding.
  2. Humidity: Higher humidity levels help maintain moisture within the bed bug’s body, allowing them to go for longer periods without needing a blood meal. In contrast, lower humidity levels may cause dehydration and reduce their survival time.
  3. Lifecycle stage: As mentioned earlier, nymphs require more frequent feedings than adults; therefore, they are less likely to survive extended periods of starvation than adult bed bugs.

To effectively manage a bedbug infestation and prevent future occurrences, understanding the life cycle of these pests is essential. This knowledge will help you identify signs of an infestation early on and implement appropriate prevention strategies before it becomes widespread.

4. Treatment Options

If you suspect a bed bug infestation in your home or business, it’s essential to act quickly and explore the various treatment options available for eliminating these pests. Bedbugs can be difficult to get rid of. Here are some effective methods of dealing with bedbugs:

Heat Treatment

One of the most successful strategies to eradicate bed bugs is through heat treatment. Adult bed bugs, young bed bugs, and even their eggs cannot withstand high temperatures above 120°F (49°C).

Professional exterminators use specialized equipment that raises the temperature inside your home or business, effectively killing all stages of the life cycle.

I have used heat treatment in a few of my rentals. It works well but if a few survive they come back to infest your property. I recommend after heat treatment you spray with insecticide and use IGR (Insect Growth Regulator) to prevent any future reproduction.

Insecticides and IGR

Insecticides can also help control bed bug infestation. However, not all insecticides are suitable for treating these pests since they have developed resistance against certain chemicals over time. Here is what we recommend to kill bed bugs and stop them from reproducing.

Best Insecticide

Temprid FX

Temprid bed bugs
  • Quick knockdown
  • Long-lasting control
  • Broad-spectrum insecticide
  • Kills bed bugs
  • Concentrate spray
Best IGR

Gentrol Aerosol

  • Disrupts development
  • Growth regulator
  • Stop reproduction
  • Hard-to-reach areas
  • Works on bed bugs

Vacuuming and Steam Cleaning

  • Vacuuming: A thorough vacuuming can help remove adult bed bugs and nymphs from carpets, furniture crevices, mattress seams, and other hiding spots around your property. Be sure to dispose of the vacuum bag outside immediately after cleaning.
  • Steam Cleaning: Steam cleaners produce hot vapor that penetrates deep into fabrics and upholstery – making them ideal tools for killing bed bugs and their eggs. Still, relying only on steam cleaning may not be enough to completely eradicate the bed bug population; thus, it is recommended to use this technique in combination with other techniques.

Encasements and Interceptors

You will need to put mattress encasements on your mattress and your box spring. This will trap bed bugs on or in the mattress and box spring.

Installing interceptor devices under the legs of your furniture will trap these pests as they attempt to climb up onto beds or sofas. This will help in preventing some of them from feeding on you or your family members.

Treating a bed bug problem requires persistence and a comprehensive approach that combines multiple strategies for maximum effectiveness.

Our Pick

Healthy Sleep Mattress Encasement

Keep your sleeping quarters bug-free with the Healthy Sleep Bed Bug Encasement!

For peace of mind, it boasts a 10-year manufacturer warranty and is made from durable, yet soft waterproof materials – making sure bed bugs don’t get in while still providing comfortable protection.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a natural powder made from fossilized algae that can be used to kill bed bugs by damaging their exoskeletons. DE should be applied in thin layers around infested areas and left undisturbed for several days or weeks to ensure its effectiveness.


Dealing with a bed bug issue can be an intimidating challenge for those who own, rent, or operate a business.

To prevent and treat bed bug infestations, it’s crucial to identify their presence by spotting signs like fecal spots, live bed bugs, bed bug eggs, or shed skins.

  • Prevention strategies: Regularly inspecting your living spaces for signs of an infestation, sealing cracks and crevices where bedbugs hide, laundering bedding frequently at high temperatures, and using mattress encasements designed specifically for preventing bed bug entry are all effective methods in keeping these unwanted guests at bay.
  • Treatment options: If you do find yourself dealing with a bed bug full-blown infestation, there are various treatment options available ranging from chemical pesticides like pyrethroids to non-chemical alternatives such as heat treatments or vacuuming affected areas thoroughly.

By staying vigilant and informed, you can protect your home or business from these persistent pests and enjoy a bedbug-free environment.

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