bed bug predators
Questions About Bed Bugs

Do Bed Bugs Have Predators?

There are few things more disgusting to humans than the idea of eating a bed bug. But other animals and insects don’t experience that same sense of disgust. Perhaps this makes you wonder if there are any predators of bed bugs that can be used to control an infestation.

Do bed bugs have predators? Bed bug predators include cockroaches, lizards, spiders, and household pets. However, predation has minimal effect on their population numbers for two reasons. First, they breed and grow up extremely quickly. Second, while they can’t defend themselves, they are excellent at finding hiding places and avoiding detection.

Like most insects of their size, bed bugs have many enemies. They’re vulnerable, as they don’t have claws, teeth, venom, or anything else to defend themselves with.

As such, they’re a prime snack for many different animals. All they have in their favor is the ability to hide, which they do, admittedly, excel at.

Most common are insects that eat bed bugs. Cockroaches, spiders and different species of ant all eat bed bugs and other insects too. And bigger animals like birds and household pets might eat them too, if they can access them.

The Most Common Bed Bug Predators

Parasites, like fleas and mites, don’t have many predators. If you think of a salmon, you can think of the animals it’s eaten by. Birds of prey eat small rodents and other mammals.

The food chain is very well known. But if you were to ask somebody “what eats bed bugs?”, it’s unlikely they could name anything.

There are only a few different species that go out of their way to eat bed bugs. These species are typically found around the home, which makes sense. That’s where bed bugs live, after all.

The most common creatures that eat bed bugs are spiders and cockroaches, of various species. Aside from that, other species will eat the occasional bed bug, but not as a habit.

Do Spiders Eat Bed Bugs?

The majority of house spiders are too small to eat bed bugs. Bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed, which is about as big as your average house spider.

Now everybody can eat a little too much, but you won’t ever have eaten a meal as big as you are. That limits the spider species that can eat bed bugs right off the bat.

However, several species are both large enough and willing to hunt and catch them. Examples include the running crab spider/philodromid crab spider, jumping spider, yellow sac spider, and wolf spider.

What unites these spider species? They don’t spin webs. They hunt for their prey, either by sneaking up on it or by jumping on it from a distance.

Do Philodromid Crab Spiders Hunt Bed Bugs?

Philodromid crab spiders (running crab spiders) are a species that looks a little bit like a crab. They have almost equal rear and front sections that look a little like a crab’s shiny shell, and their front legs/feelers look almost like tiny crab claws. The way they scuttle from side to side can even look a little bit like a crab.

These spiders are incredibly widespread. They live in almost every corner of the earth, across every inch of Africa and South America, as well as all of North America, bar the most northern reaches of arctic Canada. The same applies in Europe and Asia, where they live almost everywhere bar north of the Arctic Circle.

How can they have such a broad range? Because they live in our houses as well as out in the wild. At home, they’ll feed on flies and other insects that might irritate you. They don’t use webs to catch their prey. Instead, they stalk their prey and chase it down. They’re much faster than a bed bug. They’ll bite them and inject a tiny amount of venom, before dragging them back to somewhere safe to eat them.

The only issue is that crab spiders don’t tend to live indoors. They prefer living out in the wild, hiding in undergrowth or on blades of grass. You may find that you get some in your yard or garden, or a shed if you have one. But they won’t live around your house like a cobweb spider will.

Do Spiders Eat Bed Bugs?

Do Jumping Spiders Eat Bed Bugs?

Jumping spiders live in our homes, too. Jumping spiders are a big family of species, again that lives across the whole world. In total, there are more than 6000 species in total across the globe.

They like to stay out of the way in corners and cracks, where they’re unlikely to be noticed. They’re easily recognizable because they have four pairs of eyes, with the middle two being particularly large. Because of their great sense of sight, they hunt during the day.

When they do hunt, jumping spiders are very slow. They make up for that by using their six eyes to track prey and leap from quite a distance to catch it. They can leap a total of 30 times their length, which is incredible when you think about it.

Jumping spiders have varied diets. If they live outdoors, they will eat insect prey like flies, crickets, and grasshoppers. Some of their prey is much bigger than they are, but they get around that by using an immobilizing venom. If they live at home, they’ll eat whatever insect prey they can find, including bed bugs. They may even eat other spiders, even spiders of the same species or family.

Does the Cobweb Spider Eat Bed Bugs?

Also known as tangle-web spiders, cobweb spiders are one of the biggest and most widespread spider families. They’re the most common family of spiders that are found in human homes. They’re incredibly diverse, all different shapes and sizes, and there are over 2000 species in total.

Their name is related to their behavior. Cobweb spiders are responsible for the cobwebs you wave away (or get caught up in) if you head up to the attic or down to the basement. The point of these webs is to serve as a way of ensnaring food, usually flies, that fly too near to them. The spider will then immobilize their prey, and either eat it there and then, or wrap it up in silk to save it for later.

As for whether they eat bed bugs, however, that’s highly unlikely. Any spider that spins a web is less likely to catch them, because bed bugs will only infrequently go anywhere near the kinds of places they might find a web. You won’t find bed bugs in the highest corners of the room, which is where cobweb spiders normally put their webs. But if a low-down web were to catch a bed bug, there’s a chance that a cobweb spider that’s big enough might eat it.

Do All Spiders Eat Bed Bugs?

Only select species of spiders will eat bed bugs, and there are many reasons for that. First, their hunting method limits the number of bed bugs that spiders can eat. Cobweb spiders typically leave their webs somewhere that flies are likely to land in them, rather than bed bugs.

Not only that, but hunting spiders won’t search out bed bug harborages (the places where many bed bugs live). Instead, they’ll see if they can find any bed bug that’s out and about to try and catch them. Since bed bugs spend almost all their time hiding and digesting, that means that almost all bed bugs will be safe from spiders or any other predator.

Finally, not all spiders are big enough to eat bed bugs. And most spider species tend to specialize in one kind of prey, like flies, mites or other spiders. There is no spider species that only eat bed bugs. So even though they’re one of the main bed bug predators, spiders don’t eat that many of them.

Do Cockroaches Eat Bed Bugs?

Cockroaches are renowned for their incredibly broad diet. Primarily, they’ll eat anything sweet or starchy, but will also eat meat too. They’ll as happily eat crumbs and leftovers as they will fresh food. And given the opportunity, they’ll also eat dead cockroaches that they find.

But will cockroaches eat bed bugs? The answer is that they will, if they get the chance, but that they don’t often get that chance. Bed bugs are experts at hiding, especially in folds and creases underneath your mattress. A cockroach would have a hard time getting under there to eat them. However, if any bed bugs are scuttling around or hiding somewhere more accessible, then cockroaches will eat them.

Several different kinds of cockroach will happily eat bed bugs. Common American cockroaches and German cockroaches (the two most common species here) eat bed bugs. Oriental cockroaches and brown-banded cockroaches will also happily eat bed bugs.

Do Cockroaches Eat Bed Bugs?

Do Cockroaches Hunt Bed Bugs?

Something else that makes cockroaches more likely to hunt bed bugs is that they search for food during the night. This is an adaptation they’ve developed to avoid predators and threats like us. If they come out at night, there are far fewer people or predators that can stop them eating their food.

What this means is that cockroaches come out at the same time as bed bugs do. Bed bugs, just like cockroaches, have learned that they should feed at night. If you were to see a bed bug trying to feed right now, after all, you’d brush it away or squash it. But at night, when you’re sleeping deeply, they can feed uninterrupted.

So at night, they’ll come out of their harborage. Some will live in your mattress, and come straight to you. Others will live in nearby furniture, usually up to six feet away from a sleeping host. It’s these bed bugs that the cockroaches are likely to hunt for. They would have to cross the floor or wall to get to you, and the cockroach would be able to intercept them.

All that being said, cockroaches don’t eat bed bugs as a central part of their diet. As you probably already know, cockroaches can eat a huge range of things. They’ll eat anything they can find, from crumbs and old food to things we might think inedible like glue, paper, and wood. It’s no surprise they’ll eat the odd bed bug, if that’s what the rest of their diet consists of.

Are Cockroaches a Sign of Bed Bugs?

Cockroaches will only colonize an apartment or house if there’s something there for them to eat. Say for the sake of argument that anything they could eat was locked away, so that they couldn’t access it, no matter what. The cockroaches would quickly leave. They’re not there because they like your company, they’re there because there’s food for them.

Then let’s say that you get bed bugs, which start living in your bedding. Well, it’s possible that the cockroaches (or at least some of them) would stick around. They’ve got a food source now, and provided they have somewhere to hide, they’ll enjoy being your roommate.

However, that’s not how it works in practice. Bed bugs aren’t a sign of poor housekeeping, as many people seem to think. But there’s almost always something that a cockroach can eat, from the spines of your books to anything in a cupboard that’s left open.

That’s not to mention tiny crumbs you drop from making toast, or tiny drops of sauce that spit out from a pan you used. Cockroaches are so tricky to get rid of precisely because there’s always something for them to eat, bed bugs or no bed bugs.

Do Lizards Eat Bed Bugs?

Lizards are well known for eating insects. If you have ever kept a pet lizard, or know someone who has, then you’ll know that they love to snack on things like grasshoppers and crickets.

Lizards would happily eat bed bugs, but they won’t hunt for them. If you kept a pet chameleon, for example, then you would likely be able to feed them bed bugs in their enclosure. The problem then is that you have to catch and keep them to give to your pet later, when you could be killing them in any one of many other ways.

If you live somewhere tropical and you have bed bugs in your home, then there’s a chance that they could eat some of your bed bugs. All you need to do is give them access to the underside of your mattress. Of course, that’s easier said than done considering that the lizard will run away at the sight of you doing so.

Do Centipedes Eat Bed Bugs?

Centipedes are one kind of insect pest eating another type. Specifically, house centipedes will feed on bed bugs, if you have any. House centipedes are the kind with lots of long legs and a sausage-like, long body. They’ll eat any insect that they find, which includes bed bugs.

If you don’t like ‘disgusting’ bugs, centipedes are a step down from bed bugs. If you’ve never seen one before, the way they move can be pretty creepy. Since they have so many legs (‘centipede’ coming from the Latin for ‘hundred feet’), it’s disconcerting to see them scuttling towards you. But contrary to common knowledge, they won’t bite you, unless you pick them up and threaten them.

Do Centipedes Eat Bed Bugs?

Do Bed Bugs Eat Other Bed Bugs?

No, bed bugs don’t eat other bed bugs, and there are many reasons why. First, members of a particular species generally don’t eat other members of the same species.

To do so would mean that the general population becomes smaller, which would eventually result in that species becoming extinct. That means that most species that regularly cannibalize other members of the same species won’t be around for long. Bed bugs don’t even eat dead bed bugs.

Also, bed bugs’ mouths are designed only to be able to suck blood. They have a small opening for a mouth, and a long tube that they use to suck blood through. They don’t have teeth to bite, only another small tube that’s used to scratch an opening that they can suck blood through. So, their mouths aren’t capable of eating other bed bugs anyway.

That leaves the idea that a bed bug could feed on another bed bug, that had recently fed on you. Perhaps one bed bug could sneak up on another and bite before the other had a chance to react?

It doesn’t happen. Bed bugs are attracted to carbon dioxide and body warmth. Bed bugs are cold-blooded, so don’t produce their own heat, and barely breathe out any CO2 compared to us. So even if the second bed bug couldn’t stop the first from feeding on it, the first would never be ‘lured’ in to feed anyway.

Do Ants Eat Bed Bugs?

Ants feed on other insects, both living and dead. You’ve likely seen them in a cartoon, lining up to pick up a big piece of food, and carrying it back in unison to their nest. Ants mostly eat sugary/carbohydrate-based foods, like fruits, but still need variety in their diet. They do eat insects.

To us, insects aren’t a common food source. You have to eat a lot of them to get nutritional value out of them. But they’re relatively high in protein, just like the other kinds of meat that we eat. To an ant, though, the amount of protein that you can get from another insect the size of a bed bug is enormous.

Ants will usually try to find a dead insect to pick up and take back to their nest. But some species actually overwhelm animals like flies, bees and wasps, mobbing and killing them. Ant species in North America are much more likely to scavenge, though, rather than hunt.

In practice, ants won’t be able to eat bed bugs in your house. The bed bugs are too well-hidden, so the ants don’t have any chance of getting to them. And for them to have any real effect on bed bug population numbers, you would need to have a huge ants’ nest, preferably right next to your bed. That’s not something that’s ever going to happen, so while ants can eat bed bugs, there won’t be any eating your bed bugs any time soon.

As for specifics, most species of ants will eat almost anything. Pharoah ants have been known to target bed bugs, though. These ants are found across the world, and are one of the significant species known as an indoor pest. European fire ants eat bed bugs too, and this species is colonizing North America, which means that there are two major pest species that you’ll have to contend with.

Does Anything Kill Bed Bugs but Not Eat Them?

There aren’t any animals that kill bed bugs without wanting to eat them. The only reasons something might kill them are to make a meal out of them, and the only alternative way to kill them is to outcompete them for, or take away, their food source.

But other things can kill them. The bed bug spray Aprehend is made with a kind of fungus that only kills insects. Its spores sprout when they come into contact with bed bugs, and slowly leech the bed bug of energy and nutrients until it’s dead. The dead bed bug, since it probably went back to its harborage, will then spread the fungus to the rest of the bed bugs there.

Aside from that, there’s only one other animal that kills bed bugs but doesn’t eat them. And it’s us.

Pets like cats and dogs, even though they’ve long been domesticated, still have ancient instincts. That’s why outdoor cats might bring you dead birds to find in the morning. It’s also why both cats and dogs love to chase, whether after a toy or an insect. But, do they eat the bugs they catch?

Do Dogs Eat Bed Bugs?

Dogs are natural predators, but they’ll happily snack on tiny insects and similar if they can find them. And, yes, that includes bed bugs. If your dog were to see one scuttling across the floor, then they might decide to eat them. Their natural chasing instinct will kick in, and because bed bugs aren’t fast, your dog is guaranteed to catch them.

Dogs are great at hunting for bed bugs. One of the best ways to detect them is to use bed bug sniffing dogs, which can smell the things even when they’re hidden in your mattress or a crack in the wall. By doing so they can help you get rid of your infestation, since you can easily kill all the obvious ones, but the hidden ones will survive and restart the infestation from scratch. You have to find a dog that’s been trained to hunt for bed bugs, though.

Do Cats Eat Bed Bugs?

Cats don’t usually hunt for insects, but they can. Insects don’t make up an essential part of their diet, just as can be said for dogs. Most people with cats are familiar with their pet watching flies, and even batting at them when they come into reach. While this is normally done as a game, it’s not unheard of for the cat to eat the fly, too. The same applies to other bugs your cat comes across.

Why do they bother, though? Wouldn’t a cat be better off hunting for a bird or a mouse? In the wild, an animal has to take what food it can get. Their instinct kicks in and tells them to eat what’s in front of them. That’s why your cat might hunt for mice (or less impressively, flies and bed bugs) even if they’re well fed at home.

Will Eating Bed Bugs Make My Pet Sick?

Bed bugs aren’t toxic in and of themselves. Even if it makes you feel sick to think of eating bed bugs, that doesn’t mean there’s anything in them that could actually hurt you or your pet.

Normally, eating a bed bug won’t hurt your pet at all. They’re just like any other insect, really, and your cat or dog won’t get sick from eating a regular insect. The only exception is if you’ve tried to treat the bed bugs with something, especially permethrin. Permethrin is a kind of insecticide that you can find in bed bug bombs and bed bug sprays.

Why does permethrin matter so much? Because it’s highly toxic for small pets, especially cats. If a cat even comes into contact with permethrin, it can do them severe damage. If they were to eat a bed bug that had been sprayed with permethrin or had touched it, then your cat could die. The same applies to tea tree oil sprays. Pets are sensitive to essential oils, and ingesting them is a big no-no.

Not only that, but the issue with bed bugs is that they hide. The majority will live on the underside of your mattress or box spring. So to allow your pet to eat them, you would have to flip the mattress and watch them scatter around your room.

If you’re going to do that, it’s far more effective to spray them with something that will kill them. But if you haven’t started any treatment yet, it’s perfectly safe for a pet to eat a bed bug.

Are Natural Predators Good for Bed Bug Control?

Unfortunately, the fact that bed bugs have predators doesn’t mean much. The one thing you will have noticed about each of the predators listed above is that they don’t go after the bed bugs at their source. Instead, they’ll pick off any bed bug that they can find out in the open. This means that predators don’t have a large effect on bed bug numbers.

If you did want to have enough bed bug predators to make a difference, the problem would then be that you’re surrounded by spiders, cockroaches, centipedes and much more besides.

If you aim to sleep better, then we doubt that having that many other insects around would help. And even then, bed bugs are such quick breeders that they would quickly ‘replenish’ the lost stock in their population.

Unfortunately, they’ll never make much of a difference to your infestation. Your only option is to try and get rid of them using comprehensive, well-understood means like permethrin sprays/natural sprays, and physical traps and encasements. There isn’t any other way.