What Do Bed Bugs Eat & Feed On Other Than Blood? How Long Can They Survive Without It?

Did you ever notice insects or bugs on your bed? You may have guessed these are bed bugs. These creatures thrive on blood to survive. Aside from that, do they have other food sources? How long will they survive without it?

This article will help you deeply understand these insects. It includes what attracts them, what blood type they prefer, and what you should do if you see them at home. 

bed bugs on white cloth

Where do bed bugs come from & how do you get them?

The first question you may have in mind is, “Where do these insects come from, and how do you get them?” These come from anywhere humans spend time. Be on the lookout for them in public spaces and transportation because you will find them everywhere.

If you are fond of staying in hotel rooms, we suggest inspecting the bed before lying down or sleeping. You may find them lurking around, waiting for a human being to feed. Inspect your bedsheets and look for small blood spots and eggshells. Using a flashlight may help you identify it better and faster.

They travel easily and can quickly crawl into your luggage or backpack. Before bringing your stuff inside, we suggest disinfecting or vacuuming it. Check for any signs of these bugs. It will be difficult to exterminate them once they get inside your house.

When you are traveling, bring a large plastic bag that you can use to cover your suitcase while staying at a hotel. Wash all your clothes in hot cycles once you arrive home.

These pests have been around for millennia. Aristotle first mentioned it in ancient Greece. However, most experts think these insects came from bats in the Middle East. A long time ago, bats and men lived in the same cave before. It spread because of progression. As humans moved to different places, bed bugs went with them.

It spread throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe. It affects all households! The only continent that does not have them is Antarctica. 

Places where bed bugs hide
OutletsDrawersLuggage
ArtworkBedsBrick walls (holes)
Box springBooksBackpacks
CurtainsHardwood floors (cracks)Sofas
Light fixturesChairsShoes
MoldingsClothes

What attracts bed bugs?

After knowing where these pests are coming from, you may want to know what attracts them. Are they attracted to the smell of blood? Do they thrive in cold environments? While these are myths, bed bugs find warm and carbon dioxide attractive. When these two are present, there is blood. People or humans are an excellent source of it.

These pests hide in bed frames, soft beddings, box springs, and mattress crevices. You will not see them during the day because they dislike it. They will start crawling out at night while their prey is resting. However, daytime does not restrict their activity as long as humans are inactive.

Aside from your bedroom, you can also find these creatures in public spaces, such as transportation areas, clothing stores, theaters, hotels, and airports. They quickly spread by latching onto bags, boxes, shoes, items of luggage, or even your clothing.

person looking for bed bugs

Clean or dirty, they will come for you.

There is no relation between dirt and these insects. They will drink human or animal blood, whatever is available to them. Regardless if your home is spotless or cluttered, they like it whenever there is blood. The rich are not less susceptible to these bugs. Similarly, the poor are not more prone. 

They are excellent hitchhikers.

Assuming you do not have them at home, one short visit to a place full of them can transfer those to your house. They usually abandon their host after feeding, but it does not mean they will leave the clothing or bag you have with you. In most cases, they travel through your luggage if you are in an area infested with them. 

They prefer to be around humans.

Some insects prefer to live at a distance from humans. However, we can say the opposite for these. Infestation is the highest in crowded places, such as:

  • shelters
  • apartments
  • hotels
  • dormitories
  • barracks
  • and motels.

Generally, single-owned homes are less prone to getting them. 

Clutter is a haven

They will quickly find a new hiding place as soon as they are home. The most usual places are the following:

  • Furniture
  • Baseboards
  • Switch plates
  • Wallpaper
  • Mattress
  • Couch
  • Chairs

It will not take long for them to multiply, especially for females carrying an egg. They produce hundreds of offspring. Dirt does not associate with these insects, but clutter does in some ways. A messy environment benefits them because they are more difficult to exterminate. 

Dark bedsheets

Most humans sleep at night when these pests are more active, making them more accustomed to a dark environment. Studies show black and red colors are attractive, mimicking the feel of blood and nighttime.

What do bed bugs eat?

bed bugs

One section or two mentioned they feed on blood. Some species prefer one mammal to the other. Some require specific mammal blood to survive and lay eggs. Most species will live with any blood type.

The Cimex lectularius is the most common species associated with human beings because human blood is their primary food source. Our blood fuels their babies and provides the nutrients they need to produce healthy eggs.

The ones you will find at home are likely the Cimex lectularius. However, other species may also be living in your house. The Cimex adjunctus, or bat bugs, belong to the same family as the C. lectularius. The former feeds on bats instead of humans. Similar to the C. lectularius, they can also drink on the blood of other mammals. Still, they need bat blood to reproduce and lay eggs.

Surprisingly, these parasites do not have a mouth. They cannot technically bite their prey. They do not have teeth or tongues to chew. Instead, you will find suckers on their head. They use them to draw blood from a host. A proboscis or beak protrudes from their head and inserts into the skin of their prey. It takes 10 minutes to suck enough blood to keep them full for a few days. 

What type of blood do bed bugs like?

Humans have different blood types, such as O, A, B, and AB. Several people think these insects find a particular blood type more attractive. However, there is no solid scientific evidence that backs it up. If they exclusively eat blood, will they develop a preference for it or not? 

Let’s assume you have a roommate with a different blood type than yours. Your roommate gets fewer bites, while you suffer from a lot of it. You might assume these insects have a preference, but they prefer feeding on what feels familiar to them.

Differences between bed bug & flea bitesBed BugFleas
Size and colorBigger and less brightBright red and smaller
LocationTorsoLower extremeties like legs and feet
Time of the biteThey’re nocturnal, so biting happens at night.They’ll bite any time of the day.

Bed bugs that often drink blood type A will prefer drinking A blood. We can assume the ones on your roommate’s bed were unfamiliar with the blood type.

The next question is, “what does the type mean to the bed bugs?” The pheromones you emit will vary, depending on your blood type. For example, mosquitoes prefer the blood type O. It is not the same case for bed bugs because they will not like one person over the other because of blood chemistry.

The top factors in how these insects choose their victim are the warmth of your blood and carbon dioxide. Some people have warmer blood and breathe out more carbon dioxide. Why? It is simply nature. If you think these creatures find you more attractive, you may have to be more cautious. 

What do bed bugs eat other than blood?

adult bed bug

Humans and most animals do not exclusively eat one food type. We eat a variety, such as seafood, chicken, pork, and vegetables. You may assume at first that bed bugs do not exclusively feed on blood. The truth is that they do.

These insects do not have other food sources except for blood. They do not turn into cannibals if they cannot find food. They are also unable to process dead skin or crumbs. These insects cannot even chew paper or wood. Other pests can survive with alternative food sources, but bed bugs cannot.

Our blood is full of nutrition, which explains why these pests can survive with it. It is rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, which is everything they need to live. It is very nourishing that they can survive up to a year without latching on to another host. The waxy coat on their exterior keeps moisture, allowing them to survive skipping several meals.

Can bed bugs survive without blood?

The answer to this question is yes and no. These can survive without it for up to one year. However, blood is the only source of nutrition. If it is unavailable for more than a year, these pests cannot survive.

Although they can survive up to one year of no eating, they will not pass on a meal if a host is available. Adolescents have a big appetite than adults, so they will likely eat and starve more.

Their living for a long time makes it challenging to eliminate them. Moreover, these are expert crawlers and can hide in almost any location. Sometimes you will not notice them. 

What happens if you eat a bed bug?

Accidentally or not, what will happen if you eat one? Some people are curious about how it tastes, while others unintentionally eat it. Do you think you will get into trouble? Will you get an upset tummy? The short answer to all these questions is nothing terrible will happen.

Generally, your body will and can digest it similar to other food. Arthropods, such as ticks, spiders, and mites, will not hurt you. The same goes for insects, such as:

  • fleas
  • mosquitoes
  • flies
  • gnats
  • and bed bugs. 

Eating a bug or two will not hurt you. Insects are a popular delicacy or snack in Thailand! However, some insects sting or bite. Be mindful of them. 

However, be on the lookout for insects or arthropods that carry bacteria on their outer body. These may upset your stomach. If you are curious, these do not have a specific taste. Some think it tastes nutty, while others think it tastes bland. 

bed bug bites

Are bed bugs filled with blood?

These insects are small, oval, flat, and brownish in appearance. They become bigger after a meal and turn into a mini-ball.

These insects do not have wings but have a front-pad structure. An adult bed bug can measure up to 1/4 inch long, similar to an apple seed.

Blood will likely flow out if you squeeze them while full. You will unlikely find blood if they have not eaten in a long time. 

Do bed bugs stay on your body?

Despite how much these pests love a host, they cannot live on a person’s body because they do not like heat. However, they do like living near their host. 

Where will bed bugs hide?
ArtworkBedsBrick walls (holes)
ClothesBooksBackpacks
DrawersBox springOutlets
Light fixturesChairsShoes
CurtainsHardwood floors (cracks)Sofas
MoldingsLuggage

What eats bed bugs?

These pests have predators because that is how nature works. A shortlist of its top predators is the following:

  • House centipedes
  • Cockroaches
  • Thanatus Flavidus Spiders
  • Fire Ants
  • Pharaoh Ants
  • Argentine Ants
  • Gecko / Lizard

Where do bed bugs hide?

bed bug hanging on to paper

You need to know their hiding spots should you wish to eliminate these pests. These are nocturnal creatures, so they will likely be asleep in the morning and come crawling out at night. They usually don’t crawl for long distances, so hiding near their host is ideal. These pests will only latch onto a host during feeding.

You will find them hiding in mattresses, box springs, and bed frames, to name a few. They can also hide within your furniture, such as:

  • chairs
  • cabinets
  • tables
  • and the like.

You may also find them behind wallpapers and on carpets.

Their body shape allows these bugs to crawl into tight spaces, such as crevices and cracks. The bedroom may be the most prominent hiding spot. They can still hide in places where people sleep, such as the living room. 

What to do if you have bed bugs?

You need to get rid of bed bugs if you have them at home. Calling a professional exterminator is an option, but you can also do it yourself. However, getting rid of them takes a lot of effort and patience.

Here is a step-by-step process of how to do it.

STEP 1: Find out all areas with an infestation

Identifying them at an early stage will prevent the spread through reproduction. However, a small infestation is more difficult to detect than a large one. You will likely find these bugs in areas where they like to hide. Using a magnifying glass and flashlight may make your search easier.

The following signs will help you identify their presence:

  • Dark spots on any surface about the size of a period
  • These bugs measure 1/4 inch long
  • Red stains on mattresses
  • Yellow skins or eggs

STEP 2: Contain the infestation

After identifying an infestation’s location, you need to contain it from spreading. The easiest way is to run a vacuum cleaner through their hiding areas, including:

  • electronics
  • furniture
  • dresser
  • and mattress.

Empty the vacuum by throwing all the content into a plastic bag. Seal it tightly and throw it outside. Make sure to clean the vacuum because some bed bugs may have been left inside.

Seal all affected clothes in a plastic bag until you wash them. Set your washer to the highest temperature setting and dry for at least 30 minutes. 

STEP 3: Prepare for treatment

Doing some preparation work will increase your chances of eliminating these pests. Ensure you have completed step 2 before proceeding to step 3.

The next step includes disposing of their hiding places. It includes clothes, magazines, and books. Never move items from a clean room to an infested room or vice versa.

STEP 4: Kill the pests

Two ways of killing these pests include with and without chemicals. Try the without-chemical approach first.

It is easy to kill bed bugs with high heat or extreme cold. Here are some without-chemical approaches you can try:

  • Use a steamer and run it through your couches, mattresses, and other areas.
  • Wash your clothes and bedding for at least 30 minutes using hot water. Put them in a dryer for at least 30 minutes at the highest temperature.
  • Place bags containing these pests in the freezer for at least four days.

If these steps prove ineffective, you may need to use chemicals. Here is a list of pesticides that prove to be effective.

  • Desiccant
  • Foggers
  • Oil-based plant products
  • Pyrroles
  • Pyrethroids and pyrethrins
  • Neonicotinoids

STEP 5: Evaluate and prevent future infestations

It takes time and patience to wipe out these pests. Monitor and check the infested areas for any signs of activity at least once every seven days. Placing bed bug interceptors at each leg of your bed will prevent them from crawling up to your mattress. 

How to prevent getting bed bugs?

bed bug in petri dish

There are a few ways to prevent them from invading your home. After all, prevention is always better than cure.

Reduce or eliminate possible places where they can hide

  • Vacuum your mattress
  • Eliminate clutter
  • Reapply wallpaper
  • Seal crevices and cracks

Check and be cautious with what you bring inside your house

  • Check all items you will bring inside your home. It includes new furniture, books, and antique items
  • Triple-inspect refurbished items
  • Never bring home a sofa or mattress you will find on a curb
  • Insist couriers in sealing your mattress before delivery

FAQ

The following are the frequently asked questions.

How long can a bed bug live without human blood?

They can live for up to one year without a host.

Do bed bugs eat roaches?

No, these bed bugs cannot eat roaches because they do not have teeth or a mouth.

Do bed bugs bite cats?

Yes, cats and other similar pets are possible hosts.

Do bed bugs bite every night?

They can bite every night and even multiple times in a single night.

Does alcohol kill bed bugs?

At least 70% isopropyl alcohol will kill bed bugs and their eggs. Most rubbing alcohol is 70% or 91% isopropyl.