How long can bed bugs live in a vacant home?

Approx Reading Time: 8 minutes

Bed bugs are more than just an inconvenience and they are known to drive homeowners crazy. Bed bugs love to live around humans and they can breed very rapidly which means if a few bed bugs make their way into your house you may soon be dealing with a full-fledge bed bug infestation. Bed bugs aren’t easy to get rid of because they hide in mattresses, bedsheets, pillows, drawers, sofas, chairs and even curtains. But what if you leave your house empty? Will doing this get rid of bed bugs?

Bed bugs need blood from either humans or other mammals to survive inside a house. So if a house is left empty for more than a year you should be able to get rid of bed bugs because bed bugs can live for between 12-18 months without food in a vacant house. So if you have a second home to move to for more than one year and your house doesn’t see any human activity during this time then there are very good chances that the bed bugs will be dead by the time you return.

While leaving your house empty for long periods just to get rid of bed bugs sounds like an extreme approach, it is an option for snowbirds and retired couples who have multiple homes to live in. But even if a house doesn't have any humans living in it bed bugs can still find a food source in the form of rats, mice, and even shrews. There are other factors that determine how long bed bugs can live in a vacant house and in this article, we will help you understand how long can you expect bed bugs to live inside an empty house.

How long can bed bugs live in a vacant home? 1

How long can bed bugs survive in a vacant house?

There are different bed bug species and all of them have varying life spans which are between 8-18 months if the bedbugs are feeding regularly.  On top of that bed bugs can hibernate when the temperature gets cold which allows them to live without a meal for more than a year. That is why it is difficult to specify a timeframe after which bed bugs would eventually die out in an empty house. Factors that determine how long bed bugs are going to survive in an empty home include:

  • The life stage of bed bugs: Bed bugs have two main life stages, the nymph stage, and the adult stage. Nymphs develop through 5 steps and mold to get to the adult stage that is why they require a lot more blood to sustain the rapid rate of development. This is why a nymph is only going to live for a few weeks and a maximum of 2 months if it never feeds at all after being hatched. But if you have nymphs in your home that have fed at least once and developed the red colour then it is going to take up to 8 months for them to die without a blood meal.

Adult bed bugs, on the other hand, can be very stubborn and some adult bed bugs may live for a year and a half without a single blood meal in a dormant state. So if you think that simply staying a week at your friend’s house and coming back is going to starve bed bugs in your house then you need to think again.

The secret to bed bugs surviving so long in empty houses is their ability to go semi-dormant which is a kind of hibernation common in the insect world. During this semi-hibernation bed bugs will slow down their metabolism and they use very little energy during this state.

  • Temperature and weather: While it is true that bed bugs can survive very long in an empty house their survival greatly depends on the temperature of the house. If the temperature of the empty house stays too warm or too cold and bed bugs don’t get any blood at the same time then bed bugs will probably die within a few weeks. Studies have shown that bed bugs can only withstand a temperature of 25 degrees Fahrenheit for a few days. So if your house is in a region where temperatures get below this point for long periods you can simply leave the house empty for up to 2-3 weeks and your bed bug problem would be solved.

The same goes for warmer temperatures if the temperature of the house reaches 113 degrees Fahrenheit and it stays this high for a week, bed bugs won't be able to survive such high temperature and die off. But keep in mind that indoor and outdoor temperatures may vary and the temperature indoor has to reach these extremes for the bed bugs to die. And on top of that, bed bugs may hide in tiny cracks together where they can generate heat which prevents them from freezing to death.

How long can bed bugs live in a vacant home? 2
  • Presence of pests such as mice inside the house

Even if there is no human activity inside a house and it is empty for months or years bed bugs can still find a source of blood in the form of pests such as rats and mice to survive. Bedbugs can detect prey even if it is not a human and they will happily feed off of a rat while waiting for humans to return in the house. Bedbugs don’t require frequent feedings either so even if there aren’t a lot of rats in your house while you are gone bed bugs would still be able to feed off of a stray rat or a mouse once in a while and survive for months and years in an empty home.

How to avoid taking bed bugs with you when moving?

While you would want to get out of a bedbug-infested house as fast as you can there is a real chance that bed bugs might hitch a ride along with you to your new destination in your clothes or luggage. If this happens it would beat the point of leaving the house empty to kill bed bugs because you would be taking bed bugs along with you anyway. Therefore it is important to take a few precautions to make sure you don’t bring bed bugs along with you. You can take the following precautions to prevent bed bugs from moving along with you:

  • Make sure the suitcases and bags are bedbug-free: Bed bugs aren’t just limited to beds as they can be hiding in the suitcases or bags you plan to bring with you. Therefore it is a good idea to use a bright LED to inspect the briefcases, suitcases, and bags before you start packing luggage in them.
  • Wash your clothes and other fabrics with hot water: Cloths and other fabrics that are stored in drawers are an ideal hiding spot for bed bugs. Therefore it is a good idea to wash the clothes and bedsheets in warm water before packing them.
  • Bathe your pets before you move: Pets have lots of hair and bed bugs love hiding in them. And if you are taking your pets along with you it is best to make sure there aren’t any bed bugs hiding in your pet's fur. While bed bugs don’t commonly live on pets it is possible that a few bed bugs might hitch a ride on your pet to your new location. Therefore it is a good idea to bathe your pets before leaving your house that has bed bugs and make sure that the pet beds and pet crates are kept away from beds and other areas where bed bugs have been spotted.
  • Get the furniture treated by a professional: If you plan on bringing furniture along with you it is best to get it treated for bed bugs by a professional before bringing it with you. Bed bugs usually hide in sofas, chairs, and beds which is why it is a good idea to treat the furniture for bed bugs to prevent bringing bed bugs with you
How long can bed bugs live in a vacant home? 3
Angry young couple looking at each other in bed

If you plan on throwing away any bed bug-infested items before you leave, make sure you dispose of them in such a way that would prevent others from reusing the item. You can put a label on the item that says bed bug-infested to warn others or simply destroy the item so that it is not reusable.

Conclusion:

Bed bugs can be a serious problem and they are hard to kill just by leaving a house empty. Besides, it is not easy to leave a house empty for up to a year while you wait for bed bugs to die. While bed bugs will eventually die of starvation if a house is empty for long periods, bed bugs might still escape the house and find a new home to live in therefore it is best to get the house treated for bed bugs to permanently get rid of bed bugs.