I regularly receive the question: “How long will bed bugs live without food?” The answer is: it depends!
Ancillary (non- research) field experience has shown situations where bed bugs have lived for 16-18 months after a treatment, to come back and feed again. The bugs I keep to train my dogs with (sourced in the field) die within a few weeks as they are starved and stressed (experiencing lots of movement compared to their desired lifestyle). My bugs that I purchased from a laboratory live several months without food. Bugs in a vial will cannibalize each other, so it is hard to say if they are feeding or not feeding.
In 1941 a scientist by the name Omori published research on starved adult female survival reporting 277 days at 64 degrees Fahrenheit and 425 days at 50 degrees Fahrenheit. There are some unanswered questions about his research but the net/net is that his starving bugs lived from 9 to 14 months.
But now, Dr. Miller has actually published a research article on the subject. She tested insecticide resistant strains as well as non-resistant strains. She tested instars (non-reproducing youth) and adults. Her results are very interesting:
- 1st stage instars who never were given the opportunity to feed lived 13-36 days
- Starved 5th stage instars and adults lived 41-143 days
- Bugs that were resistant to insecticides had shorter survival, indicating that resistance to pesticide protected them but that being resistant is taxing to the bug
As I said above, bugs in a vial do behave differently than what you would see in the real world, so it is hard to say how Dr. Miller’s results would differ outside of the lab. But the take away should be…these bed bugs are resilient and have proved time and time again that they will out survive us. Prevention is the best method.
Ashley, Atlanta Bed Bug Control Specialist