Bed bugs have many predators. So might wonder that bed bugs eat a variety of foods – from human blood, skin or the crumbs of food. So, what do bed bugs eat?
Summary: Most bed bugs species mainly feed on blood of mammals like human. For example, Cimex lectularius only feed on human blood.
NB: Bed bug lack teeth and tongue for chewing and swallowing food – and thus they’ll only eat blood.
Does Food Attract Bed Bugs?
When I say food, I am referring to the food we eat. Many household pests such roaches, mice and rats will hang around your house as long as there’s something for them to eat. On the contrary, bed bugs aren’t attracted to any of the food we eat.
That’s why it is very rare to see bed bugs in the kitchen. Their most preferred places are bedrooms and living rooms where people spend most of their times.
It is common to find cockroach eggs on your food and inside the places where food is kept. However, bed bugs will not lay their eggs on food since they have no business there. They lay their eggs near their host especially under the mattress and the seams of sofa set.
How Often Do Bed Bugs Feed?
The frequency with which bed bugs eat depends partly on the prevailing temperatures and partly on the availability of food. And though their feeding schedule is quite unpredictable, adult bed bugs feed at least once a week when food is readily available.
Basically bed bugs will require a blood meal to produce eggs and to survive in each of the 5 successive nymph stages. However, in the absence of a host, bed bugs can survive for a very long time.
Studies have shown that under favourable conditions, bed bugs can go without a meal for up to 400 days. However, when the conditions are unfavourable, they can barely survive 3-5 months without a meal.
Bed bugs have the advantage of a waxy exoskeleton that keeps them from excessive dehydration. And similar to many other insects their body requires very little water. Another reason why bed bugs stay long without feeding is because most of the nutrients they get from blood are meant for growth rather than for survival.
That means more nutrients are required as bed bug transforms from one stage to another. Once the lifecycle is complete, bed bugs feed less frequently.
As a matter of fact, you can’t eradicate bed bugs by vacating your house for a long time so as to starve them. People have inhabited their houses for more than one year but the bed bugs reappear once they return.
Do Bed Bugs Feed On Each Other?
Some people have resulted to starving bed bugs by vacating their houses for more than one year only to return and the bed bugs resurface. Does it mean that the bed bugs survive by feeding on each other while you’re away?
Not at all. In the absence of a human host or other hosts such as pets or bats, bed bugs will survive without their favourite meal for up to 400 days. They lack teeth and tongue for chewing and swallowing food. So, they won’t even feed on the food crumbs or any food that you left in the house.
Bed bugs feed only on blood from humans and warm blooded animals. Instead of blood, a bed bug’s body contains a fluid known as hemolpymh in which all the internal tissues are bathed. Since hemolpymh does not contain haemoglobin, it not possible for bed bugs to feed on it.
Do Bed Bugs Feed On Other Animals?
Bed bugs and especially Cimex lectularius have adapted to feed on human blood and blood from other warm blooded animals. In your absence, bed bugs will lodge themselves on your pets, rodents and other warm blooded animals around. However, they prefer human host to other warm blooded animals because of the following reasons.
Human skin is not covered by fur, meaning it is easier for bed bugs to pierce and feed. In contrast, the fur in other warm blooded animals, deters bed bugs from easily targeting them as hosts.
In addition bed bugs like to bite you when you’re sound asleep. Unlike other animals, humans won’t respond to bed bug bites when they are asleep. Pets and other mammals tend to respond with haste to bed bug bites. Thus bed bugs will find easier to bite humans compared to other animals.
Are Bed Bugs Attracted To Certain Blood Types?
While there are speculations and publications purporting bed bugs are attracted to certain blood types, there is no proof to ascertain that possibility. Your blood may fall within any of these types O+, O-, A+, A-, B+, B-, AB+, or AB-. However, there’s no reliable indication that bed bugs are attracted to one or two of these blood types.
New research has however shown that bed bugs prefer blood that has less alcohol concentration. That means a person who has been taking alcohol will have less bed bug bites compared to a person who has not been drinking.
However, I would not advice that you knock a few glasses of your favourite alcohol before you retire to bed. On the positive, this observation can help scientists in developing new ways of eradicating bed bugs.
Do Bed Bugs Eat Anything Else Apart From Blood?
The persistence of many household pests in your home depends on the availability of food. For example, roaches and rats will hang around as long as there are food crumbs and trash they can feed on.
Unlike other household pests, bed bugs solely depend on blood. Since they lack teeth and tongue, they won’t feed on anything else apart from blood. They use their straw like mouth to pierce your skin and suck blood.
Do Bed Bugs Eat Insects?
Studies have shown that some pests can be used to feed on some of the most nagging pests in our homes. For example, some species of cockroaches and spiders have been documented to feed on bed bugs for many years. But can bed bugs feed on insects or other small creatures?
Well, bed bugs will not eat insects or other small creatures. Bed bugs will only survive on blood from warm blooded animals. Their mouth parts are designed like a straw, meaning that they can only suck. They neither chew nor swallow food. Thus, it is in order to conclude that bed bugs cannot insects.
Do Bed Bugs Feed On Wood?
Bed bugs like hiding in wooden furniture especially in your bed. That’s why people often replace their wooden beds with metal beds as a way of eradicating bed bugs. So, does this suggest that bed bugs feed on wood?
The answer is no. Unlike metal furniture, the configuration of wooden furniture allows bed bugs to hide and avoid human interference. Although you might see bed bugs coming out of holes in wood, these holes belong to other insects like termites.
Metal furniture discourages bed bugs because there’re usually few or no hiding places for bed bugs. Thus they feel very exposed and relocated to safer places.
Do Bed Bugs Feed On Your Hair?
If you have had a severe bed bug infestation, you might have suffered bites all over your body including your head. So, you might be worried that these creatures are feeding on your hair.
No need to freak! Bed bugs won’t feed on your hair. Only cockroaches are known to eat hair and dead skin. Your hair only acts as a habitat for parasites such as mites, fleas and bed bugs, where they hide as they feed on blood on your head.
Bed bugs in particular will find it easier to crawl and suck blood on a bald head than a hairy head. They get entangled in hairy hair.
For How Long Do Bed Bugs Feed?
Basically bed bugs will spend the least time possible to complete a meal to avoid being detected by you or a natural predator. They survive by feeding and retreating to their safe-havens without being noticed.
They don’t waste time searching for particular areas to bite. Once they locate the nearest area, they pierce the skin and suck blood until they are satisfied. Depending on its size and the last time it had a meal, a bed bug might bite you severally before satisfaction. In such instances, the bed bug bites in a straight line pattern in order to save time.
Once satisfied, they retreat to their hiding place, usually in crevices below the mattress. They take approximately 10 minutes to come out of hiding, get their meal and return into hiding. This is quite a short time for you to realize especially when you’re in deep asleep. In fact their saliva contains analgesic which they use to ease the pain of their bite.
Ten minutes is the time taken by a single bed bug to feed. That means you are likely to experience multiple bites, as individual bed bugs in a colony come out to feed at different times.
Naturally, a bed bug will feed at least once a week. So, if you have a huge infestation, chances are that you and your family will suffer bed bug bites each and every night.
Do Bed Bugs Feed During The Day?
It is usually assumed that bed bugs are nocturnal. Not at all! Their feeding schedule does not depend on the time of the day. So you expect them to come out even during the day whenever there is a host they can feed on.
Similar to other animals, bed bugs feed whenever they feel hungry. That means they will come out to look for a meal regardless of the time of the day. If they can’t find a host to feed on, they will of course go back into hiding and wait for the right chance.
However, they prefer to feed at night and spend most part of the day hiding. This is a survival tactic they have adapted, to avoid being detected by humans and natural predators.
Do Bed Bugs Feed At Night – With Lights On?
The preference for feeding arises from two scenarios. The need to and the availability of a still host. While bed bugs survive by coming out in darkness, they won’t skip a meal simply because there’s light. They take meals when necessary and when conditions are right.
You’ve already seen that bed bugs come out to feed even during the day. The same applies when you sleep at night and leave the lights on. You’re motionless during sleep. So, if bed bugs feel like feeding, they will come out and feed on you even if the lights are on.
Naturally, bed bugs will avoid light to evade possible threats from humans and natural predators. Initially, you may sustain few bites when you sleep with the lights on. However, these creatures will feel starved and come to feed on you regardless of the lights.
If you have a large infestation, bed bugs will come out to feed in broad daylight and at night even when lights are on. This is because, the larger the infestation, the more the sequences of feeding from individual bed bugs. That means, at any given time, you have bed bugs that want to feed.
You have seen that bed bugs will eat nothing else apart from blood from warm-blooded animals. So, when they get into your house, their only source of food will be you and your family including pets.
Therefore, it’s advisable to prevent bed bugs or act quickly to eradicate them whenever they appear in your house.