How Long Do Bed Bugs Live?

How Long Do Bed Bugs Live?

According to Cornell University’s NYSIPM, bed bugs can survive for a very long time, and can be extremely difficult to get rid of. Let’s explore how long bed bugs live, under various conditions, from trusted sources.

How Long Do Bed Bugs Live? Bed bugs live 2 to 4 months, on average. This is their lifespan in real world, such as our mattresses, luggage and backpacks. However, bed bug lifespan varies, depending on several factors, shown below.

Their lifespan can vary depending mostly on temperature and the availability of quality food – our blood.

Luckily, we usually aren’t aware when they feed on us, and they can’t hurt us much, but they can leave itchy bed bug bites. Further scratching can cause infections, so try to resist.

Main factors that affect bed bug lifespan:

  • temperature
  • other environmental threats
    (chemicals, predator insects, etc.)
  • availability of blood
  • quality of blood
  • genetics

Recent research indicates that interceptor monitors can successfully detect and trap bedbugs, and are widely used by PMPs (pest management professionals).

Bed bug problems peak during summer, because they become active during warm gemperatures, from July through September.

Let’s look a bit more into how long they live.

At What Temperature Do Bed Bugs Die?

According to IPM at University of California and Quarles (2015), bed bugs quickly die at temperatures greater than 113°F (45°C), and lower than 1.4°F (-17°C).

More specifically in heat, temperatures of 118°F (48°C) are quickly lethal to adult bed bugs, whereas death at 113°F (45°C) takes about 95 minutes.

In cold, it takes 4 days at 0°F (-17.8°C) to kill all the bed bugs and less than 24 hours to kill the bed bugs with dry ice. (Sources: 1, 2, 3)

Bed bug eggs take a bit longer to kill. Bed bug eggs are killed in 7h at 113°F (45°C), and in 72 minutes at 118°F (48°C). Bed bugs which are not killed by high temperatures, are immobilized.

Bed Bug Temperature Chart

Bed Bug StageLethal Temperature
(HEAT)
Time Duration
Bed bug adults and nymphs113°F (45°C)95 minutes
Bed bug eggs113°F (45°C)7 hours
Bed bug adults and nymphs118°F (48°C)few minutes
Bed bug eggs118°F (48°C)72 minutes
STAGE(COLD)TIME
Bed bug all stages0°F (-17.8°C)4 days
DRY ICE
Bed bug all stages−109.3°F (-78.5°C)24 hours

Sources: Kells, Goblirsch at umn.edu | Changlu Wang at rutgers.edu

Death of life stages of bed bugs is a function of time and temperature.

Lower temperatures will slow down the development of bed bugs, and as the temperature raises, their activity increases. Bed bugs will cease activity at 97°F (36°C), but they still remain alive. To get rid of them completely, we must raise the temperature above 113°F and keep it there for the specified time, as shown in the chart above.

The recommendation for commercial heating services is to use temperatures of at least 140°F for two hours or 130°F for three hours. This will kill most bed bugs and eggs.

Minimum lethal temperature is 113°F.

It doesn’t matter at which stage the bed bug is at, it will die at temperatures above 113°F. The only difference is the time it takes.

How Long Does it Take to Get Rid of Bed Bugs?

According to New York State Integrated Pest Management at Cornell University, it will take at least 3 weeks to get rid of bed bugs.

Here are the reasons why:

  • preparation takes about a week
  • two weeks in a freezer kills the crawling bed bugs
  • because insecticides don’t kill the eggs, which take about two weeks to hatch, the area needs to be inspected again after two weeks and apply more insecticides if needed,
  • the owner must do the necessary preparation for extermination, and do the cultural and mechanical control work while the PMP (pest management professional) handles the insecticides

PMPs should be knowledgeable about bed bugs, educating you so you understand why preparation is important, and why it takes so much time.

If the company doesn’t require you to do prep work, NYSIPM recommends that you call the next company on your list.

How Long Do Bed Bugs Live After Spraying?

If you do the treatment incorrectly, bed bugs can remain alive for months after spraying, by migrating and remaining in protected areas to survive, or find new hosts. If you do the spraying treatment correctly, it will take at least 3 weeks to get rid of bed bugs.

Using fumigation and full-structure heat treatment can kill the bed bugs after first treatment, but this is very costly. Note that fumigation is not the same thing as fogging.

Leaving the furniture in storage, or vacating the areas in the hopes that bed bugs will die out, is not a sound strategy, according to research. They can survive by staying dormant.

Bed bugs can be difficult to eliminate, especially on your own.

Bed bug on skin up close

Using insecticides incorrectly can scatter bed bugs to other rooms and areas. It takes a lot of dedication to get rid of bed bugs completely on your own, which is why it’s recommended to leave it to the professionals.

There is a way to kill bed bugs without insecticides, but more on that in my next article on bed bugs.

How Long Do Bed Bugs Live in a Plastic Bag?

According to NYSIPM at Cornell University, if you freeze the plastic bag with bed bugs in it, they won’t survive more than two weeks. You can use dry ice to kill bed bugs by putting it in plastic garbage bags or boxes, filled with your belongings. This way, bed bugs and eggs will be killed in 12 to 24 hours.

(Source: Martin and Henderson 2013; Wang et al. 2012a.)

General advice is, when you find a bed bug, seal it in a plastic bag, and throw it away.

Then call the professionals to exterminate them.

You could try to exterminate them by yourself, but it takes a lot of dedication and time.

Generally, bugs are more likely to be found on materials such as wood, paper or fabric as compared to metal or plastic, but if you do catch one, try not to disturb the other ones.

Check back in near future for another article on how to remove bed bugs, and never fear bed bug bites again. It will allow you to educate yourself on what needs to be done to get rid of them, and start planning to do it yourself.

How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without Air?

Bed bugs cannot live without air, or oxygen, however, if you were thinking of suffocating them, the method may be difficult to put in practice.

Even though an experiment was done regarding this, the method is far from perfect, and not mentioned in any scholarly sources that I’ve used to write this article.

In their experiment, they placed hundreds of bedbugs in air-tight vials in room temperature, and no bed bug survived after 5 days. Their conclusion was that this method can be used to eliminate bedbugs, if done correctly, with large enough air-tight bags.

As far as I was able to research, this method is not commonly used by PMPs (pest management professionals), probably because it is not as effective as using insecticides and heat.

How Long Can Bed Bugs Live in an Empty House?

Bed bugs can survive for several months in an empty house, by migrating to protected areas, feeding on mice or pets, or simply going dormant.

Taking a vacation from your house is unlikely to starve them.

Unless the temperature is taken into account of this empty house, bed bugs can still survive, and the additional treatments will be necessary.

According to NYSIPM at Cornell University, to completely eliminate bed bugs, the temperature in the house need to be above 120°F for a full hour and maintained at every point in the building: the outer walls, deep in the sofa, etc.

Even if bed bugs remain without human contact, they can survive for a long time without blood (check below).

Bed bug up close

How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without Food?

According to NYSIPM at Cornell University, bed bugs can live over a year without feeding. To give you a range, University of California’s Pest Management Program tells us that bed bugs can go without food for 20 to 400 days.

This will depend mostly on the temperature and development stage of the bed bug.

Reason why they can survive for so long without food is because bed bugs can go into a sort of hibernation state called diapause, enabling them to go dormant, which slows their metabolism and saves energy.

Even though bed bugs can survive up to a year without host, studies have shown that they can’t live for more than a few days on temperatures below 0°F. They may be very resilient to cold temperatures, but they still can’t last in extreme conditions for long.

Bed bugs survive by feeding on blood, that’s their only food source.

Common bed bug prefers human blood, but it will also feed on the blood of other animals, dogs, cats, rodents, etc.

An interesting thing is that bed bugs aren’t eating as often as you’d think, only every 5 to 10 days for about 3 to 10 minutes. When they bite, you probably won’t feel a thing. Bed bug bites are very similar to mosquito bites, and they are often confused with them as well.

How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Outside?

Bed bugs live indoors, not outside.

They are not commonly found in grass, for example, in forests, on the sun or in the rain outside. They can be found in many places, but very rarely outside.

Bed bugs are seasonal, and larger numbers are seen in the summer, from July to September. Still, they can be found throughout the year in room temperatures.

Bed bugs won’t survive for more than two weeks in freezing cold temperatures, such as your freezer, inside ice, or outside during winter. However, if you were thinking of killing bedbugs by turning off heat in your home during winter, or putting your furniture outside and leaving it there, then you will probably be unsuccessful.

According to University of Nebraska-Lincoln, bed bugs are much more resistant to cold than heat. They are pre-adapted by evolution to resist cold temperatures.

To kill bed bugs with cold temperatures, “flash freezing” is needed. This means freezing with dry ice on 0°F and leaving it there for at least 12 to 24 hours. Either that, or with extreme heat above 113 degrees.

How Long Do Bed Bugs Live on Clothes?

Bed bugs can live on clothes for as long as they have a source of food, which can be months or years. If you wear such clothes, they will live for as long as you don’t wash that clothes.

According to research from Usinger 1966 and Potter 2005, washing your clothes at 140°F (60°C) will kill all life stages of bed bugs.

Tumble drying in a hot dryer at temperatures greater than 104°F (40°C) for 30 minutes or freezing at 1.4°F (-17°C) for several hours will kill the bed bugs.

Soaking your clothes will kill adults and nymph stage of bed bugs, but will not kill the eggs. According to Naylor and Boase (2010), it will take at least 8 hours to disinfest 5 lbs of laundry by putting it in a freezer at 0.4°F (-18°C). Other studies have shown this time to be a bit longer, from 24 hours up to 4 days.

Can Bed Bugs Live in Your Hair?

Bed bugs live in crevices or hidden cracks in chairs or furniture, maybe even clothes, but not on your hair.

They live in secluded areas, hiding most of the time.

They don’t live in your hair because:

  1. It’s too dangerous – they can’t hold onto hair, or navigate the hair
  2. they feed very rarely, every 5 to 10 days, and the rest of the time they hide in places where they are safe, not on moving places such as your head, which you wash all the time, touch, move, etc.
  3. They also don’t live in warm places, which your hair sometimes is

They could live in your clothes, rather than your hair, but more likely they are on furniture, briefcases, chairs, backpacks, shoes, etc.

So don’t worry, bed bugs don’t live in your hair.

How Long Can Bed Bug Eggs Live?

According to NYSIPM, bed bugs usually hatch in about two weeks. Putting them in a hot dryer for 60 minutes would kill them, as well as freezing them below 32°F (0°C) for 30 days, will too.

As mentioned above, it takes 7h to kill bed bug eggs at 113°F (45°C), or 72 minutes at 118°F (48°C).

According to University of California’s SIPMP, bed bugs go through five different stages after they hatch. The entire cycle from egg to adult lasts anywhere from 5 weeks to 4 months, depending mostly on temperature and the availability of food.

The time for the egg to become adult bed bug will depend on several factors such as temperature, availability of blood, and resistance.

Female bed bug produces about one egg per day, which takes about 10-14 days to hatch and another 5 to 6 weeks for the nymph to develop into an adult bed bug.

Recent research from Dr. Dini Millers’ research lab shows today’s female bed bugs lay 1 to 7 eggs per day, but only 113 eggs in her lifetime. On the other hand, University of Minnesota Extension says an individual female can lay 200 to 250 eggs in her lifetime.

This is still very slow compared to, for example, a housefly, which can say over 500 eggs over several days.

A female bed bug will stop lying eggs after 11 days without eating.

Where Do Bed Bugs Live in the Wild?

First of, bed bugs don’t live outside, in the forests or grass. They are exclusively indoor living creatures.

Bed bugs are found anywhere where there is a high turnover of people such as:

  • hotels
  • resorts
  • hostels
  • apartments
  • buses
  • churches
  • community centers
  • homes
  • hospitals
  • schools
  • theaters
  • barracks
  • dressing rooms
  • nursing homes
  • etc.

Anywhere where there are humans, or other animals – bedbugs can pontentially be found there. Additionally, birds and bats can sometimes bring their own bed bugs with them, which are called bird bugs and bat bugs, respectively.

Bed bugs don’t base their location on people’s hygiene or sanitation. If there is blood – they’re happy.

They don’t build nests, but are more often found in groups.

Where do bed bugs come from?

Bed bugs come as stowaways in furniture, luggage, clothing and boxes while being moved from another location.

This is why you can’t get rid of bedbugs by moving – they’ll just come with you.

They have flat bodies, which allow them to hide better in areas where they’ll be hard to spot. If you are moving something into your home, do a thorough inspection of the furniture or boxes, because they can survive for many months without food.

That’s it! I hope this was useful to you, and if you need more information you can visit some of the links in this article. They’re mostly websites of Universities with very useful information.

Don’t let the bed bugs bite!

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