How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without Feeding?

One of the most pressing questions for those dealing with an infestation is: how long can bed bugs live without feeding?

Understanding their survival mechanisms and lifespan without a blood meal is crucial in effectively managing and eradicating these pests.

Bed Bug Life Cycle and Feeding Habits

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) undergo a simple metamorphosis with three main life stages: egg, nymph, and adult.

After hatching from eggs, nymphs must go through five molts before reaching adulthood. Each molt requires at least one blood meal. Adult bed bugs continue to feed approximately every 5-10 days if a host is available, but their ability to withstand prolonged periods without feeding is remarkable.

Survival Mechanisms

Bed bugs have evolved several mechanisms to endure periods without a blood meal. These include:

Slow Metabolism: Bed bugs can significantly reduce their metabolic rate, enabling them to survive longer periods without food.

Dormancy: In cooler temperatures, bed bugs can enter a state of semi-dormancy, further conserving their energy and extending their lifespan without feeding.

Adaptability: Bed bugs are highly adaptable and can survive in various environments, from the freezing cold to the sweltering heat, although extreme temperatures will eventually kill them.

Duration Without Feeding

The survival time of bed bugs without a blood meal varies depending on several factors, including their life stage, temperature, and humidity.

Nymphs: Younger nymphs are more vulnerable and generally cannot survive as long as adults without feeding. In optimal conditions (around 70-80°F), nymphs can survive for several weeks to a few months without a blood meal.

Adults: Adult bed bugs are more resilient. In room temperature conditions, adults can survive without feeding for up to 4-5 months. However, in cooler temperatures, their survival period can extend to over a year. This ability to endure prolonged starvation periods makes bed bugs particularly challenging to eradicate.

Environmental Factors

Temperature and humidity play a significant role in the survival of bed bugs without feeding:

Temperature: Bed bugs thrive at temperatures between 70-80°F. In these conditions, their metabolic rate is optimal, and their lifespan is longest. At cooler temperatures, their metabolism slows down, and they can survive longer without food. However, at temperatures above 113°F, bed bugs can die within minutes.

Humidity: While bed bugs can survive in various humidity levels, extremely dry conditions can hasten their demise. They prefer moderate humidity levels, which help them retain moisture and survive longer.

Implications for Control and Eradication

Understanding the bed bug’s ability to survive without feeding is crucial for effective pest control. Simply vacating an infested area for a short period is often insufficient to starve bed bugs to death, especially considering their ability to go dormant and survive for months.

Integrated pest management strategies should include:

Heat Treatments: Exposing bed bugs to temperatures above 120°F can effectively kill them in all life stages.

Chemical Treatments: Using residual insecticides can help ensure that bed bugs coming out of hiding places will contact treated surfaces and be killed.

Encasements: Enclosing mattresses and box springs in bed bug-proof encasements can help isolate and starve bed bugs hiding within these items.


Bed bugs are tenacious pests capable of surviving extended periods without feeding, especially under cooler conditions.

Their ability to slow their metabolism and enter dormancy makes them challenging to eradicate. Effective management requires a combination of heat treatments, chemical applications, and preventive measures to ensure that these resilient insects are thoroughly eliminated.

By understanding their survival mechanisms and lifespans, we can better develop strategies to combat and control bed bug infestations.