There is a great debate as to how long bed bugs can live.
Some scientists new to the study of bed bugs are challenging historic published research showing that bed bugs do not survive as long as previously published. Others believe that published data short changes the bed bugs ability to live a long life.
The truth is that there is no significant data pool to average the life span of the bed bug. That means that there are published observations, but these are just observations and there is no statistically significant study that reports life span of bed bugs. All peer reviewed scientific data have shown small samplings of bed bugs and report average life spans of small populations or extreme cases.
Generally, bed bugs will survive longer if they have slowed their metabolism due to colder temperatures. Bed bugs which have been subjected to temperatures near 50 degrees Fahrenheit can survive for well over a year while bed bugs with accelerated metabolism due to temperatures approaching human body temperature might not survive as long.
In captivity, in the lab, modern anecdotal reports show that bed bugs with adequate food at ambient room temperature (72 degrees Fahrenheit) will typically survive for just a few months. It appears that bed bugs are similar to other animals even including humans: survival depends on genetics, exposure, food sources, and the environment.
Without a doubt, bed bugs can survive over a year. They can also survive that time without a blood meal. However, the nymphs are more sensitive to lack of food than adults. Newly hatched nymphs need a blood meal within a few days and first and second instar nymphs are most sensitive to lack of food.
Virtually any report of bed bugs surviving over a year can be considered true. Also, starved adults surviving more than a year can be considered possible.