Effects of host availability and feeding period on bed bugs, Cimex lectularius (L.) (Hemiptera: Cimicidae), were measured. Population growth and the potential harmful effect of bed bug populations on human hosts were modelled. Bloodmeal sizes were affected by both feeding length and frequency, with >2-fold difference between insects fed daily or weekly. Blood consumption increased >2-fold between bed bugs fed occasionally and often, and 1.5-fold between occasional and daily feeding. Bed bugs fed more often than once a week, potentially every 2–4 days. Egg production was associated with nutrition, being strongly correlated with blood consumption in the previous week. Bed bug populations can grow under different feeding regimes and are hard to control with <80% mortality. Bed bugs can survive and grow even in locations with a limited blood supply, where bed bug persistence may be important for the continual spread of populations. Persistence in non-traditional locations and a potential association with human pathogens increase the health risks of bed bugs. Potential blood loss as a result of a bed bug can have serious consequences because uncontrolled populations can reach harmful levels in 3–8 months. The reproduction potential of bed bug populations suggests serious consequences to human health and the need for efficacious control measures.