Skip to Content

How Often Do Bed Bugs Need To Feed To Survive?

Do you want to find out all about bed bugs and their feeding habits! In this post, we’ll answer the question of how often do bed bugs need to feed to survive.

I’ll share how long their meals last to what kind of food they prefer. So stay tuned for more information on bed bug feeding habits…

a bed bug crawling over the top of a throw

What Is The Bed Bug Life Cycle?

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) pass through several stages in their life cycle, from egg to adult.

A female bed bug lays up to 500 tiny, pearl-white eggs. She often lays them in the cracks and crevices of a mattress or other furniture.

Egg Stage: After 6-10 days, the eggs hatch, releasing immature bed bugs called nymphs.

These nymphs require a blood meal to grow. They actively seek out hosts, often causing infestations that produce strong, unpleasant odors.

Nymph Stages: Nymphs go through five molting stages. During which they shed their exoskeleton to grow larger.

At each molt, they require at least one blood meal. This process is highly temperature-dependent.

Nymphs can develop into adults within one month if the temperature is about room temperature.

  • First molt: You may start to notice reddish-brown nymphs the size of a pinhead.

  • Subsequent molts: As nymphs progress, they become more visible to the naked eye.

Adult Stage: Nymphs eventually molt into adults, which are reddish-brown, wingless, and about the size of an apple seed.

Adults can survive for several months without a meal under normal room conditions. However, they need to feed regularly to reproduce.

Bed bugs’ ability to endure higher temperatures affects their survival and spread. Warmer conditions can speed up their life cycle.

Adults and nymphs can infest your living space as they hide in cracks and crevices during the day.

Maintaining steady, high heat in an area can disrupt the life cycle of bed bugs. This could potentially reduce the spread of infestation. 

What Are The Bed Bug Feeding Habits?

Bed bugs are nocturnal, parasitic insects that rely on a blood meal from a host, such as humans, to survive.Feeding frequency can vary, with adult bed bugs generally biting every 5-10 days.

The immature stages, known as nymphs, require more frequent blood meals. This helps them molt and progress through their life stages.

Your encounter with bed bug bites typically occurs at night. They are attracted to the carbon dioxide you exhale and the warmth of your body.

Bed bugs often reside within mattressessheets, and furniture close to where you sleep.

Life Stage Feeding Requirement
Nymph Frequent for growth
Adult 5-10 days for sustenance
Female (Mating) After each blood meal

The female bed bug needs to feed more often if she is to lay eggs efficiently. Unlike male bed bugs, females may need a blood meal at least once every 14 days to maintain their reproduction rate.

However, both sexes can endure several months without feeding under conducive conditions, although this isn’t ideal for their survival.

Temperature and humidity play a role in the frequency of their feeding habits. Optimal conditions can encourage more regular feeding and reproduction rates.

Bed bugs use their elongated beak to penetrate the skin and extract blood. While they prefer human blood, they can also feed on other warm-blooded animals if necessary.

People often mistake their bites for other insect bites. The bites can cause itching and discomfort.

How Often Do Bed Bugs Need To Feed To Survive?

How Often Do Bed Bugs Need To Feed To Survive?

Bed bugs are parasitic insects. They require a blood meal for survival and to progress through their lifecycle, particularly when maturing from a nymph to an adult.

The frequency of feeding can vary, but on average, bed bugs will seek a blood meal once every 3-4 days.

  • Nymphs: Younger bed bugs, known as nymphs, are more frequent feeders as they require nourishment to grow.

  • Adults: Once mature, adult bed bugs can extend the intervals between feeding and under optimal conditions they are known to survive without a meal for several months.

The temperature of your bedroom significantly affects how often you eat.

  • Temperature: Adult bed bugs can live for up to a year without feeding at room temperature, around 70-80°F (21-27°C).

  • Colder Climates: In cooler conditions, bed bugs can survive even longer without a blood meal due to their slower metabolism.

Bed bugs are most common on humans, but will feed on other warm-blooded animals if necessary. They are opportunistic pests.

They tend to hide near their food source. That’s why you might find them in mattresses, bed frames, and other furniture.

How Often Do Bed Bugs Feed And Eat On Human Blood?

Bed bugs are nocturnal. They generally feed on human blood at night, while you are asleep.

Mosquitoes can sense carbon dioxide emitted from human breath and body heat. This helps them locate their host in the dark.

These insects do not need to feed every night, as they can survive without a meal for varying lengths of time.

The frequency of their feeding is once per week on average. Nymphs, the juveniles, may feed more frequently as they require blood meals to molt and progress through their life stages.

Here is a summary of their feeding habits:

  • Newly hatched nymphs: At least once a week

  • Older nymphs: Typically once a week

  • Adult bed bugs: Usually once per week

Each bite may not be felt immediately. Bed bugs inject a mild anesthetic to numb the area before drawing blood.

The bite marks may become apparent only after a few days and are often mistaken for other insect bites.

Bed bugs don’t only rely on human blood for survival. However, they need blood to reproduce and develop.

It is the consistency of access to blood, not just human, that keeps their populations growing.

In the absence of a host, bed bugs can still survive by lying dormant for up to several months. They conservatively reserve their energy until they can feed again.

bed bug drinking blood from a human host

How Long Do Bed Bug Nymphs Survive Without Feeding?

These nymphs need to feed to grow immediately after hatching. Under dire circumstances, their resilience is worth noting.

Temperature and Humidity Influence:

  • Room Temperature: At about 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit), nymphs can live without feeding for several weeks.

  • Variability: The exact duration can change with different temperatures and humidity levels. Cooler conditions may prolong their survival period.

Survival Duration by Stages:

Bed bug nymphs go through five molting stages before reaching adulthood. Each stage requires a blood meal. In the absence of a meal:

  • Early Stages (1-3): Younger nymphs may survive for a couple of weeks since their energy requirements are smaller.

  • Later Stages (4-5): Older nymphs possess greater energy reserves and can last longer, possibly extending to a month or more.

Strategic Implications for You:

If you’re dealing with an infestation:

  • Frequent inspection and intervention are necessary.

  • Maintain consistent room temperature to avoid creating conditions where nymphs can survive longer without feeding.

  • Consider that even a vacant room can house living nymphs for quite some time.

bed bugs up close under a microscope

Do Female Bed Bugs Eat More Often Than Male Bed Bugs?

Both male and female bed bugs require blood meals to survive and procreate. 

However, there is a misconception that female bed bugs feed more often than males. This idea comes from their reproductive roles.

In truth, the frequency of feeding for female and male bed bugs is generally the same.

Both sexes typically feed every week. Although this can vary based on factors such as temperature and the availability of a host.

  • Female bed bugs do need a blood meal to produce eggs. Post-feeding, a female has the capacity to lay eggs within 2 to 3 days and may continue to produce eggs every few days.

  • Mating can influence a female bed bug’s feeding patterns to some extent. After mating, females may seek more frequent blood meals to support egg production.

  Female Bed Bugs Male Bed Bugs
Feed Every week (for egg production) Every week
Blood Meal Essential for reproduction Needed for survival
Mating May increase feeding frequency Does not affect frequency

Both males and females need regular blood meals, but there is no significant difference in the frequency of feeding between the sexes solely based on their gender. 


So there you have it: Bed bugs need to feed every 5-10 days on average. Nymphs need more frequent blood meals.

Temperature and humidity determine how often they feed. Adults go longer without blood meals in ideal conditions.

Females need a blood meal for egg production. This may make them feed slightly more often. However, both sexes likely feed at similar rates.