Bed bugs and many other blood feeders only stay on their hosts long enough to feed, then retreat to a protective harborage to digest their food. After the blood meal is digested, the bed bug must once again locate a host. This arrangement works well for rapid growth and development if the host can always be found nearby at night. However, humans are mobile. We take vacations, travel and may be away from home for extended periods. During such periods, bed bugs starve.
Bed bugs and other blood feeding bugs are adapted to surviving long periods without food. During starvation, bed bug metabolism is reduced to a low level that conserves energy and resources.
Bed bugs do not drink. They get all their water from blood feeding and metabolism. In starvation times, bed bugs must also conserve water. In insects, water can enter and leave cells through pore forming proteins called aquaporins. One way to conserve water is to change the expression pattern of these proteins such that more water is retained and less water is eliminated. These genes have been sequenced* and their identification can facilitate studies of mechanisms underlying the tolerance of extreme dehydration and starvation.
*Benoit & Colleagues. Unique features of a global human ectoparasite identified through sequencing of the bed bug genome. NATURE COMMUNICATIONS 7:10165 2 Feb 2016