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How Long do Bed Bugs Live Without Food, Host, Air, in Cold & After Spraying

To come up effective means of doing away with bed bugs it is important to understanding how these creepy insects thrive. Here is a discussion on how long they live, without food, a host, air, cold temperatures and after use of sprays.

How long can Bed Bugs Live?

Humans have lived with bed bugs for centuries and for more than 30 years, there have been cries against infestations that never seem to end. They cause discomfort, reduce the quality of life, hard to eliminate and above all, are ugly-looking. There have been several suggested ways in which bed bugs can be eliminated but most of them hit a snag as return manifests so quickly that your efforts are demeaned. In short, these arthropods have built a formidable irk in people’s lives. Bed bugs are identified by their biological name, Cimex spp and there are a variety of species with the common ones being Cimex lecturalis, Cimex adjuctus and Cimex hemipterus. The latter is more dominant in the tropical belt and are responsible for the vast infestations seen.
Cimex Hemipterus
Cimex Hemipterus
Before you can go into how long a bed bug lives, it is important to understand how they look as some of these characteristic features are responsible for the adaptation they get against your treatments. Adult bed bugs are about 3/16” long and reddish-brown in color. They have an oval shaped body are further flattened. You shouldn’t confuse bed bugs with cockroaches, ticks or other household insects with this description. The life cycle of a bed bug involves about 5 molts. It is within the period between the molts that the bed bug feeds on blood and this is necessary for its survival. Eggs are laid in places that are able to confer security and invisibility so that they hatch successfully. Just like many other organisms, the female bed bug needs a particular fortified diet so that it can be able to lay viable eggs. This means that it will require a blood-meal. When the eggs are availed with room temperature, then they can hatch in about 7 days and maturity of the straw-colored, pin-head-sized nymphs takes about a month under conditions of 70-80°F. This is just the first generation and nearly 5 other subsequent generations are produced in a year. Bed bugs like  hiding in crevices, spaces within wooden structures, holes in walls or mattresses and clothing. Their body is responsible for the easy entry into these areas and this highly increases their chances of survival even given the presence of a sprayed insecticide.

What factors determine their survival?

There are several factors that determine the survival rate of bed bugs. These are discussed in detail as follows:

Flat and small bodies:

Since bed bugs are small-bodied and most importantly flat, they are able to cunningly hide in crevices and cracks in walls and mattresses. They are also rampant behind wallpapers, in tiles and in furry clothes. This makes them hard to see as they are able to camouflage into your suitcase, bags and furniture among other items in which they are transported to other areas. This makes them one of the best hitchhikers.

They are nocturnal

This means that they mostly come out in the night and when there is darkness. It is quite interesting to note that they don’t necessarily require darkness to start dominating but will do so long as the time is night. During the day, they are able to retreat in a bid to suggest ceasefire on you then in a capitulating rage forge forth in the night.

Their bites are somewhat anaesthetic

Just as a mosquito or mouse does when they bite you, a bed bug is able to inject some saliva into your skin to prevent itchy pruritic effect brought about by a stimulated hypersensitivity allergic reaction. In other words, the saliva seems to have a numbing effect and only when the feel has died off, that you start scratching yourself long after the bed bug has already escaped to safety (another part of your skin). This is about 5-10 minutes after the bite.
Bed bug bite picture hand
Bed bug bite

Bed bugs respond to chemotactic signals

It is believed that bed bugs are able to identify with your location in bed due to the exhalation of carbon dioxide you produce. This acts as a chemical to which the bug responds. This is why you find an army of bed bugs in your blanket in the middle of the night when you have completely cover yourself with your blanket.

Their eggs are small, white and sticky

With these characteristics, the eggs can easily camouflage on light walls or areas by adhering to it and hiding for long until they hatch. This way, the bed bugs can preserve their generations and progeny and respond to the law of procreation.

How long can Bed Bugs live without Food/Feeding on Blood or Eating?

Well, the answer is relative. It depends on some other influential factors such as resistance to the pesticide used and the temperature range to which it is exposed. This is a really important question to ask yourself when you attempt to use starvation as a method of elimination. Let’s see how it works. Remember that without inter-digitating attempts to seal other factors of survival which can come into play, starvation technique may not only take long, but may be very ineffective. When a newly hatched egg produces a nymph, it is require that a blood-meal be provided and if this is not offered, then good thing, the nymphs won’t grow and develop to maturity. Again, considering that they require a month to grow into adults, this will likely not happen and death would be expected in about 2-3 weeks. So while doing the ‘how long’ calculation, consider that you are not dealing with one or two pairs of bed-bugs but possibly hundreds. Before they can exhaust their reproductive ability with diminishing blood-meal stores, it will take more than 8 months to completely starve the whole army. Again, this is in consideration of the fact that the nymphs can survive few weeks too. Another considerable factor is that after a blood-meal, a bed bug or nymph goes into hibernation until its next molt or 3-7 days after the last meal. When you factor in optimal temperature for the survival of the bed bugs, the adults may survive about 2 to 4 months since its metabolism can be reduced to sub-optimal for its survival. It is quite difficult to determine exactly how long it will take you to starve all your bed bugs. However, it will take about 5 months to starve a single bed bug and about 2 weeks for a nymph. According to the Scientific America, a bed bug without a meal in warm temperatures, may survive 2 or 3 months and may only be deemed to survive longer (about a year) if temperatures are colder.

How long can bed bugs live without air?

According to the Atlantic Bedbug Inspection, suffocating bed bugs may work but when done right. Their study placed a couple of hundreds of bed bugs in air-tight vials together with their eggs. The results pointed out to a survival length of not more than 5 days. This was done at room temperature. The fact that this works, doesn’t make it the best when used along but when used as an adjunct with other methods with proven efficacy. In order to do this, you will require:
  1. A large enough air-tight bag that is untearable such as vacuum storage bags and jumbo slider zip bags. Make sure that you have sealed the bags properly to prevent any air from entering during the suffocation period.
  2. You will require to use this method with small items such as your cell phone or other smaller gadgets. When you have sealed these items, let them sit without being moved.
Amidst all this optimism, bed bugs are known to be able to survive for long on very little air and further on, are capable of regulating their metabolism to as slow as to warrant a small amount of air. Therefore, in order to curb this, you need to completely suck out the air in the bags before sealing them. This has to after you have the items in the bag for they also have air spaces. If this is done well, bed bugs would not last more than 5 days. The highly proven DDVP stripes or Vikane gas fumigation can improve your results profoundly.

How long can Bed Bugs live in Cold Weather?

Yes, bed bugs have a reduced chance of survival in cold weather. However, it is during this time that they are able to reduce their rate of metabolism hence survive on limited meal presence and air. In addition, and most unfortunate, it is unlikely that cold weather would last long enough to kill bed bugs. Since weather is the prevailing conditions in the atmosphere in a particular time of day, this is not long enough. Sunlight, changes in temperature all come in and salvage the bed bugs. Therefore, the only way that remains viable is cold-freezing your whole room. Again, this is not a good idea as you risk destroying some if not all of the temperature sensitive utilitarian. As published in the Journal of Economic Entomology, cold can definitely kill a bed bug but not in one hour. It will require freezing for a few couple of days. Fortunately, in a research study conducted by the University of Minnesota Twin Cities et al, it will require -16° or -17° C to kill a bed bug in two hours.This is regardless of the stage of life or feeding status of the bed bug. Yet another study showed that in temperatures of -16° C, it will take 80 hours. This is what you will need when you want to use this method:
  1. A set temperature point on a freezer optimally -16° C
  2. A set time
  3. A remote thermometer to ensure that the temperature is well spread through-out the room.

How long do bed bugs live after spraying?

This is one common question posed to pest management professionals (PMPs). How long it will take to kill bed bugs once spraying has been conducted will depend on the way the process has been conducted. This involves ensuring that all the pertinent steps are followed and all areas with potential of hiding bed bugs are seen and sprayed into. The steps have been vividly stipulated by the Michigan State University Extension. It has also been found that those who work in good collaboration with the PMPs make the process quite successful and bed bugs are eliminated in shorter periods of time. One unfortunate happening is when you need to remove some items while the spraying is being done which on return, could habor yet some other bed bugs. Your PMP may suggest that you give the room some space, about a half a day. It is however important that you continuously monitor the room for any presence of bed bugs after the spraying has been done then inform the PMPs. Some surviving eggs may hatch and you may see more bed bugs even after spraying At this juncture, you will require to call your PMP and suggestions may point out to possible resistance and therefore multiple methods be instigated. A two week interval would suffice for monitoring and evaluation. Further Reading